REBELS BASKETBALL:

Darger scores 20, but suffers from same demons as teammates

Sluggish start, poor defense among issues for sputtering Rebels

The Rebel Room

CSU POSTGAME: Where to start ...

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech start from the beginning in dissecting UNLV's surprising 71-69 setback at Colorado State, including some interesting body language from the Rebels during pregame warmups. The guys talk about areas still needing improvement, plus look ahead to what is now a very intriguing home date with Wyoming on Saturday night.

Box score

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Of all the "maybe this is where it all turns around" moments Wednesday night, as UNLV tried to claw its way back late against Colorado State, Joe Darger had a hand in several of them.

Whether it was a late 3-pointer to pull the Rebels to within a point at 68-67, or a tap-out of an offensive rebound to Oscar Bellfield to keep a play alive, he was visibly hyperactive.

But, as was the case for the rest of the Rebels, accentuated late effort wasn't enough to atone for an out-of-character first half. And Darger had no hesitation in taking blame for that.

The message was sent home visibly when senior walk-on Rob Ketchum checked into the game with 11 minutes, seven seconds left in the first half. That meant all 12 Rebels to make the trip saw the floor within nine minutes.

"We knew we deserved it, to be on the bench, and get some of the other guys in there that might give a little more energy, because we definitely didn't come out and provide it," Darger said. "They came in and provided some energy and started turning things around, but I don't know, we just didn't have enough tonight."

The Rebels came out during warmups in a looser, more talkative fashion than they have displayed in previous road games this season. The play early on mirrored that, with silly turnovers and uninspired offense that resulted in Colorado State taking an early double-digit lead.

"They got up in some passing lanes, and we just didn't really be aggressive to get open, we didn't step across and pop open to get the ball -- we just kind of stood there expecting it to be easy," Darger said.

Darger, who was no stranger to the turnover bug in the first half, wound up being a big reason why an embarrassing loss didn't look flat-out humiliating.

In one of his finer offensive showings of the season, Darger was seven-of-nine from the floor, six-of-eight from 3-point range and scored a game-high 20 points. He also had seven rebounds, a block, a steal and three of UNLV's 17 turnovers.

But patting himself on the back has never been an option for Darger following wins. So the chance of that happening after a loss to a team that was 0-16 in the Mountain West last season was inconceivable.

"We've got a lot of stuff to work on," Darger said. "They jumped on us and we came out flat-footed. We've got to get better. There's a lot of areas we have to get better at. It seems like we work on them in practice, we come out in the game and we don't do them.

"The last two games, we haven't executed what we've gone in talking about, and it cost us."

As was the case a week ago leading up to the loss at TCU, the Rebels focused on defense in practice the past two days. The result? The Rams shot 46.6 percent from the floor and scored roughly half (34) of their points in the paint.

There also was an emphasis put on both free-throw shooting -- UNLV was nine-of-14 on Wednesday -- and rebounding. In that department, the Rebels outdid the Rams by one, 32-32, but primary big men Brice Massamba and Darris Santee combined for only three boards in 39 minutes.

Why aren't routines from practices computing into game-day results? As several bundled-up players quietly and swiftly exited the locker room for the team bus, neither Darger nor Wink Adams -- the two players who spoke with the media -- offered up anything concrete.

"I don't know," Darger said. "I wish I could tell you."

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  1. Santee did get the starting nod, Lenny. He and Tre' started, while Oscar came off the bench. I've got to give Santee credit for showing some nice aggressive moves on the offensive end, but he got lost in the shuffle a bit chasing rebounds, and pulled up short on chasing a ball out of bounds towards the sideline mid-way through the first half, watched it go out, and possession went to CSU. He woke up some, but not all the way, I don't think.