Associated Press/Reno Gazette-Journal
Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012 | 5:54 p.m.
LARAMIE, Wyo. — Anthony Marshall had the game in his hands, charging toward the rim in the final seconds.
No. 11 UNLV struggled all day to inflict its style or temper Wyoming’s attack, but at that moment the Rebels still had a chance to force their third consecutive overtime on the road.
Instead, they finally got burned.
Marshall’s shot went too hard off the backboard and sophomore forward Mike Moser's attempt from the opposite wing sailed long off the rim as Wyoming held on for a 68-66 victory in front of 7,179 fans, a portion of whom stormed the court afterward.
Before he had even showered, Marshall took to Twitter and shouldered blame for the loss. He was equally eager to take blame when talking during postgame interviews.
“I had an opportunity to make some things happen and feel like I didn’t come through like I’m supposed to,” Marshall said.
That's far too simple and this loss doesn't rest on one player.
In the final four minutes, Wyoming (18-5, 4-3) shot 0-for-4 from the field and 1-for-2 at the free-throw line. If the Cowboys hit even one of those shots, it’s a different game.
After Wyoming’s Luke Martinez missed a 3-pointer with 26 seconds left, the Rebels stormed up court and prepared for their final shot.
UNLV coach Dave Rice had a timeout, but said he was more comfortable staying in the flow of the game.
“As good as Wyoming is with their set defense, I thought it was better for us to go ahead,” Rice said. “We got two very good looks. We got a drive to the basket and off the offensive rebound, we got a wide-open 15-footer. We work on that, and in a situation where we get a stop, we just want to flow into our offense and try to get something.”
Senior guard Oscar Bellfield handed the ball off to Marshall with just less than 10 seconds on the clock. After sizing up the defense, Marshall exploded into the lane and drew contact just as he was going up for the shot.
“I just tried to get into his body, hopefully get a foul call or just be able get it on the backboard,” Marshall said.
Both Marshall and Rice refused to speculate on whether a foul should have been called. Moser said from his position on the wing, it looked like enough contact to warrant a call.
On the last possession of a close game, it basically takes a mugging to draw a whistle, so it’s no surprise that it didn’t get called. And that wasn’t UNLV’s (21-4, 5-2) last chance, either.
As Marshall put up his shot, junior forward Quintrell Thomas swooped in from the left side, grabbed the offensive rebound and kicked it out to Moser.
With his foot on the three-point line, Moser put up a shot with about two seconds left that clanked off the rim.
The celebration was on in Laramie.
“When they had the ball with 30 seconds left, I felt pretty good that we could get a stop,” Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. “They are a very good offensive team with a lot of weapons, but what doesn’t get talked about a lot is we have some pretty good defenders and we were able to dig deep and hold on to the end.”
UNLV’s problems started with not getting enough shots in the first half. The Rebels had 22 attempts, their lowest first-half total since Dec. 19, which didn’t allow them to take full advantage of their 63.6 percent shooting. Turnovers (six) and fouls (12) were the main culprits. The fouls also hurt on defense.
“Our big guys picked up some bad fouls and it was tough trying to guard in foul trouble,” Moser said. “They got some easy baskets, kind of had to give them some just to stay out of foul trouble.”
The Rebels’ shooting dropped to 37.9 percent from the field in the second half. The team’s leading scorers, Moser and Chace Stanback, shot 4-for-12 and 0-for 2, respectively. Moser’s game included a pair of air-balled 3-point attempts.
“I really don’t know what was going on,” Moser said. “I just couldn’t make a shot today.”
Thomas led UNLV with 15 points while Marshall and Bellfield each scored 12. With 11 points and 10 rebounds, Moser secured his 13th double-double.
Senior center Brice Massamba scored six points in the opening minutes and then didn’t attempt another shot until midway through the second half.
In the final eight minutes, right about the time Wyoming took the lead for good, UNLV shot 0-for-6 behind the 3-point line. Rice said he wasn’t upset with the shots.
“We play with freedom, we play with confidence,” Rice said. “We threw the ball inside and we kicked it out and some of those shots just didn’t go in today. It’s easy to talk about in a game like this when they didn’t go in.”
UNLV was adamant that Wyoming didn’t catch them off guard. Outplayed them, maybe.
“They just came out ready to play,” Marshall said. “That’s a good team out there.”
Travel to Wyoming is never easy — UNLV got into town after midnight Friday — but Rice refused to use that as an excuse. And how could he? The Rebels got to Boise State and Air Force much more easily and those teams still gave UNLV a run.
UNLV probably didn’t deserve to get the win, but with the game on the line, Marshall felt like he should deliver.
“He got the ball in my hands to make something happen, I got to the rim and had a chance at it and just didn’t connect,” Marshall said. “Like I said, that one’s on me.”