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November 27, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

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Instant Analysis: Another defeat equals big-time trouble for UNLV

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Derrick Jasper is called for a foul after colliding with Colorado State forward Paul Hornung during the first half of Wednesday’s game at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV vs. Colorado State

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall heads off the court with his head down after fouling out against Colorado State during a game on Jan. 19, 2011, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Colorado State won, 78-63. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

CSU POSTGAME: Wheels falling off?

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss the UNLV basketball team's upset loss Wednesday to Colorado State, 78-63. The Rebels are 3-5 overall since winning their initial 11 games to open the season. Can things get turned back around?

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It took the opening four minutes Wednesday during the UNLV basketball team’s 78-63 loss to visiting Colorado State to realize the Rebels were in trouble.

And not just for tonight.

Four turnovers, uninspired play and confusion in the halfcourt offense summarized a terrible start. In reality, they have been hit and miss with their play the last five weeks, ever since they let Boise State hang around in a two-point victory in early December that left most shaking their heads.

Still, after the Rebels lost two weeks ago to rival BYU at home, I argued the setback was just one game and there was no reason to hit the panic button. That was a pretty generous observation considering the Rebels blew a 10-point lead and lost by 12 points.

Now, after an awful performance against Colorado State, it’s officially time to start worrying. What seemed like a promising season after the Rebels won their initial 11 games and reached No. 20 in the national polls, has transgressed into a season where a middle-of-the pack finish seems likely in Mountain West Conference and a once-guaranteed NCAA Tournament berth could be in jeopardy.

After the hot start, UNLV has posted a 3-5 record, including three losses in the friendly confines of the Thomas & Mack Center. In two of those defeats, against Colorado State and UC Santa Barbara, the Rebels were a double-digit betting favorite.

Getting back on track might be easier said than done. After all, the Rebels have a 2-3 record in the Mountain West and continue to be one the league’s worst shooting teams.

In five Mountain West games, the Rebels are 19-of-91 on 3-pointers — the 21-percent on 3s ranks ninth in the nine-team league. Against Colorado State, they had 14 turnovers and just 13 assists.

If it weren’t for contributions from sophomore guard Anthony Marshall, who again shined Wednesday with 14 points in 33 minutes, the loss would have been even worse. Marshall’s reverse dunk in the first half was downright impressive and his fearless style of play needs to start carrying over to his teammates.

Here are three more observations from Wednesday’s game.

1) Fix what’s wrong with Derrick Jasper:: Jasper, a senior guard who is one of the Rebels’ most versatile player, scored just four points and had five turnovers against Colorado State. In league games, he’s only scored 20 points and clearly hasn’t been the offensive leader the Rebels need him to be. When Jasper is at his best, he’s a vital part of the offense, an unselfish player who is known for being a great facilitator and active rebounder.

2) Figure out Tre'Von's role:: Guard Tre’Von Willis missed his second straight game with a knee injury Wednesday, but when he is healthy, the preseason all-league selection takes minutes away from Marshall — who has arguably been UNLV’s best player. Willis missed the first two games of the season while serving a suspension and has struggled finding his role since returning. Make no doubt about it, he is a talented player the Rebels need contributions from to be successful — just not at the expense of Marshall. Willis averaged 17 points per game last year and gives UNLV a veteran presence in the backcourt who isn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands with the game on the line. A role off the bench, playing 20 to 25 minutes per game, might be a perfect solution. Whatever is decided, Willis can’t take minutes away from Marshall and needs to accept his secondary role.

3) Colorado State makes a statement: Ryan Greene, who covers the Rebels and Mountain West for the Sun, had Colorado State at No. 4 in his league power rankings three weeks ago. The Rams more than validated his selection tonight, proving their 13-5 overall record is the real deal. While the win was Colorado State’s first against one of the league’s top-tier teams, it definitely won’t be their last. The Rams played with confidence from start to finish in never trailing. And when UNLV tied the game late in the first half, the Rams went on a 5-0 run to rebuild their lead. Give coach Tim Miles credit for building his program into a winner. They were sharp offensively, proved to be more aggressive on both ends of the court than UNLV and played an inspired style of ball. Nevertheless, I was impressed.

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  1. Who knows what the problem is other than the obvious -- poor shooting, poor foul shots, poor offensive execution -- but as a lifelong fan, I can say that the team I watched play this year through the first half of the Louisville game is not and has not been on the court since. I see some of those early season plays (incredible and confident ball movement, good shooting) and I wonder who the current team is.

    Oh, well. High hopes dashed? It happens. If this team looked like it cared, my optimism for the season ("Hey, as long as they peak in March!") would remain. After tonight, I don't hold much hope.

    They left something on the court at Louisville. Only they know what it is.

  2. I just looked at the statistics for Colorado St. on the year and I thought the loss was worse than it really was. They are currently ranked in the top 70's (NM is in the 60's, UNLV is still statistically 21st.)

    Panic still needs to be hit though on the way the losses have come recently. There must not be a loss to bottom dwellers from here on out. A big win would be great vs. BYU or SDSU.

  3. I agree about the first half of the Louisville game. That's the last time I saw a team that really looked like it could do some damage this season. Since then, their defensive pressure is inconsistent, their offensive flow non-existent, and their shooting horrible.

    A lot of people wanted to dismiss the Kansas State performance as just KSU forcing the Rebels into an ugly win. I think the facts since then have bore out that the Rebels were very lucky that KSU was shorthanded, because it wasn't their defense that was causing the Rebels to play ugly.