REBELS BASKETBALL:

Cold-shooting UNLV drops second straight, falling to UCSB, 68-62

Rebels slip to 9-2 on season after shooting season-worst 29 percent from the floor

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV’s Quintrell Thomas, Karam Mashour and Todd Hanni suffer through the final minutes of their 68-62 loss to UC Santa Barbara Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at the Thomas & Mack Center.UNLV UC Santa Barbara during their game Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UCSB won the game 68-62

UNLV vs. UCSB

UNLV vs. UCSB

UNLV vs. UC Santa Barbara

UNLV guard Derrick Jasper grabs a rebound from UC Santa Barbara guard Orlando Johnson (L) and center Greg Somogyi during their game Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UCSB won the game 68-62 Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UCSB Postgame: As cold as it gets

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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.

It took a little while, but No. 22 UNLV eventually figured out how to attack UC Santa Barbara's match-up zone defense on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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.

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  1. I know there is a lot of parity in college basketball right now, but you can't lose to these types of teams on your home court. Especially when were trying to take that next step to be an elite team.
    Once again, a lack of inside presence and our guards inability to even go inside for a better shot killed us again. Until Kruger realizes we need an inside/outside offense, instead of his NBA guard oriented offense, we will never take that next step to being the dominant basketball team we want to see.

  2. This unfortunatley has been a theme the last few years. Stringing together some strong starts then having some crushing and pretty confusing losses. The Rebs shot the ball very poorly but even with that probably could have still won the game if it were not for the turnovers. Averaging 17.5 in the last four games. More defeats are definitely headed our way if this continues. Time to crack the whip Kruger. This team was to busy reading their press clippings.

  3. UNLV is a VERY AVERAGE TEAM. If a team like this can beat them, any team can. Look for this to be the story of the season. Last years team was a better team. Two shots in the paint?

  4. The usual. No inside game. Thomas is a joke. Massamba tries but does not have Div 1 talent and Lopez is more worried about his hair than what he is doing on the court.
    When this team makes 3's they win. When they don't, they lose. And they can lose to anybody as there is no way they should EVER lose at home to a team like UCSB. Look for another 24-8 record and another year of bubble watching.

  5. I was at the game....and it was ugly from the beginning to the end!

  6. Wow, no way to spin this other than disappointing. As rebel32 correctly said you can't have too many losses such as this (especially on your home court) and expect to secure an at-large bid, at least something better than a 7-10 seed.

    No question I think the Rebs will/should see more zone. Hopefully the staff can better prepare the young men for it.

    Half court offense has been a beef of mine throughout Kruger's time as it has left much to be desired in games, and sometimes stretches of a season. We have looked our best, such as in Anaheim, when our defensive is producing offense for us. When things get booged down in the half court I get worried.

    9 points combined from the three bigs against an opponent such as UCSB is once again very disappointing. Half court offense won't improve until we see better interior play.

  7. It's not that we dont have an inside presence. It's that we don't know if we have an inside presence. They have to be given the ball and then they have to try to do something with it before we can say we don't have any real bigs. They rebound ok. But never finish. I don't know if they are not confident or just instructed to kick it back out. I know they can score. We have already seen glimpses of that. Let's go Q. Show us your skills more on offense. Last night they should have had two bigs out at all times.

  8. Please stop with all of "the sky is falling" talk. As a team, we shot the ball horribly last night and I don't think we will ever shoot the ball that poorly again. While this is very disappointing, UCSB isn't as bad as everyone seems to think. They made the NCAA Tournament last season and return every starter from that team. There is still no way we should have lost to them, but they are not Sisters of the Poor.
    We definitely need to get the ball inside more. Unlike some people who take the absence of an inside game as a reason to condemn our big guys, I'll look at the fact that they weren't really given the opportunity to contribute on the offensive end. Look at the stat sheet. Thomas, Massamba and Lopez were a combined 3-6 from the field. Willis, Jasper and Stanback all missed more shots than those three took COMBINED. This is a strategy issue. Thomas has shown that he can be an adept scorer when he gets the ball; he just hasn't been getting it much. We also missed a whole lot of free throws, which seems to be a recurring problem and I think, even with all of the other bad things, is probably where we lost this game.
    Yes, this was a bad loss. Yes, this was unexpected. Yes, this Rebels team has run out of excuses for the poor play the last two weeks. But the sky is not falling. We're still a good team and we'll still make the NCAA tournament this year and we still have the potential to make a decent run.

  9. You hit the nail right on the head Djkgroup. We will never know how good our bigs are until the guards actually start looking for them. But once again that starts with coaching and also needs to be preached in practice. I also agree with what you said about having two bigs on the court at all times last night. Make teams like this adjust to us, not us to them.

  10. If you really think last year's team was a better team, you've proved you don't know what you're talking about. Tough shooting night for the Rebels. The key to this game was free throws. We have to better at the charity line to win these tough games where we aren't shooting well.

  11. UNLV just had a very cold shooting night. What are ya gonna do? They shoot even average, they win comfortably.

  12. lobo69 - Just exactly how was last years team a better team? We could be like your lobos and play new mexico state, one of the worst teams in the WAC, in back to back games(Dec 4, Dec 11). Or we could lose to a weak Cal team by 25.

  13. The defense gets out of position so much, giving teams wide open shots over and over.

    And on offense everyone literally stands in one spot and watches whoever is dribbling the ball.

    This team is no longer what they were in November. Not even a resemblance anymore. I'm not sure what happened to them.

    All the buzz is dead, imo.

  14. What has happened is Tre has got more minutes, the more minutes he plays the less we play as a team.
    People watch him as the did Wink, there is less movement less screens set and he has lost a step on d. They did best when the origanal 5 were on the floor. They also have stopped talking and look like to many leaders. Chase I hope you read this, stop looking at your feet before your shoot, look up make it quick and you will be fine.

  15. Its a bad loss, but i think we are over reacting a little bit. We shot terrible so expect to see more zone of course. But I have a question for Ryan since your at practice. I noticed that we were running our man offense while they were playing zone, is that what they do in practice too, or is do they have any other type of offense that they practice against the zone with?

  16. "Tre has got more minutes, the more minutes he plays the less we play as a team.
    People watch him as the did Wink, there is less movement less screens set and he has lost a step on d. " That pretty much sums it up!

  17. Lobo69- that is a valid point. Team tends to stand around and watch Willis go one on one.

    Also, reason they don't get the ball in to the Bigs is because those clods don't know what to do with it when they get it. I'm sure Kruger is tired of all the travels and dropped passes. They just need to get a big guy who is competent.

  18. Can we hit the reset button? I want the rebels from the start of the season shooting the lights out. I love to hate being in the polls, cause everytime in past years our guys flub as soon as we break that barrier. I'd like to fly under the radar so our guys also don't have a bullseye on their back from every other team they play.

  19. PS: Tell me now that we don't look identical to Louisville. They lost to Drexel immediately after playing us and getting in the polls.

  20. Free throws, free throws, free throws...

    We all knew that this team wasn't going to go undefeated this season. Lets all relax. They are still a very good team capable of doing some serious damage this season. Kruger will have them tuned up by conference play and things will click.

  21. Absolutely Humiliating! UCSB.....who? the Rebs deserve to be pulled from the top 25, can't lose at home to DII schools boys. Just hope you get it figured out before we get our heads kicked in on national TV vs KSTATE.

  22. I know it's already been said, but free throws are just killing us. 58% to their 88%. We would have had 9 more points if we matched their %. And a lot of those were misses on 1-1 opportunities, so we could have had quite a few more attempts. Kruger shouldn't let them leave practice until they all make 8-10 free throws.

  23. I love Kruger but this is what we've come to expect with his teams. Better than average but not elite teams. Good talent, but not great talent. A team that usually hangs around the top 25 but is not consistenly in the top 25. Teams that usually get 2-3 qualtiy wins every year but also get 2-3 really bad losses every year. This loss is really going to hurt UNLV come selection time. Everyone will look back on this loss to USCB at home and question the Rebs.

    I agree with a lot of the other post here. UNLV lacks and has always lacked any inside post presence in the Kruger era. They live and die by the outside/3pt shot. When they're hot it's great, but you can't just rely on outside shooting every game. Thomas has been a big dissapointment, Lopez is going to need a lot of work, and Massamba just isn't good (although he hustles a lot). We have decent guards and small forwards but none of them can't take it to the hole. Willis is about the best but they lack the speed and athletism to take people off the dribble, get to the basket, and elevate over defenses.

    Unless UNLV pulls off a major upset of Kansas St. I doubt they see the top 25 the rest of the year. They'll probably hover around 26-35. Until Kruger can get better talent UNLV will be stuck in this same pattern for the next couple of years.

  24. Mj I agree we will sit around 25-35 if we don't figure this out quick. But come on about the talent. How many time do we have to go over this. Jasper was ranked around 50 in high school. Stanback was California player of the year. And so on. Most of the team was in the 100 s. We might be missing a mcdonalds all American but we have the core that any championship team is made up of. That doesn't mean that there isn't room to improve on recruiting and it takes time.

  25. The recruiting is getting better, and at least we have transfers from really good teams that make their way to UNLV. We landed Nigel Williams-Goss and if we happen to get Shabazz Muhammad even in a one a done situation (as he leaves for the NBA), it definitely shows that the program is really starting to turn the corner. The facilities also make a huge difference in recruiting and the new practice facility will help greatly.

  26. DJkgroup

    I'm not saying the talent is bad, they just aren't elite. They are better than average. A lot of them were top 100 recruits but do you ever wonder why they transfered? Because they weren't good enough to get playing time at these other big time schools. Willis, Thomas, Jasper, Stanback are all solid players but let's be honest, none of them are going to the NBA. Most likely they will end up in the D league or playing international ball somewhere. The rest of the team is average. I think Marshal has a lot of athletiscm but he still raw and will take time to develop. Even when he does I expect him to probably be a 15 pt/game guy. Lopez and Massamba are both Findlay Prep guys but they were role players at Findlay and not the stars of the team. Bellfield is good but not great, Hawkins is okay. But like I said before I don't think there is one NBA caliber player on this team, maybe Willis but he would be a guy coming off the bench and he really isn't helping his case that much this year.

    Kruger did get a Verbal from William-Goss. He looks like he could be a stud coming out of the school, but we have 3 more years until we see him.

  27. Once Wallace & Shaw went down...lets be honest...we all knew this type of game was a possibility. We won EVERY key statistical category you need to win the game except shooting percentage & FT percentage vs an NCAA tourney team with all its starters back. We shot 21% from three and like 29% for the game...AND STILL had a shot to tie it at the end. So while it may be tough to swallow this one...its not like we had a total collapse in all phases. We just gotta hit shots.

    I didnt like our shooting so many 3s either...but 99% of them were open looks & the result of an extra pass designed to take what the zone was giving us & I'm ok with that. But when we've got them in the double bonus with 6-8 mins left...we have GOT TO get to the rim more & get to the line. Thats great in theory...but we were bricking our FTs too so who knows?! lol

    Dont agree that Tre is our problem. We stand around vs a zone regardless who is in the game. If anything, he's overpassing in the lane & not using his mid range skills which are a staple of his game. He is still rusty though and MORE minutes not less is gonna fix that.

    Overall, shooting is all about confidence and we better get ours back pretty damn quick or we'll be gagging on a variety of zones for the rest of the year.

  28. At about the 10 min mark of the 2nd half I noticed 4(or 5) of their players had 3 fouls. I say to my bride sitting next to me "Since we cannot buy an outside shot, why don't we take the ball inside and foul out some of their players?" Granted I don't get paid to coach BB but I wonder why the idea didn't occur to someone on the bench.

  29. Defense, defense, defense!!! What is with these teams getting these wide open looks these last 3 to 4 games? This team has forgotten what makes them so tough. Nasty, in your face, trapping man to man, no good looks defense. We are not the most talented team in the nation. Hell, we might not even have top 25 talent. But, we have a very, very good defensive team/scheme. These guys need to get back to that form we saw in Anaheim, and start the offense with the defense. The bigs are not being coached, or just don't know to set up in the key, and their movement in said key is awful. Coaching? I don't know, but they should be begging for the ball, and establishing some kind of drop step in the key. You don't see anything from these guys. And, when they set picks, they half step it on the roll. Set the pick and fly to the basket and you will get the ball. I love my rebs, and I am as frustrated as everybody else. We have a good enough team to make the dance, and a great enough defense to make some noise. Get back to the basics boys. Bigs, for Christmas, all I want is some effort on offense please.

  30. Every team looks amazing when shots go in, every team looks like crap when they don't.

    FT's and overzealous weak side double teams leading to bad rotation leaving guys open on the arc is what I saw at the game.

    I saw a UNLV team that was the most ferocious on the glass as I have seen in a long time. They were trying everything they could to win this game. The shots just didn't fall. It happens to every team.

    Let's take it out SUU! Go Rebels!

  31. Totally agree lvnative81, nicely put.