Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 16, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
- Box Score: UC Santa Barbara 68, UNLV 62
- Instant Analysis: Poor shooting one of several deficiencies exposed in loss
- Live Game Blog: UNLV stumbles to second consecutive loss, falling to UCSB, 68-62
- Findlay Prep sophomore guard Nigel Williams-Goss verbally commits to UNLV (12-15-2010)
- Carlino arrives for UNLV visit, wants to be thorough this time around (12-14-2010)
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer break down what turned out to be UNLV's coldest shooting night so far in the 2010-11 season, as the Rebels were just 29 percent from the floor in a 68-62 loss to UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday night at the Mack. Plus, the guys talk about UNLV's newest commit - Findlay Prep sophomore point guard Nigel Williams-Goss - and the effect it could have on UNLV's recruiting classes before he even arrives on campus.
But then there was just that minor detail of hitting open shots.
On their first true off-shooting night, the Rebels compounded that problem by committing too many turnovers and clanking too many free throws, ultimately leading to a surprising 68-62 setback in their first home game since Nov. 20.
UNLV (9-2) entered the game ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage, having not shot worse than 46.7 percent in any of its first 10 games.
Against the Gauchos (5-3), the Rebels were a paltry 18-of-62 (29 percent) from the floor, 6 of 29 from 3-point range and couldn't capitalize on any of a handful of late opportunities.
"When you make shots, it covers up a lot of other things, perhaps, and when you're not making shots, a lot of things are glaring," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "We obviously didn't do the things we wanted to. Credit Santa Barbara."
After the Rebels had a sloppy start, which suggested that the team might have been emotionally hungover from its first loss of the season just four days earlier, a late first half surge and 12-0 run tied the game at the break, 30-30. Behind a pair of 3-point plays by Quintrell Thomas and Derrick Jasper sandwiched around a Gauchos turnover, the crowd of 11,490 finally became a factor.
UNLV got off to a quicker start out of the intermission, as two deep treys from Chace Stanback helped give UNLV a 38-34 lead.
But a couple of defensive lapses left UCSB's Justin Joyner open to connect on a pair of threes of his own from the left corner just after his team fell behind. The lead was reclaimed, and the Gauchos never let it go.
Despite struggles to hold onto the ball consistently against UNLV's backcourt pressure defense, UCSB was able to lean heavily on its pair of versatile 6-foot-5 junior wings for some stability. James Nunnally and Orlando Johnson combined for 35 points and 22 rebounds on the night, and they continued to stretch the lead toward the finish line.
While scrapping back down the stretch, UNLV forced several of UCSB's 25 turnovers and snatched a good chunk of their season-high 24 offensive rebounds. But knocking down shots made much of that hustle that showed up on the final stat sheet moot.
In the second half, UNLV's guards found more efficient ways to penetrate and collapse UCSB's zone, but instead of finishes inside, many of the drives resulted in kick-outs for open 3-point looks. After halftime, the Rebels converted only three shots inside of the arc and hoisted 21 threes.
UNLV's final made trifecta came with 5:49 left to play, when Oscar Bellfield hit one from straight away to cut the Rebels' deficit to four points at 56-52.
After that, the team was just 2-of-11 from the floor and missed five threes, including an open Stanback attempt from the left corner with 40 seconds left, trailing 64-61. That turned out to be the Rebels' last shot at tying the score.
"It's not like we were really forcing threes," Bellfield said. "They were open looks; we were just trying to take advantage of them. But, I mean, we probably should have went down inside more and mixed it up a little bit."
Surely, it's not going to be the last time UNLV faces a zone, either, as opposing teams appear to be taking notice to its ability to make the Rebels shuffle a bit.
"The thing is that we can handle zone, it's just a matter of doing it every time," UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis said. "That's what we've been preaching, but that's how we've got to play. Careless turnover here, careless turnover there, that's a lot of (wasted) possessions. I think we made them turn it over 25 times, but if we turn it over 20, it offsets."
Against UCSB, UNLV knew the zone was coming, as Bob Williams' team, which returned five starters this season from last year's Big West Conference tournament championship group, is primarily a zoning group. Kruger implemented some plays to attack it with during Tuesday's afternoon practice.
Some were effective, but Williams also thought that his team got a bit of a break.
"We caught them on a night where they missed a lot of good-looking threes," the Gauchos' 13th-year coach said. "They make six of 29 and shoot 21 (in the second half), and it's tough to win (like that), just like it's tough to win when we turn it over 25 times.
"We were fortunate. We shot free throws better and hit a few threes."
Nunnally's four made free throws in the final 18 seconds iced the game for the Gauchos and capped a 15-of-17 performance by the team at the stripe.
Meanwhile, UNLV was left with another big "what if" after it struggled to shoot just 20-of-34 at the line.
The Rebels' three leading scorers on the night were Stanback (16 points), Willis (14) and Jasper (12), but the trio combined to hit just 13 of 42 shots.
"I just think they tried to (replicate) what Louisville did," Willis said. "It was a matter of us stepping up and making shots or bringing more energy than them, and we didn't have either one of those."
Many UNLV fans might prematurely have a finger hovering over the panic button following back-to-back losses, but the Rebels have a prime bounce-back opportunity coming on Saturday night against Southern Utah (3-7), which will tip back at the Mack at 7 p.m.
That game will serve as a primer to next Tuesday's game on the road in Kansas City against No. 6 Kansas State (9-1) — the Rebels' biggest non-conference test of the season.
None of the players or coaches seemed too concerned afterward about the poor shooting against UCSB, chalking it up mostly to being a fluky kind of night from the field.
Instead, the Rebels now want to focus on getting back to what worked for them right out of the gates, and that mostly means setting a tone early in games. If they can start putting opponents on their heels again, the diverse and balanced offense will come as a byproduct.
"We've been opening games very well, and tonight we didn't open it very well," Kruger said. "That certainly got our attention and we've got to address that."
Numbers of Note
UNLV out-rebounded UCSB, 42-35, including the aforementioned 24 offensive caroms. The Rebels' previous high this season in that department was 18 against Illinois State on Dec. 1 … Oscar Bellfield finished with 10 points and a game-high eight assists while playing a team-high 35 minutes … Quintrell Thomas, off of a silent 5-minute outing against Louisville, had four points and eight boards in 21 minutes, picking up only two fouls … UCSB was an efficient 22-of-44 from the floor and 9-of-19 from deep … UNLV converted those 24 offensive boards into 20 second-chance points … The Rebels' four reserves to see the floor only combined for six points. That included a tough night for Anthony Marshall, who played off of the bench for the first time this season after starting 10 games. He was 0-for-5 from the floor in 25 minutes, scoring one point to go with five rebounds, no assists and two turnovers ... The Rebels have now dropped three straight in the all-time series with the Gauchos. The two will meet again next season in Santa Barbara.