MWC Tournament:

The Rebels try to collect themselves after dropping a classic semifinal battle with New Mexico

Junior guard Anthony Marshall accepts the blame, as usual, and UNLV awaits its NCAA Tournament draw after a 72-67 loss

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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.

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 »

UNLV vs. New Mexico

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

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.

Anthony Marshall stayed on the court a little longer than the other Rebels. In what has essentially become a post-loss ritual, Marshall watched New Mexico and its fans smiling and laughing, congratulating each other on a victory, this time in his arena. Then Marshall walked toward the tunnel and placed a Gatorade towel over his head as he marched up the ramp, another disappointment filed away for later use.

The Rebels (26-8) came up short in Friday night’s Mountain West semifinal against the Lobos (26-6), falling 72-67 in an instant-classic-type grudge match. The reasons for the defeat could be found in any number of places — the Rebels were out-rebounded 41-25 and out-shot 52 percent to 35.6 — but Marshall placed the blame firmly on himself, as he always does.

The game was tied at 64 with less than two minutes to play, and from there Marshall missed a free throw that could have tied it again at 66, missed a crazy shot in the lane with UNLV down three and missed a dunk that wasted five precious seconds before he recovered and drew a foul.

Those are the plays that Marshall will remember as UNLV awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding, not his team-leading 19 points or 10-for-12 shooting at the free-throw line.

“I felt like I had the opportunity to make some things happen … I really feel like it’s my responsibility to step up,” Marshall said. “I’m a leader of this team and I put it on my shoulders.”

New Mexico forward Drew Gordon was fantastic again, recording 19 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Lobos, who also got 15 points from Tony Snell and 12 from Demetrius Walker, who has been a huge lift off the bench for them of late.

For the Rebels, Chace Stanback hit the first shot of the game and then scored just four points the rest of the way. Sophomore forward Mike Moser scored 11 on 5-of-15 shooting but more importantly grabbed only three rebounds. And senior center Brice Massamba, who picked up that slack with nine rebounds and six points, fouled out with 1:35 to go and the score tied, which forced Carlos Lopez into a tough situation.

If Massamba stays in, maybe things go differently, but picking out every minor ebb and flow of a game in March will spin you in circles.

“That’s the nature of tournament games,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.

This game couldn’t have been further from last month’s disaster at the Pit. That matchup featured similar statistical differences between the teams, but it was a runaway 20-point New Mexico victory. This time around both teams played with a fire and passion that only comes around in March, though that comes as no consolation.

“We don’t play for moral victories, a loss is a loss to us any way you look at it, whether that’s losing by 20 or losing by five,” Marshall said.

The environment at the Thomas & Mack Center was befitting of a game played with so much emotion. The crowd was a fairly even split of fans cheering for UNLV and a large contingent of Lobos fans who made the trip. Moser tweeted afterward that he felt like he was in New Mexico, a sentiment shared by many on Twitter during the game.

Whether or not you thought more Rebels fans should have been in attendance, there’s no denying that the fans who were there combined to make a memorable atmosphere. And Saturday’s tournament final between New Mexico and San Diego State promises to be another electrifying game.

So once again, the Rebels will have to watch someone else cut down their nets at the Mack while they watch and wonder what comes next. The seeding for all four potential tournament teams from the Mountain West could change based on the Aztecs-Lobos outcome and scores around other conference tournaments, but as of this publishing the Rebels look to be in the 6-7 range.

Where they end up wasn’t nearly as important to Rice Friday night as reminding his team what lay ahead. A couple of NCAA Tournament wins and this is all forgotten.

“There’s still so much to play for,” Rice said. “We don’t have to go to sleep (Friday) worrying about whether we’re in the NCAA Tournament or not.”

Marshall echoed that sentiment. They’re still playing, which is more than most teams can say this time of year.

There’s still at least one more chance to take that post-loss pain and turn it into something better.

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

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Previous Discussion: 24 comments so far…

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  1. Another double digit lead blown. Another team that outscores us in the second half. Another game we can not score over 70 points. Another loss.

  2. So much for us being a strong team on our home court...Rice and the team have been keeping their heads in the sand all season long. We didn't address any of our shortfalls until it was too late. We're playing the worst basketball of the season at the worst possible time...just before the NCAA tourney.

    This shows Rice's lack of experience and leadership...he's exposed, his game plan is exposed, and his handling of the rotation is exposed...other teams have the blueprint to beat us even when faced with a double digit deficit.

    I knew he was the wrong man for the job.

  3. It's this simple as to why the Rebels lost.

    1. New Mexico shot over 50% from the field. When you're not getting stops, it very hard to push the tempo. Made baskets allows the other team to get back on defense.

    2. New Mexico heavily outrebounded UNLV. Once again, not getting rebounds doesn't allow you to get a fast break going.

    So, in order to determine how the game is going to go for the Rebels, all you have to look at is the other team's field goal percentage and the number of rebounds the Rebels get vs. the number of rebounds their opponent gets.

  4. Can we now stop the whining about the tournament being at the T&M??? Alford ... Shut up now!!

  5. Wow, what an embarrassing, underachieving conference season--what a waste of the best talent the Rebels have had in a long time.

    I'll just make one specific complaint: all those minutes given to Massamba, at the expense of Lopez/Thomas, who at least have something approaching a well-rounded set of basketball skills. Massamba is the worst rebounding and defensive big I have seen in a long time. The failure to develop Thomas and Lopez is a key failure, imo.....

  6. 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!

  7. It's been a very good first season for UNLV under the helm of Rice-Augmon. The team is 26-8, and they play in a tough conference with three other NCAA post-season teams -- all of which they have played 2-3 times each.

    The Rebels are undefeated at home for the first time in 20 years. And they are still shaking off some of that Kruger style of "rising to the middle." Plus, the season isn't over until it's over.

    Good season, Rebels. Have a fun tourney!

  8. UNLV will go further than any other team in the MW come tourney time. Coach Rice is a fine coach and come soon (next year) UNLV will be one of the elite programs in the nation. Unfortunately, Coach Rice only has a few players currently on the current year's team that can run his system. This team is TIRED plan and simple. UNLV has had double digit leads in almost every game this year, but towards the end of the conference season they just have worn down (i.e. last nights game vs NM, came out on fire but was winded after the first time out). Once Coach Rice gets all the players that can run this system, UNLV will be fine.

  9. I think Rice has done an excellent job. What I wonder about is that he put it in his own plan, as he should, but a lot of the players were Lon Kruger's. This isn't a criticism of either of them or of the players, but I wonder whether the running game that Rice used may have been a bit too much for them as the season went on. That said, anybody who is complaining right now about Rice and the Rebels having "blown" the season or whatever is part of that group that seems to think that, once upon a time, the Rebels won the national championship every year. They won one. Count 'em. One.

  10. I feel like Marshal is the only one who really cares and takes any blame for the loses. Dave Rice shows no emotion and just praises the other teams for beating us. I never hear the seniors (Staback, Bellfield, or Masamba) take any leadership or blame.

  11. This was a tough loss but the Rebels do have a bright future. This was the best season they've had in a long time, and that's with a brand new was coach and a new offensive philosophy. I think any "running" team would struggle in the MWC without a guard who can create (and make) mid range jump shots, and good big men. That said, I think the Rebels will match up well against a lot of teams in the country, and could do well in the tourney.

    I think the bandwagon "fans" who are calling this season a "failure" and making obscene comments to the players are seriously pathetic. I guess that's the downside to every ignorant person having a voice on the Internet.

  12. This is tough but these kids and coaches have done a great job so far. If this is what Rice does in his first year things look really good for the future.

    This season has been such a great pump up anyone that says it's a failure is crazy. Even if they don't go further this season has been a good one. I'm sure next season will be even better.

  13. Come on UNLV! Make some noise In the NCAA Tournament!!

  14. The Reb's will get an 8/9 seed in the NCAA tournament and get blasted out in the first round, as usual. This team/coaching staff is weak....what part of a two half game don't you get???

  15. Um, we saw a completely different team last night?! A line up of Massamba, Lopez, Wallace, Hawkins & Marshall, who's gonna score from that unit? Stanback might as well have just stayed home and then Moser wants to just hang on perimeter.

    Good to see Wallace hit a few but we can't sustain solid attacking play for longer than 10-12 minutes.

    Go Rebs!

  16. Last year we finished:
    24--9 (11--5 Mountain West)

    This year we finished:
    26-8 (9-5 Mountain West)
    Not counting NCAA tournament play

    How exactly was this year so much better than this year?

    We ended Feb last year 6-2, this year 4-4. In March heading into the tourney, we were 2-1 last year...this year we're 1-1. We're stumbling into the tournament this year....

    We didn't improve. People are so blind they can't see our faults...LMAO

  17. I have to agree with UNLV_GO_FIGHT_WIN. The Rebels collapses have to 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. I've suspected this of Marshall for a while, but it became obvious the rest of the team is feeling it too. Anybody else notice how Brice isn't able to do a 2 hand jam standing under the basket. Game last night could have been very different if he would have gone up strong to dunk the ball instead of trying to put it off the glass and watch it get swated away those 3 or 4 times. I just don't think this team is condiditioned for this type of play yet. I think we'll be closer to being able to play this style next year with another year of condintioning under our belt. With that said though being tired doesn't excuse their defensive lapses. I remember listneing to the beginning of the WI game on my XM radio and their broadcast team mentioned that they couldn't hear the Rebels talking on defense and that place was a quiet as a church on Sunday. This type of stuff can't continue, especially when you require steals and TO's to provide your best offense.

  18. Maybe the reason why they're "losing their legs" and "collapsing" in the 2nd half is because they're ill-prepared for this system? or maybe they're not in proper condition? Who's responsible for that?

    The coach....

    LMAO

  19. Ok Sinatra you win. UNLV is a terrible school, the sports program sucks, the players all suck, the coaches suck, the fans suck, the facilities suck, the color of their uniforms sucks.

    Now will you die happy? Like.. right now? Please?

  20. @UNLV-123 - What does you're comment have to do with the school or team? Personal attacks is all homers do....can't take the criticism of the team, coach, or anything else that doesn't make UNLV look like it's the best program in the world...I love my school/team, which is why I demand the best from it's program, coaches, and players.

    Go ahead and accept mediocrity and wish death upon everyone who doesn't agree with you agenda. In the meantime, I'm going to continue barking at the team until we win a National Championship and laugh at you and other homers who post comments such as yours. LMFAOAY

  21. UNLV earned a #6 seed, "sinatra" ... With a win against a #1 seed. So there goes your college basketball omniscience.

  22. Also, UNLV *has* won a national championship.

    Constructive criticism is one thing; repetitive and relentlessly negative commentary is useless. Any criticism of UNLV that fails to address the NCAA's dismantling of the program and what happened in subsequent years (with the complicity of the university administration) lacks perspective.

  23. Reza - What the hell does a 6 Seed mean? Nothing. It's not an achievement...it's a placement in a bracket. If they lose the next game, it's meaningless. It's ridiculous that people celebrate a placement in a bracket. Even if we went undefeated and earned a #1 seed, it would be meaningless without a championship...just ask the 1991 team....or Coaches Rice & Augmon. LMAO

    Ask them how satisfying that season was....if they tell you it is, they'd be lying. Greg Anthony talks all the time about how disappointed that team was...even to this day...that they didn't win it all. That's the kind of attitude we need...not the loser "hey we got the #6 seed!" attitude. It's no wonder why we collapse in the 2nd half...with that kind of thinking, it doesn't surprise me.

  24. @Sinatra711 follows the philosophy of Ricky Bobby. "If you're not first... you're last."