Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011 | 4:45 p.m.
MADISON, Wisc. — Dave Rice called a timeout with 3:47 left in Saturday’s game at Wisconsin.
As bad as his team had played — UNLV gave up a 13-0 first-half run and had no offensive rebounds in the first 29 minutes — the Rebels trailed by just eight after Justin Hawkins hit a 3-pointer from the corner.
Somehow, they still had a chance. But multiple game-long mistakes and 25 points off the bench from the Badgers’ Ben Brust were too much to overcome.
The next four possessions sealed UNLV’s fate in a 62-51 loss at No. 14 Wisconsin, and the failures that landed the Rebels in a double-digit hole for much of the game were on display in those sequences.
“Playing against a team like Wisconsin, when you get down double digits, everything has to go almost perfectly down the stretch to have a chance to win the game,” Rice said. “… It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we had gotten it down to six.”
Here’s what happened:
Coming out of the timeout, the Badgers worked the clock down with their signature swing offense. The lack of urgency wasn’t because they were playing with a lead so much as it was just the Badgers playing how they wanted.
With a few exceptions, Wisconsin kept the pace of the game excruciatingly slow. During the Badgers’ offensive possessions, the Kohl Center often quieted to a hush, as if the fans were there to hear a lecture rather than watch basketball.
After taking 30 seconds off the clock, Wisconsin’s Jared Berggren missed a 3-pointer and Mike Moser grabbed the rebound.
Moser, who’s dealing with a sprain to his right wrist, had struggled all game to assert himself on the offensive end. He didn’t score his first points (on a dunk) until seven minutes into the second half and finished with just four. But as he had done much of the game, Moser kept pushing forward, dribbling down the court and attacking the rim.
He missed the layup. And then another one.
“We probably missed more layups than we’ve missed in any single game this season,” Rice said.
All six Rebels who attempted more than one shot inside the three-point line were likely guilty of at least one missed layup. Comebacks are difficult, but rarely more so than when you can’t hit shots within four feet of the basket.
“We were missing wide-open shots, open layups,” said Chace Stanback, who was the only Rebel to score in double digits with 16 points. “Those are the plays you have to convert on if we want to win games.”
The one thing that went right in that sequence was that Moser gave himself a chance at a second shot by grabbing an offensive rebound.
The final rebounding tally looked even — Wisconsin 34, UNLV 32 — but at halftime the Badgers were dominating the glass, especially offensively. At the break, the offensive rebounding numbers and second-chance points were identical: Wisconsin 9, UNLV 0.
“I thought our guys did a real good job of getting bodies on people,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.
UNLV adjusted at halftime and improved for the rest of the game.
However, the Rebels’ lack of offensive boards — Carlos Lopez grabbed the Rebels’ first offensive rebound with 10:25 remaining in the game — could most readily be contributed to lack of effort. For the second straight road game, UNLV came out flat and it resulted in a deficit they couldn’t overcome.
“We definitely came out with a lack of energy,” Moser said. “I wouldn’t say what it contributed to, but we just didn’t have it in the first half.”
Of course, Wisconsin played a role in that. Ryan said he was impressed by his players’ ability to react and recover in time to contest shots.
“They’re doing some things where they’re at least making it tough for the other team to get comfortable,” Ryan said. “That’s the main thing.”
Back to the pivotal possessions.
Wisconsin grabbed the rebound after Moser’s second miss and, following the final media timeout, the Badgers again worked the clock before a missed a 3-pointer.
This time it was Jordan Taylor with the miss. He finished 0-for-10 from the field, including 0-of-6 from the three-point line.
If any Rebel fan knew that would be Taylor’s stat line in this game, they would have been planning for a celebration. But who could have predicted Brust’s outburst.
After the Taylor miss, Moser grabbed his 11th rebound. UNLV still had hope. But as Moser tried to attack once again, he turned it over.
And three seconds later came Brust’s ill-advised dagger.
“I didn’t hesitate,” Brust said. “I probably should’ve.”
Brust was well beyond the three-point line when Ryan Evans, who stole the ball from Moser, flipped him a pass. Instead of setting up the offense and running down the clock, Brust pulled up over a small crowd of players who were fighting for the ball and drilled his seventh 3-pointer.
Just like Wichita State’s Joe Ragland, Brust killed the Rebels from deep and sent them home with questions left to answer.
“It’s inexcusable. It’s my fault,” Rice said. “… I need to make better adjustments.”
The Rebels felt they had made the proper adjustments from the Wichita State game. This loss proved otherwise.
Now they start back at square one.