Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 | 8:10 p.m.
Here are some observations from the UNLV basketball team’s 74-71 loss today against visiting UNR at the Thomas & Mack Center. Can’t believe I typed that sentence, as Reno snapped an eight-game losing skid to UNLV dating back to 2005.
What the game means : It’s safe to call this loss the end of the UNLV season. UNLV won’t be an NCAA Tournament team. They don’t deserve to be — nobody that loses to Reno does. They are simply going to play out the schedule and hope to get hot during the Mountain West league tournament. It’s like they are back in the Charlie Spoonhour era again, right? Late in the first half, long before UNR went on that are-you-kidding-me 20-2 scoring run, it became glaringly obvious: this UNLV team is average. And, for some, that’s putting it nicely. I was one of the few observers to give the Rebels the benefit of the doubt, arguing they had the talent to progress and become a respectable team by March when it matters most. I was wrong. The Rebels are a flawed in many aspects — guard play, perimeter defense, transition offense, free-throw shooting, to name a few. Losing to UNR is unacceptable. The Rebels were outplayed, out-hustled and out-coached. Everyone affiliated with the program should be embarrassed. They got run out of their own building in humiliating fashion — Deonte Burton’s alley-oop dunk in transition with about five minutes remaining was so impressive some UNLV fans cheered. Then, they rushed out of the Mack to beat traffic.
Sharing the ball : The first stat Dave Rice uses during his postgame press conference is usually the number of UNLV assists in comparison to baskets made. The more assists, the better UNLV played. Tonight, UNLV managed just 10 assists on 22 field goals made. Bottom line, they aren’t sharing the ball, and there is little flow offensively, especially in the half court. UNLV is getting few quality minutes from the point guard position with Kendall Smith and Deville Smith combining for three assists. They’ve struggled most games this season, specifically in defeats. Maybe Daquan Cook, the Rebels’ third point guard, should get more playing time. He couldn’t do much worse, and he’s a pass-first point guard, finishing with two assists in four minutes tonight..
A look at the box score : Reno’s Burton was as good as advertised, scoring a game-high 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting. He was the best player on the court. UNLV’s Roscoe Smith nearly had a double-double in the first half with nine points and 10 rebounds, finishing with 13 points and a game-high 15 rebounds. Bryce Dejean-Jones led four UNLV scorers in double figures with 15 points, but he made just 4 of 14 shots. Chris Wood scored seven late points to finish with 11, and Khem Birch had 13 points, despite playing arguably his worst game of the season. He was just 3 of 10 from the field and looked like the rough-around-the-edges offensive player he was supposed to be.
Up next : The Rebels don’t play until Jan. 15 at New Mexico, giving them a valuable one-week break before two of their most important league games of the season. They need to hit the reset button and try to figure out what’s wrong. After traveling to Albuquerque, the Rebels play Jan. 18 at San Diego State against their top rivals. Both San Diego State and New Mexico are projected as NCAA Tournament teams. UNLV isn’t. Enough said. Beating them both would be a great start in salvaging the season and making amends for tonight. OK, the black-eye of getting smacked around by Reno won’t soon be forgotten.