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July 2, 2015

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Analysis: Lessons need to be learned in mistake-filled loss against Oregon

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Anthony Marshall covers his face after missing a layup that would have tied their game against Oregon Friday, Nov. 23, 2012. Oregon won the game 83-79.

UNLV vs. Oregon

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall walks off the court after the Runnin' Rebels were upset by Oregon 83-79 Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 in the Global Sports Classic. Launch slideshow »

This is exactly the type of game the UNLV basketball team needed. Even in defeat.

The Rebels had several weaknesses exposed Friday against visiting Oregon, falling behind by nine points in the first half and failing to overcome the poor play in a 83-79 defeat. They erased the deficit in the second half, but couldn’t match a physical opponent in Oregon in learning a valuable lesson for the rest of the season.

The Rebels can’t afford to take any nights off — something they were guilty of early against a team they were favored to beat by 12 points. While they played inspired in the second half to take a small lead, there was little room for error down the stretch and Oregon executed better in the final two minutes to earn the win.

In the first two games of the season, UNLV was clearly the better team and the outcome was never in question.

That was hardly the case in the third game of the year against a quality opponent in Oregon. The Rebels, especially early, didn’t do themselves many favors with plenty of mental mistakes and lack of inspired play.

They surrendered 10 first-half offensive rebounds, made bad pass after bad pass when trying to break the Oregon full court press, and played like a team that needed Red Bull energy drinks instead of Gatorade during timeouts.

While a loss will be an eyesore on the schedule, it might be the best thing in the long run. The Rebels learned more about themselves tonight than the blowouts to open the season. Losing in late November is surely better than committing the same mistakes in late February.

Tomorrow, when they take on Iowa State, we’ll see what adjustments were made.

Here are some other observations from the game:

You can guarantee UNLV will see the press again: Breaking the Oregon full court press was easier said than done in the first half as the Rebels fell into a nine-point deficit with 8:50 to play in the half. The Oregon guards were much quicker than UNLV’s backcourt in forcing the Rebels into bad passes, which led to ugly turnovers the Ducks converted to easy points. And, when the Rebels were able to get the ball up the court, Oregon periodically went into a zone defense that also gave them fits. It’s safe to assume this won’t be the lone time the Rebels will be faced with breaking a full court press.

Looking for the right player rotation: Here are two rules of thumb Dave Rice might consider using when setting his lineup. Either Anthony Bennett or Mike Moser should be on the court at all crucial times. And don’t play post players Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez together. When Rice rotated Thomas and Lopez into the lineup about five minutes into the game, sending Bennett and Moser — his top players — for a breather, the Rebels couldn’t score. Within about two minutes, a 13-7 lead was a 15-13 deficit. Sure, it’s just three games into the season and part of the challenge early is tinkering with the lineup to find the right player rotation. But with Lopez and Thomas, who combined to go scoreless in about 20 minutes, the Rebels’ options offensively are limited. They played alongside Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins and Katin Reinhardt, proving to be a lineup that couldn’t create their own shots or score. Rice obviously can’t play Bennett or Moser the entire game and knows overusing the duo could exhaust them for later in the season. Resting them together, however, might not be the best option.

Katin can play: Katin Reinhardt played like a true freshman in the first half. He had a turnover on a lazy pass when the Rebels were attempting to solve the Oregon full court press and misfired on all five of his shot attempts. In the second half, however, he stole the show in scoring all of his 18 points. He hit a four of big 3-pointers and wasn’t afraid to have the ball in his hands when the game was on the line. He’s a winner and not your typical first-year college player. He never hesitated to take the big shot. Remember, this is just three games into his career. Imagine how clutch he’ll be three years into it? The sky is the limit.

Defending the glass: The rebounding battle was virtually even with Oregon holding a slim 45-41 edge on the glass. But 15 of the Ducks’ 45 rebounds came on the offensive glass, including 10 in the first half as they built the lead with several easy second-chance points. That’s a formula for disaster, which for UNLV came in the form of a loss.

Rebels solid at the charity stripe: UNLV stayed close with its solid free throw shooting, making 23-of-25 attempts. And, when you consider they were in the bonus with 14:28 remaining, having a smooth stroke the line was invaluable. With Bennett, Moser and Bryce Dejean-Jones constantly on the attack in talking the ball to the rim, expect the Rebels’ success or failure on the line to determine several results the rest of the year. Hey, I’m looking for brights spots in a loss, and this was definitely one.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or ray.brewer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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