Rebels basketball:

Tale of UNLV’s league-opening loss can’t be told by one number alone

The Rebels made 24 fewer trips to the free-throw line than New Mexico in their 65-60 defeat, but they still had chances to make at the end

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins reacts to a missed shot in the final minute of their game against New Mexico on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at The Pit in Albuquerque. New Mexico won 65-60.

UNLV vs. New Mexico: Jan. 9, 2013

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall knocks the ball out of the hands of New Mexico guard Hugh Greenwood during their game Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at The Pit in Albuquerque. Launch slideshow »

ALBUQUERQUE — Here’s the number most people will probably point to, the one that will be remembered from No. 24 UNLV’s 65-60 loss at No. 25 New Mexico: 4-for-5.

That’s the Rebels’ total free-throw attempts for the game, and it all came in the first half. In the final 20 minutes, a back-and-forth affair that saw both sides squander several chances to either pull away or pull back into it, UNLV (13-3, 0-1) didn’t make one trip to the free-throw line.

The Lobos (14-2, 1-0) were 15-for-29 from the line, a disparity that didn’t look nearly as bad until they took 14 trips in the final 3:06. Had New Mexico hit more than six of those final shots, this game wouldn’t have been close. It didn’t, and so it was, with the Rebels twice going down the court down 63-60 with a chance to either extend or tie the game.

People will look at that 4-for-5, or the zero in the second half, and call that the key to the game, and there’s no doubt it was a big factor. Despite it all, though, the Rebels had the game in their hands multiple times and came up short.

From 1:13 remaining to 41 seconds, UNLV gave up two offensive rebounds that led to a pair of Lobos’ points. And in those possessions with the score at 63-60, the Rebels missed an open 3 and turned the ball over. Anthony Bennett didn’t touch the ball either time.

“Our first look is always to go for a two, and if the two is taken away and we can get a wide-open shot then we’ll skip it,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “And one thing all game long was the way they double-teamed Anthony Bennett. When we moved the ball (out of the post) we got wide-open shots, we just didn’t make quite enough of them.”

Fouls played a role from the outset, and it wasn’t an accident. The Lobos are aware of how important Bennett is to the Rebels, so they double-teamed him constantly and attacked him at both ends.

New Mexico’s Alex Kirk, who finished with a game-high 23 points, dunked on Bennett with 2:54 left in the first half and then was called for a technical, most likely for staring down and saying something to Bennett. The play only seemed to pump Kirk up more, though, as he went after Bennett on the next possession and drew the freshman forward’s second foul.

That sent Bennett to the bench while Kirk polished off a 7-1 run. Three starters — Bennett, Anthony Marshall and Bryce Dejean-Jones all finished the first half with two fouls.

“That worked to our advantage,” said UNM’s Kendall Williams, whose deep 3-pointer put the Lobos ahead for good with 2:15 remaining in the game.

Bennett was a force to start the second half, but with 14:14 remaining he was called for his fourth foul on a charge call. Right or wrong, players understand that it’s more difficult to get the calls in your favor on the road.

“You get some calls at home where you don’t on the road,” Marshall said. “… There are going to be nights like that. You can’t let that dictate the game.”

Bennett exited with the Rebels up 45-41 and returned with them down 52-51 and 7:39 on the clock. He went 0-for-2 with a turnover the rest of the way, finishing with 12 points on 5-for-10 shooting with six rebounds. Also scoring 12 was Khem Birch, who eventually fouled out during that flurry of whistles in the final three minutes. Mike Moser shot 1-for-6 in 14 minutes in his second return from an elbow injury.

With so much attention paid to Bennett, UNLV looked to pass out of the post and find open shooters. While Bennett didn’t record any assists he did have a few passes that set up the pass before a made shot.

On one possession in the first half, Bennett quickly kicked out of a double team, and two quick passes around the perimeter later Justin Hawkins hit an open 3-pointer for a six-point lead. It was the best example of the Rebels’ taking the opportunity the defense gave them.

UNLV finished 8-for-23 behind the three-point line, and Rice said he was fine with that many attempts because most of them were open looks. Even Katin Reinhardt's shot in the final minute looked open, though it wasn’t the first option. That possession started out of a timeout with 25.4 seconds left.

“We felt like we had a lot of time on the clock so we wanted to get a quick two and play the foul game, try to manage the clock,” Marshall said, “but I saw a little opening and Katin was wide open. I trust him. He’s made big shots all his life.”

The Rebels fouled after Reinhardt’s miss with 13.5 seconds left and got another chance courtesy of Hugh Greenwood’s two missed free throws. Hawkins grabbed the rebound and pushed it to Marshall.

Rice said the call was for a spacing play similar to the previous one that would give Marshall the same options to either get it inside for a look to extend the game or a kick-out to an open shooter. Before the Rebels could get set up, though, Marshall drove toward the basket and into a blanket of Lobos defenders.

Williams (11 points) got the steal and Tony Snell (13 points) hit two free throws to ice the game. Marshall finished with seven points, seven rebounds, nine assists and five turnovers, including two in the final 2:22.

UNLV gave up 11 offensive rebounds and was outscored 11-5 on second-chance points, which is another number to consider. It’s hard to win without getting to the free-throw line. It’s also hard to win when the Rebels continually fail to make game-winning plays on the road.

“We didn’t do a very good job of overcoming the foul trouble that we were in,” Rice said. “There were some toughness plays that we needed to make down the stretch. We just can’t give up offensive rebounds on free throws like we did.”

No one number tells the story of this game, because it’s all too familiar a performance from UNLV to credit it to one stat.

The number Rice preferred to focus on is 15, the number of regular-season conference games remaining. This is not going to be the only time the whistles don’t go their way or the only time they have the ball in their hands with the game on the line.

“My biggest concern about tonight was we needed to make more plays with toughness,” Rice said. “Get loose balls, get defensive rebounds, block out on free throws; I think tonight was about needing to win more 50/50 balls than anything else.”

The Rebels return home Saturday to face Air Force then play at San Diego State and Colorado State. This was never going to be an easy stretch. The key is whether UNLV learns from it in ways it failed to last season.

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

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  1. i hate to say it as i love my rebels but...... UNLV ----> soft

  2. Very similar loss as we had last year in the fact our offense became stagnant. Too much standing around and casting up contested jump shots. New Mexico completely dictated pace. Good news I guess could be that this is the third time we have played very poorly and still had the chance to win the game in the last minute or two. Bad news is we still make fundamentally poor plays when it counts the most. Giving up offensive rebounds, turning the ball over, and taking forced shots is not a recipe to win games. We will see if they learn anything when they get another chance at a tough environment in San Diego next week.

  3. Three players going up for a rebound and fumbling it, turnover after turnover by jones and Moser...it was just ugly, careless ball. This isn't some Haarlem Globetrotters basketball gig....it's a real live game with NCAA hopes on the line. By no means is UNLV is super bubble trouble, but they're sitting comfortably on it though. UNLV has yet to earn from road woes of last year, but I guess signs of improvement right now is UNLV did better in the pit this year than last. Mega improvement. That's about all we can take away. Like I said, Bennett was neutralized and barely anyone stepped up. Reinhardt isn't close to being the kid we thought he would be. Just a of kids who love turnovers. Prepare for the losses. I'm calling double digit by years end. Talent means NOTHING!!!!! Ask even Miami of the 10-11 season :)

  4. Rice was totally outcoached- again. Why is Reinhardt in the game the last 2 minutes and Hawkins comes out?? What is this love affair with this over rated kid? Bet the ranch that UNLV loses on the road to SDS, CSU, Wyoming and Boise St.
    I agree with the guy above- this team is soft. How many offensive rebounds did they get? I remember ONE.

  5. Marshall is not a good point guard. Backing smaller guards down isn't running an offense. It just leads to everybody standing around. After watching him for four years, he still can't make a clutch play down the stretch. It's either a missed lay-up, missed 3 point shot, or a turn-over.

  6. UNLV is a great team, at home. Its sad to see them get out coached every road game. At this rate the last two seasons we will be lucky to see one road win at Fresno.

  7. Soft is a good description. Same as last year. If there's a loose ball or a contested rebound, chances are they're going to lose that battle. They just don't compete at a high enough level when the going gets tough.

    And people complain about the officiating (and it wasn't great), but when you spend all your time on the parameter, you're not going to get a lot of calls. For all the talk of our frontcourt, we're still a team far too in love with the outside shot.

  8. Did anyone else notice that the Rebels didn't run any baseline out-of-bounds plays the whole game? Marshall would take the ball out and just throw it up and hope someone on our team would catch it. There were no screens or plays or anything. Those are missed opportunities for easy baskets. New Mexico on the other hand ran plays and got baskets on out-of-bounds situations. I don't get it, I thought basketball teams had out-of-bounds plays???

  9. Gosh, a center who can shoot from outside--whataya do with him? Well, if it's the Rebels ya certainly don't cover him.
    Running is great and exciting and all that but teams know that if they slow us down and force us to execute in a half court setting we have no clue what we are doing. Same goes when Bennett is doubled and ditto for in-bounds plays.
    All of it comes back to coaching and this one is in over his head...

  10. Anthony Bennett is a terrific talent and fun to watch, yet he seems incapable of setting ball screens, or any screen for that matter...amazing. AM is my boy but that was an ill-advised play and overall poor performance. Maybe less time on twitter and more time working on inbounds and dead ball plays might help?

  11. please taylor spare us the "it wasn't FAIR because one team was called for more fouls" waa waa. New Mexico was more aggressive, driving to the basket while UNLV seemed content to play a perimeter oriented half court game. New Mexico gets to the line, that's what they do. UNLV to a lesser extent usually, but definitely not in this game. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OFFICIATING. There were a few phantom calls in favor of the home team but you kind of expect that. My point is Rebels should have been more aggressive trying to draw fouls. They're usually pretty good at that

  12. @jwpt03 "i hate to say it as i love my rebels but...... UNLV ----> soft" agreed. @AmericanInThailand "UNLV has yet to earn from road woes of last year," does Cal count? @rose4141" Why is Reinhardt in the game the last 2 minutes and Hawkins comes out??" Because Hawkins is a worse shooter IMO. "Bet the ranch that UNLV loses on the road to SDS, CSU, Wyoming and Boise St." Yes, but a lot of teams will lose there in the MW. All of the teams named will make the NCAAs at this rate. @sportarefun "Did anyone else notice that the Rebels didn't run any baseline out-of-bounds plays the whole game? Marshall would take the ball out and just throw it up and hope someone on our team would catch it. There were no screens or plays or anything. Those are missed opportunities for easy baskets. New Mexico on the other hand ran plays and got baskets on out-of-bounds situations. I don't get it, I thought basketball teams had out-of-bounds plays???" Watched in on gametracker, but it's worth noting that UNLV has decent out of bounds plays. @AmLowLife "Gosh, a center who can shoot from outside--whataya do with him? Well, if it's the Rebels ya certainly don't cover him.
    Running is great and exciting and all that but teams know that if they slow us down and force us to execute in a half court setting we have no clue what we are doing. Same goes when Bennett is doubled and ditto for in-bounds plays.
    All of it comes back to coaching and this one is in over his head..." Bingo, that has been CDR's main problem in offense over the past 1.5 years. @liljoe31 "Maybe less time on twitter and more time working on inbounds and dead ball plays might help?" I think it is a discipline issue.

  13. UNLV simply needs someone to get pissed off. It's time to wipe the smiles off of their faces and start getting angry and tough. The offense is just so stagnant at times, and there is no way UNLV should be taking more 3 point shots than ANY team. Going back to toughness, that's how guys get rebounds. You can have all the length in the world, but many balls can be fought for and won if you just attack the ball every time.

  14. Where was Goodman? It seems like he would have brought some fire to the court. Nobody looked interested in getting rebounds last night.

  15. or moving on offense.

  16. Agree with Goodman...I would definitely give him more solid minutes then eratic jones who still thinks he's Kobe Bryant.

  17. Stop with the officiating excuses. UNLV had TWICE, to tie the game at the end. You put it in the hands of an 18 year old freshman, then brainless marshall with the "what was he doing" drive. Coach needs some fire in his system and this half court offense NEEDS to get better or UNLV will plummet faster than we thought. At UNR, Fresno are also no gimme's either, ask SDSU. It was comical seeing UNLV completely give fall apart in the wanning minutes, and it just comes back to coaching. They better learn fast or else they can finish 6th in conference play. Impressive win by Boise last night...I seriously see them finishing top 3. UNLV tied with Wyoming for 5th.

  18. Calm the frick down!....The Pit got us we all new point guard was going to be an issue. Rice and Stacey don't like losing this way especially to Alford we'll get it turned around the MWC is not just a bunch of cupcakes and the Rebels aren't the only one's with talent. All these 5 star and 4 star recruits is no different then the grade you get after the NFL draft you don't know what you have until 3 years down the line.
    Give these guys time to gel.
    Go Rebs!

  19. I predict a Goodman transfer. He would be starting for any other team.

  20. I love reading sentiments of the locals after a Lobo victory... Some biased observations.... You guys are way too critical of the Rebels. They lost at the Pit... Many have in the past and many more will in the future. Dave Rice is a good coach, but not nearly a great one. Dave seems a little too dependent on talent, and he doesn't seem to be able to adjust well to game conditions. Steve Alford is a great coach! He establishes discipline and toughness like his mentor, Bobby Knight, but with a little more class and the added credibility of a national championship, world championship, and NBA career. He has devoted support from UNM and the fan base, so he will most likely stay in Albuquerque for years to come. Think Lute Olsen... The bottom line: UNLV will always be competitive, because talent will always be attracted. But you won't be a great basketball school until you get a great coach. IF Alford stays put in Albuquerque, expect a dynasty to stay firmly planted along the Rio Grande for a long time...

  21. Mistakes by the players really cost them this win, but it was a hard place to play and if it had been in Vegas the result probably would be reversed. I'm not going to second guess Coach Rice because I'm not privy to everything that goes on in the locker room and on the bench. However, it really seems that the lack of discipline and direction could be hurting a team that has no point guard, and has young players playing big minutes. It makes sense to empower the players to make their own decisions, but sometimes the lack of roll definition can hurt players that have the ability to do so many different things.

  22. Out coached out played out classed. The rebels recieved a message in that game, the rebels will finish 4th in the mountain west conference. All the talent but no leadership and no coaching. Dave Rice is in way over his head, he nedds to go back to the Y ands get some more schoolin on how to coach. Bring on Reggie Theus or at least Augmun to take over, this is not the runnin rebels this is rice rebels.

  23. Rofl @ calling for Theus. We've lost 3 games, get over yourself!

  24. Take it from a Lobo looking out for the Rebels... Augmon or Theus would be a huge step down. Rice is a decent coach. He'll get better. If you want to move up quicker, the guy heading up Cincinnati, Mick Cronin, is a real up and comer... He knows his stuff and will only get better. If UNLV is serious, they may be able to lure him to the Mountain West.

  25. UNLV desperately needs a coach. Dave "straightjacket" Rice does not seem to have learned anything. Lack of discipline, poor decisions, poor defense, poor shot selection = same result, a loss.
    Sixteen games into the season and Mr. Rice still hasn't figured it out. Sixteen games into the season and the team is still playing selfish, not so smart basketball. The NCAA tournament selection committee is watching.

  26. I suppose that anyone of you bandwagon fans would do much better of a job coaching our running rebels the way Dave Rice has I got a few points to make.

    #1 - Its tough to win in the Pit against a team that has its pieces together, if you guys actually would have read the news stories from this writer, you would know that this was the first game Rice had all of his pieces together.

    #2 - You expect to much out of Dave Rice, the guy has our team at 13-3.

    #3 - The Mountain West may be one of the best leagues to watch this season, I understand that loses are hard.

    #4 - Want a better coach? Stop driving away the ones who bring us up.

    I see need for improvement sure, the lose sucked, I am not happy with the lose, but come on please stop the Dave Rice is a crappy coach because he lost in the pit stuff.

    UNLV wouldn't even be in this position if we didn't get Dave Rice in the first place. His recruiting along with the pieces he was given has been amazing!

    Dave Rice 39-12 73% ....

  27. @Thomas Stafford.....I call BS, Kruger had us in the same position as Rice. Rice hasn't improved our record at all.

    Everyone fell in love with Rice for some reason....but he's unproven and inexperienced. He's learning on the job with our team. We need an experienced coach with pedigree. It can be found out there. This is not impossible.

    That said, the reality of it is that Rice isn't going anywhere for now. So, we'll have to suffer through his BS. He can't get our team to play a full game on the road.....he's not a good motivator. He can't get the team to play beyond their talent level on the road. Hell, he can't even get them to stay focused for an entire game.

    I just hope we get in the tourney at this point.....it's not looking good.

  28. Did we just lose to East Gumshoe State? Or did we lose to a ranked team in one of the toughest places to play in the country?

    Sinatra, Kruger's overall record was 69% and just 57% in his first two seasons...sooooo.....

  29. @snyderm - when Kruger left he had the same record as Rice's first year....Rice inherited his team. This year has more Rice players and we're not showing any signs of improvement. I wasn't comparing Kruger's 1st 2 yrs to Rice's 1st 2, that's a ridiculous comparison. Rice isn't as great as everyone says he is. I will acknowledge that he's a good recruiter, but if he can't translate talent on the team to wins, what's the point. The 11-3 record is misleading....none of our wins are against quality opponents....and we suck on the road. Great coaches get their teams prepared to win on the road.

  30. Sinatra we're still playing with Kruger's guys! A bunch of really nice guys just like Lon was.

  31. Rice is a good coach and will get better. He will be great! It's his second year as head coach. He's 39-12 over 1.5 seasons. He has a relatively new staff, and only one has head coaching experience. His team is still progressing-the talent level is great. I'm a fan of Dave Rice an the entire team. He always expresses gratitude for the fan support. We should show the same respect he shows us. He'll continue to do a great job and only get better. I chose to support the team and Coach is part of the team. Loses are hard to stomach, but we can't eat our own when things go south. Cheer loudly! Go Rebels! I've met Steve Alford and he is an ego-maniacal, narcissist! Just ask Iowa. He was not a great coach there. He was a demanding cry-baby that expected people to give him special treatment. Dave Rice is a quality coach but he is an even better person (ask anybody). Steve All-for-me wears people out with his demands. Just ask the restaurant staffs around town ABQ that have to be "briefed" before THE COACH comes in-because COACH ALMIGHTY demands special treatment! He always has and he always will. Eventually, people will get tired of that. Go Rebels and go Coach Rice.

  32. Not to mention, nobody was saying UNLV was going to go undefeated this year. Most said they would lose 5-7 games, and I'm pretty sure people thought one of those would have been UNM in the pit. We had a chance to win it but it slipped through, but by no means are we behind any predictions at this point.

  33. "Everyone fell in love with Rice for some reason...."

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_VnTqrg_l...

    Note 3:40, but watch the whole thing.

    **That's** why we love Coach Rice. And Augmon. And the Rebels.

    If you weren't there, you'll never understand.

    Reeeebeeellls! Reeeeebeeellls! Rebeeellls!

  34. Whoops, meant "Note 1:09"