UNLV basketball:

Blog: Rebels’ 2nd half not good enough in 63-58 loss at No. 2 Arizona

The Rebels shot 28 percent in the 2nd half and got outrebounded by 12 in a tough game that they had a chance to win

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Roscoe Smith defends a shot by Arizona forward Aaron Gordon during the first half of their game at the McKale Center in Tucson Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013.

Updated Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 | 4:24 p.m.

UNLV vs. Arizona

UNLV guard Bryce Dejan Jones steals the ball from Arizona guard Gabe York during the first half of their game at the McKale Center in Tucson Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Arizona 63, UNLV 58

Game over

TUCSON, Ariz. — Brandon Ashley made a layup with 28 seconds remaining that helped No. 2 Arizona hold off the Rebels in an exciting if often ugly game at the McKale Center. The Wildcats will be No. 1 in the polls on Monday.

UNLV had its chances and just couldn't make enough plays down the stretch. Turnovers were very costly and the Wildcats started converting in the paint with made baskets that hadn't been falling for them earlier in the game.

Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 16 points, Khem Birch scored 12 and Roscoe Smith had 10 with a season-low six rebounds. The Rebels shot 28 percent in the second half and committed 16 turnovers in the game, including some crucial ones down the stretch.

Arizona and UNLV combined to miss all 16 of their second-half 3-point attempts. Rebels point guard Kendall Smith missed a bulk of the second half because of undetermined injury. He was getting his thighs iced on the bench.

The Rebels have another week off before going back on the road at Southern Utah on Saturday. Overall, this was a positive game for the 3-4 Rebels, but it will be interesting to see how they respond after such a close defeat.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' narrow defeat.

 

TUCSON, Ariz. — At practice in the Mendenhall Center on Thursday, UNLV coach Dave Rice decided to take a page out of the football practice playbook and pipe in crowd noise. The Rebels ran several possessions amidst noise that made it difficult to talk to the person next to you. That’s exactly what the Rebels (3-3) expect it to be like today against No. 2 Arizona (8-0) in a sold-out McKale Center.

Arizona’s home arena seats 14,545 and most of them will be clad in white screaming their heads off for a team that will top the rankings on Monday with a victory today. The game tips at 2:15 Las Vegas time on ESPN2.

The battle in the frontcourt will have most people’s attention. UNLV junior Roscoe Smith still leads the nation in rebounding while Arizona is outrebounding its opponents by more than 14 per game. And technically the frontcourt doesn’t even include 6-foot-9 Wildcat freshman Aaron Gordon, who plays primarily on the wing.

UNLV’s Bryce Dejean-Jones will draw the initial guarding duties on Gordon, though the Rebels will do a lot of switching so there won’t be one player tasked with stopping him.

Today is also a reunion of sorts, as Findlay Prep products Nick Johnson and Brandon Ashley will face their former assistant coach in UNLV assistant Todd Simon. UNLV freshman Christian Wood played with Ashley as a Pilot.

UNLV is a 16-point underdog and with good reason. Not only does Arizona look like one of best teams in the country but also this is the first road game for a UNLV team that’s had plenty of struggles. That includes the first career road game for starting freshman point guard Kendall Smith.

They may have practiced for it with the sound turned up, but there’s still no telling how well UNLV will handle today’s significant challenge.

Bern’s prediction: A good game for UNLV would be just keeping things close. Obviously the upset would be great for them but that certainly seems unlikely. In order to keep the game close the Rebels are going to have to play a great defensive game; lots of different looks and everyone working together. I don’t think that’s going to come together today. Arizona 85, UNLV 65

Season: ATS 4-2, O/U 5-1

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

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