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December 22, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

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Instant Analysis: Despite MWC loss, there is still plenty of basketball left for UNLV

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall buries his face as time expires in their Mountain West Conference tournament semifinal game against New Mexico Friday, March 9, 2012. New Mexico won 72-67 and will face San Diego State in the championship game.

UNLV vs. New Mexico

KSNV coverage of the UNLV Rebels playing against the New Mexico Lobos, March 9, 2012.

MWC Tournament Semis - UNLV v New Mexico

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall heads off the court after their Mountain West Conference tournament semifinal game against New Mexico  Friday, March 9, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. New Mexico won 72-67 and will face San Diego State in the championship game. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

Rebels knocked out by New Mexico

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer talk about the UNLV basketball team's 72-67 loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament semifinals and take their best guess at where the Rebels will be seeded for next week's NCAA Tournament.

Let's not be so fast to write the UNLV basketball team’s obituary for this season.

After all, there are still more games — OK, at least one more game — to be played this season, games in a tournament where a few wins would help erase the bad feelings from what happened Friday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Rebels continued their late-season slide in losing 72-67 to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference semifinals, coming up short in a back-and-forth affair that will surely go down as one of the league’s best tournament games since its creation in 1999. If only CBS College Sports offered classic-game replays.

No matter how you slice and dice it, UNLV got beat by a better team. You can’t fault the Rebels’ effort or desire in this one — they flat-out lost in a closely contested game that could have gone either way.

Maybe I’m a little too positive in the aftermath of a game they should have won, but it’s not like the defeat to New Mexico last month on the road where the Rebels (26-8) didn’t bring their best in the second half. Friday, they tried to scratch and claw their way to victory, but couldn’t duplicate some of their earlier-season magic in falling to a 6-5 mark since Feb. 1.

It’s easy to pick apart the Rebels’ weaknesses, and trust me, as New Mexico exploited, there are a handful of things that need to be fixed before next week’s NCAA Tournament.

But let’s look at some of the positives:

• Moser, Marshall want the ball when it counts : Entering the tournament, I questioned who would take the big shot for UNLV with the game on the line. And, more important, would that shot go in. Both Anthony Marshall and Mike Moser — who I assumed would be up for the challenge — made big buckets late against New Mexico. Moser drained a 3-pointer and Marshall converted a three-point play to erase a six-point deficit and even the game at 63-all with about two minutes remaining. Every team needs a player willing to step up with the game on the line, and the duo of Marshall and Moser showed the courage to be the goat or the hero.

• Great basketball IQ from players : With about 12 minutes to play, Marshall was whistled for what would have been his fourth foul. But Brice Massamba quickly pleaded to the referee that he was the one who committed the foul. The ref surprisingly agreed and switched the call. Marshall would have been forced to the bench, but Massamba sacrificed himself in a play that shows his knowledge of the game to keep one of the team’s best players in the lineup. Earlier in the game, Carlos Lopez cleverly drew a foul of flop that would have made Vlade Divac jealous. And, senior point guard Oscar Bellfield continues to provide solid smarts with the ball in his hands. As UNLV has shown, they lack in a few spots, making their basketball smarts a strength heading into next week.

• Rice calling the right shots: : It’s easy to forget that Dave Rice is a first-year head coach because more times than not he makes the right in-game adjustments. Late in the first half, with Marshall on the bench nursing three fouls and Moser sidelined with two, the coach went with post players Massamba and Lopez in the lineup at the same time — a rarity. They responded by holding off a New Mexico charge to close the half, using a trio of 3-pointers from Kendall Wallace for a 34-31 halftime lead. In the second half, Rice opted to stay with the hot-hand of Wallace at times over Chace Stanback, his second-leading scorer who struggled (yet again) in posting just seven points.

Let’s look ahead …

When UNLV opened the season with eight straight wins, and when they almost cracked the top 10 of the national rankings, several die-hards predicted a Sweet 16 run come March. Tonight, those same folks aren’t as optimistic.

UNLV has likely played itself into a No. 6 or 7 seed for next week’s NCAA Tournament, which isn’t all too bad. At the beginning of the year, my guess is the players and coaches would have been thrilled with a No. 7 seed.

Rice’s first season is already categorized a success for how he’s brought Rebel Fever back to the Las Vegas Valley. One tournament win would be icing on the cake. Two, would turn this town upside down — and make a MWC tourney loss to New Mexico a distant memory.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Hey Daniel: I have no problem ripping UNLV when it is merited, but you can't fault the effort tonight. They got outplayed by a better team. As usual, thanks for reading and providing us with your feedback. ... And, I'm perfectly happy in Las Vegas :)

  2. Daniel, please get off your soapbox, Ray has a job to do. Let him do it.

    That was NOT a home game tonight, and UNM, as much as I dislike them, has a great fan base. Dare I say better than UNLV's late-showing, early-leaving, fair weather crowd. Either way, that game was awesome tonight, and we fought tooth and nail to stay in it. Couple free throws and some crucial missed shots throughout and we could have been in the driver's seat rather than fighting to stay in it. Either way, great game and great environment.

    I'll be there tomorrow night to see another dog fight and can't wait for Sunday to see where the MWC ends up. Go Rebels!

  3. I'd like to give a shout out to the Rebs...even thou I have season tickets and have seen the Rebels many times I never watched a game mid court five rows from the floor. What a difference. What I've learned this season.
    Rice is a fine coach. This team plays hard for him, it really is a undersized and not very deep. If we didn't play hard defense and create points off turnovers we are average at best. We got into early foul trouble with Marshall and Moser and got nothing from the bench. Nobody could score in a half court set except Senior Kendall Wallace. I give Rice credit for giving Wallace extended minutes. Rice used the bench and outside Kendall the only points came from Lopez's two free throws.
    Eye test: New Mexico is big and athletic and deep if we could play them 5 on 5 no substitutions allowed we beat them. Their inside game is head and shoulders better than ours. Brice and Lopez our out of their league physically they were constantly rejected and no threat on offense. Every point Brice got was off an Anthony Marshall drive and dish, couldn't create anything on his own.
    Marshall, Moser, and Oscar played lights out. There was no disappearing act by any of them. Its a lot easier defending them with no low post play, plain and simple. Stanback is heart breaking to watch him waste his talent wether its his knee or psyche he eats up lesser talent but wilts when the going gets tough. Perfect example of a streaky player most frustrating. Love or Hate relation with him. Hawkins 24 minutes and no points is that Rice's fault? Biggest sequence of plays; with 2 sec on NM shot clock we steal the inbound pass Moser dishes to Oscar, Oscar threads the needle to Hawkins on the wing if he goes up hard and slams its 2 and 1, instead he lays it up and misses then proceeds to miss both free throws and fouls on the ensuing possession sends NM to the line where they hit both and we never recover.
    The bench that everyone says for coach Rice to use got outscored 26 to 11 NM got contributions from everyone.
    In my humble opinion UNLV can make noise in the tourney we play aggressive D and put the peddle down off every defensive rebound which leads to quick points and runs. A lot of teams don't face that and we catch them ill prepared hence our record out of conference but you play us twice, three times each year the MWC teams are better prepared which I think leads to our fast starts then we come back to earth. Our wins come from out working the other guy or we shot exceptionally well. We've been scouted stop Moser and Marshall and hope the secondary line players don't get hot.
    So Rebels I'm with you. We are what we are 3rd best in a tough conference with a style if your not ready for can blow your doors off and hopefully hang on. Might be good for one win maybe two.
    Go Rebs!
    Don't worry Rebel fans help is on the way in the new recruits the future looks bright and man that was great action Gordon dunks then Moser comes back and returns the favor!

  4. I don't think it was a home game they played like they were on the road and watched it slip away.

  5. Oh, look! Hater "Daniel" is back! Zzzzzzzzz.

  6. The T&M had more fans cheering for UNM than UNLV last night; in fact, everyone in the arena who wasn't a UNLV fan (the majority of those there) were cheering against UNLV. A building does not make a "home court." It was neutral at best.

    I'd rather be "homer" than a "hater,"
    JPR

  7. When games come down to the wire, the team that makes the freebies wins. That's what happened last night. Not sure what happened to the Reb's FT shooting, but it's gotten ugly.

    That being said, I agree with Ray. This team is flawed, but guess what - every other team in the NCAAA tourney will be, too. They need to keep in mind it's not a tourney, but just a series of individual games. The Rebs just need to stay loose and keep enjoying playing the game. They do that, they could do some damage.

    People also need to keep in mind that these are kids. The purpose of these games is to teach them, as students, that things won't always go their way. Failure is part of life no matter how good you are. All about staying positive and bouncing back (same holds true for all of us watching them play).

    And as for last night, that game made me mad at the NCAA/BCS cartel for putting into a place a system that took what would have been a fun conference, and blew it all up. The MWC with SDSD, BYU, Utah, UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State in hoops and TCU (and if we stole Boise) added to football? Awesome. But no, not to be. :-(

    And finally, props to New Mexico's fans for bringing it. Same with SDSU. And good luck to both teams tonight.

  8. Sorry, but I don't think the Rebels collapses have as much to do with other teams adjusting or figuring us out as they do with the team being out of gas. Remember in the begining of the season how we were considered a 2nd half team as we'd come out for the first 5 minutes and put the game out of reach. Now we come out in the 2nd half and somewhere within that first 5 minutes things seem to fall apart. A big reason for this is that they don't have their legs anymore. It's why their jumpshots start falling short. Why they start losing the rebounding battle, why they're a step slow on defense, and why they struggle with their FT's. This team has done good for it's first year under coach Rice, but they just aren't in good enough condition yet to play the way he wants. To MWCrob, the actually did a decent job for them from the line at almost 78%

  9. There is no shame in losing to the eventual winner of the tournament. They were more talented and athletic, particularly at the center position.