Rebels Basketball:

UNLV can move forward without the burden of losing streak to San Diego State

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Sam Morris

UNLV forward Mike Moser greets fans after their 65-63 defeat of San Diego State on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Rebels edge San Diego State

Rebels scrape by conference foe San Diego State, 65-63.

The Rebel Room

Rebels down San Diego State in final minute

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer talk about the UNLV basketball team's last-second victory against San Diego State. A sold-out crowd created a great atmosphere in one of the Rebels' most significant wins of the season.

UNLV vs. SDSU - Feb. 11, 2012

This is a three photo sequence of UNLV forward Mike Moser dunking on San Diego State forward Garrett Green during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 65-63. Launch slideshow »

You could see the Rebels’ collective weight lifting off of Dave Rice’s shoulders as he victoriously threw his arms into the air Saturday afternoon.

UNLV wanted this one. Badly.

“The bottom line is our guys certainly were tired of having to answer questions of ‘Why have you lost six in a row?’ ” Rice said after UNLV’s 65-63 victory against San Diego State.

In front of a sold-out and jamming Thomas & Mack Center, No. 14 UNLV defeated No. 13 San Diego State for just the second time in the last 11 meetings and first in the last seven.

Whatever the Rebels hope to accomplish this season — and the goals will only get higher from here — it had to start with this victory.

“We never quit playing,” Rice said. “And that’s a sign of a team that’s got a chance to be very good.”

UNLV (22-4, 6-2) is now tied with San Diego State (20-4, 6-2) for first place in the Mountain West. With six games to go before the Rebels host the conference tournament, they hold their own title chances.

To get there, and thus to give themselves the best possible chance for a high seed in the NCAA Tournament, the Rebels need to learn from Saturday’s near-collapse, as well as the first half of the conference season.

It starts with navigating the road.

“That’s been our downfall this whole year,” sophomore forward Mike Moser said.

UNLV still has to play at New Mexico and at Colorado State, two games the Aztecs have already won.

The road starts with TCU on Tuesday, and if the Rebels have learned from their mistakes, as they said they have, they will play with a sense of urgency.

“We’re at the point now where we understand that every time we go on the road it’s a huge game for the other team, so those excuses are over,” Rice said.

With two road conference losses by a total of four points, UNLV could easily be 8-0 right now. Conversely, if not for two last-second defensive stops on the road in one week it could also be 4-4.

“The team we want to be, that’s what we want to do is put teams away,” Moser said. “We don’t want to have to have our best defender have to get a game-winning steal. We don’t want to be in that position.”

These late-game pressure situations can be good experience for a team, particularly one that lacks postseason success. UNLV will be battle-tested. However, too many of them is not a good sign. It may suggest that there’s no killer instinct, no inherent ability to step on a team’s throat.

That isn’t really UNLV’s problem, though. Leading by 12 with just less than 12 minutes to play on Saturday, the Rebels kept firing.

“We’re not really a team that gives up and holds the ball, we’re still trying to score,” Moser said.

Trouble is, they kept missing.

During the final 11 minutes, UNLV shot 3-for-15 from the field, including 0-for-6 behind the three-point line. That’s the same type of stretch that has led to their losses and narrow victories on the road.

Rice said he didn’t have any problem with the shots UNLV took down the stretch. They were open looks within the offense.

That’s true, but it’s also hard to ignore that Brice Massamba, who scored 10 points in the first four minutes of the second half, didn’t take a shot for the rest of the game.

A knock on the Rebels has been that they’re too quick to fire up jumpers, especially in close games. Of course, their fast-paced, free-flowing attack has also been the source of most of their praise (see: Sword, Double-Edged).

During that final stretch on Saturday, the Rebels worked the ball inside but the defense gave them outside shots, so they took them.

Rice isn’t going to change his philosophy going forward. The Rebels got where they are, and will go as far as they can, by creating turnovers, pushing the tempo and never being afraid to take an open shot, no matter the score.

That means in a possible rematch with San Diego State in the conference tournament, the Rebels will keep firing with the belief that each shot is going in. And despite their massive struggles against the Aztecs, the Rebels said they want that game.

“We want to go through the best to be Mountain West champions,” junior guard Justin Hawkins said.

If that matchup ends up happening, the Rebels now know they can win. The weight is lifted.

Going forward, that may be the most important thing.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. This was great for the rebels mentally. It showed them that even though it is tough it is possible to beat SDSU! Also that Moser cut out was insane! Great job Rebellion! REBELS!!!!!

  2. The game shouldn't have been that close. Way too many wasted possessions, and being careless with the ball. As unselfish as this team plays much of the time, often times they act like they forget anyone else is on the court, especially in times when ball security is very important.

  3. I agree Rebel 808...I hope they hone the "balls ahead" mentality that they SHOULD have, they've got the skills to do it, no matter where or against who! And yeah, Rebellion, that cut-out could be the coolest thing I've seen...and I also liked your sign above the Show before the game!

  4. @Taylor
    "UNLV still has to play at New Mexico and at Colorado State, two games the Aztecs have already won."

    FYI-the Aztecs lost at CSU.

  5. UNLV must play a forty minute ball game, or ball games on the road this week. Sure, win was huge for us, but dropping a game at either tcu or UNM will diminish and tarnish the win and out us back at a 4 seed.

  6. @ yoeleven - SDSU has also already won in The Pit at New Mexico.

    Hopefully losing at Wyoming will fire the guys up to play better on the road. TCU is much improved, but we should be able to beat them pretty well considering they like to run too and our players are just quite frankly better than theirs.

    Losing @UNM or @CSU would not be disastrous as far as our ranking or seeding. UNM is really starting to play well and will be a tournament team and CSU has a very good RPI at this point. As long as we win out at home , take care of business @TCU and at least split the UNM/CSU games, we will be fine.

  7. Daniel Jackson, why do you have such a hate for our team? Why do you despise UNLV so much? you make so sense in the minds of any rational human being, so I'm just going to assume you're not.

  8. Daniel Jackson did you know UNLV has led the west coast in attendence for years now.

    Damn you should read your history of comments. For one, you have way too much time on your hands and two, you need to lighten up a little.

  9. oh daniel, do you remember what you said almost a month ago? that you were going to go out on a limb and say that in 30 days the rebels would be out of the top 25 and no one would care about them anymore? because i recall it vividly. well, it'll be exactly one month ago this week, and i'm fairly certain that UNLV will still be in the polls, oh just barely. so little punk, are you ready to fess up? do you have the balls to do that? i'm kind of doubtful. sorry, you just seem like a bitch who posts and runs. no offense.

  10. All good teams will attract attention, but who cares? Doesn't a diehard want more people to like the team? Funny that we're talking about bandwagon Rebels fans - it's awesome! Stuck up here in Portland, wish I could support more so I'm fine with a newbie Rebel fan taking my seat at a game.

    As far as the game, we need put teams away. Although Massamba looked good when we started going to him in the 2nd half, it was a change in the game plan that allowed the Aztecs back in the game.

    Until we get that killer instinct, I'm not sure we're a Final Four team.

    Go Rebs!

  11. @TeamSG1 that happens in every sport with every team that does well. When the SF Giants won the world series 2 years ago, how many new Giants fans popped up? When the NY Giants won the Superbowl, how many more Giants fans popped up?

    Bandwagon or not, I'm glad to see the Rebels being supported by their town in mass again.

    On a positive note: Mike Moser is a beast and that MOzilla cutout was the best fathead I may have ever seen.

  12. Go Rebels! Excellent work this year, and it's great to have Rice and Augmon back. This fan (since 1976) and alumni is enjoying the season.

  13. Can't see these guys winning at the Pit- they just are not a good shooting team-especially on the road. What hurts is not missing shots that are open, but all the forced, contested jumpers early in the shot clock. Can't wait until next year and Reinhardt is here- finally a player who can shoot the rock on a consistent basis.

    Re: The NCAA tourney- the Rebs are a team that could beat a #1 seed or lose to a #15.

  14. A lot of people aren't diehard college basketball fans. I'm sure a lot of the people who post comments on here are, but for the most part you can't expect everyone to know everything about the basketball program. It's called life, and basketball isn't a priority to many.

    I'm with jcom living in the northwest, but I still follow the rebs. Is that supposed to make me some kind of lesser fan?

    @aj, any #1 team can also lose to any team they play. Do I need to bring up Northern Iowa, Butler, or VCU again?