UNLV basketball:

Blog: Jahii Carson drops 40 on the Rebels, who fall to 2-2

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Kendall Smith defends Arizona State guard Jahii Carson during their game Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 | 9:13 p.m.

UNLV vs. Arizona State: Nov. 19, 2013

UNLV forward Roscoe Smith tries to get the crowd into their game against Arizona State Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. Launch slideshow »

Arizona State 86, UNLV 80

Game over

Jahii Carson set a career high with 40 points and his relentless play wore down the Rebels in an 86-80 victory for Arizona State. UNLV falls to 2-2 on the season and will likely be a home underdog again next Tuesday against Illinois.

Roscoe Smith did everything he could for the Rebels, finishing with 18 points and 21 rebounds. Khem Birch also had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds, while Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 13.

Five Rebels finished in double-digit scoring and the main reason they couldn't come away with the victory was simply that Carson was too good. He broke down every defender UNLV tried to put on him, and the Rebels didn't run much zone to counter it. Even when they did ASU's shooters did a good job making them pay.

The Rebels looked tired down the stretch after chasing around the Sun Devils for the whole game. Carson never came off the floor, scoring 40 points in 40 minutes.

The Rebels finished 15-for-29 at the free throw line, another dreadful performance from the stripe. That's going to be a huge issue in all of these close games until UNLV gets it fixed.

 

Rebounds are a great cure for what ails a basketball team. A struggling defense looks a lot better when it only has to guard one possession at a time because it’s grabbing defensive rebounds, and an offense’s shooting percentage can soar with easy putbacks off offensive rebounds.

So whatever struggles UNLV may be going through, juniors Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith can cover up for a lot by continuing their prodigious pace on the glass. The front court duo is averaging 25 rebounds per game.

Even the Rebels’ woeful free-throw shooting could be softened by a couple of offensive rebounds off of misses that create extra possessions. Rebounding well doesn’t fix other areas of the game, but it does help make up for them.

That may be something the Rebels (2-1) rely on tonight at 7 when they host Arizona State (3-0) on CBS Sports Network. The Sun Devils are favored by 4 and possess a terrific inside-out combination in 5-foot-10 guard Jahii Carson and 7-2 center Jordan Bachynski.

Carson is an excellent shooter — he’s hitting 53 percent from the field this year — so it’s even more important for the Rebels to clean up the few missed shots he’ll put up. Foul trouble, perimeter defense and free throws all could play a large factor tonight. But if the Rebels rebound the way they have been lately, they should have a chance.

Bern’s prediction: I really don’t know who’s going to stay in front of Carson. Going back to the exhibition games it didn’t look to me like junior guard Deville Smith could stay in front of penetrating guards very well, and I have the same concerns about freshman guard Kendall Smith. Those two will probably spend the majority of the time guarding ASU’s sensation.

Once he gets into the lane, UNLV could be in trouble. Birch and Roscoe Smith flirted with foul trouble last Friday. I think that could happen even earlier tonight, and unless the Rebels also get Bachynski into the same situation they could be in trouble. Arizona State 80, UNLV 72

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

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

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