Run as one and done: Rebels bounced in first tourney game for the fourth straight year

UNLV has plenty of chances and doesn’t capitalize in 64-61 loss to Cal that leaves team with familiar feeling

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Quintrell Thomas rests his head in his hand in the locker room after their 64-61 loss to Cal during their second round game at the NCAA Basketball Tournament Thursday, March 21, 2013 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.

NCAA Tournament - UNLV vs. Cal

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett is interviewed in the locker room after their 64-61 loss to Cal during their second round game at the NCAA Basketball Tournament Thursday, March 21, 2013 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. Launch slideshow »

There’s no glory for teams that go more than 11 minutes without making a field goal in the NCAA Tournament. There’s no parade coming, no more extra attention that comes with playing on the sport’s biggest stage. And there’s not much sympathy, either.

UNLV had far more chances than it earned Thursday evening at the HP Pavilion. The Rebels started both halves poorly, never looked comfortable against Cal’s zone defense and yet it was a two possession game for most of the final five minutes. The miracle comeback was within reach until it wasn’t, when the Rebels (25-10) walked off the court losers in the Round of 64 for the fourth consecutive year. The 64-61 final was closer than the game.

You can compare the four straight tournament losses if you want but to the Rebels they all belong in the same bonfire. Just toss on another log.

“Losing sucks, no matter who it’s with or when it was, it just sucks,” junior Mike Moser said. “It’s the worst thing in the world.”

In the aftermath the Rebels are awash in uncertainty. They will lose three players for sure in seniors Quintrell Thomas, Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins. The latter two played in all four of those losses, in the process becoming answers to a trivia question no one wants to be associated with. Who are the only Rebels to go to four straight NCAA Tournaments and go 0-4?

“Got to be a man and live with it,” Marshall said from the team’s makeshift locker room, where there weren’t many tears.

And there are decisions to be made for at least three more Rebels. Anthony Bennett, a projected NBA lottery pick, finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, his 12th double-double of the season. About half of those points came in the final five minutes, and all of them were inside the three-point line.

“When I noticed it was much easier inside I tried to work my way inside and develop my game there,” Bennett said.

As he has said all year, including the day before this game, Bennett said after the game that he hadn’t made a decision on the NBA yet. UNLV coach Dave Rice gives the players a few days away before holding end-of-year meetings, at which point everyone expects all parties to agree it’s in Bennett’s best interest to jump.

Moser, who nearly left for the NBA draft last season, said he didn’t yet have a timetable for his decision to leave or stay. And redshirt junior Carlos Lopez-Sosa, who didn’t play against Cal, is scheduled to graduate in May, so he can stay, take grad courses that aren’t offered at UNLV and play somewhere else right away or just leave with his degree and possibly play professionally in Puerto Rico.

There’s also the ever-present chance of transfers, though with so many guys leaving most of the returning players know they would have a leg up for available minutes on the incoming group.

Those are the things UNLV will deal with in the coming weeks. Until then they are left to stew, although they have some Mountain West company. No. 14 Harvard felled No. 3 New Mexico, the regular season and tournament champ, later Thursday night and No. 13 Boise State had already lost Wednesday. So far No. 8 Colorado State’s victory against No. 9 Missouri is the only notch for the Mountain West, with No. 7 San Diego State’s matchup with former UNLV coach Lon Kruger’s No. 10 Sooners on tap Friday.

Those are messes for other coaches to clean up. The Rebels only had control of their own game, and there were plenty of decisions that will be second-guessed in the near future.

For example, Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Khem Birch tied for third in school history in NCAA Tournament games with four blocks in the first half. Then he played six minutes in the second half, a decision Rice said was to get Moser’s high-post, potentially zone-busting jumper in while sacrificing Birch’s defense.

His absence became all the more apparent as Golden Bears (21-11) forwards Robert Thurman and Richard Solomon combined for 23 points. Thurman was 6-for-6, all of them dunks.

“Of course it’s frustrating because I’m a defensive guy, but there’s nothing you can do,” Birch said.

UNLV’s advantage in the front court was one of a few pregame storylines that didn’t play to script. It’s not like Cal’s bigs just dominated UNLV, though. Allen Crabbe, who finished with 19 points, nine rebounds and four assists, created almost all of their opportunities.

With elementary school friend Bryce Dejean-Jones trying to shut him down, Crabbe scored on the same play — a curl toward the lane off a down screen near the baseline — twice to start the second half and never cooled off.

Click to enlarge photo

Cal forward Robert Thurman dunks on UNLV during their second round game at the NCAA Basketball Tournament Thursday, March 21, 2013 at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif. UNLV lost to Cal 64-61 to exit the tournament after one game for the fourth year in a row.

“Once he got going we knew we had to pay so much more attention to him,” Moser said. “That’s what gets a guy like Thurman six dunks when he averages, what, probably like four points a game?”

Thurman, who scored six points in the first meeting on Dec. 9, came in averaging 4.5 points per game.

“He can go shake Crabbe’s hand for that one.”

Cal advances to play No. 4 Syracuse on Saturday.

Another storyline that didn’t come to fruition was the perceived home-court advantage for the lower seed. The crowd wasn’t overwhelmingly pro-Cal, and the fouls were lopsided to the Rebels. Going into the final minute UNLV had 21 attempts to Cal’s four, though neither team did much with those opportunities as both missed nine freebies.

That stretch from a Katin Reinhardt 3-pointer with 16:32 remaining to a Bennett layup with five minutes left should have effectively ended the game. The stat line reads like a horror story: 0-for-16 from the field, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers, four missed layups and a botched dunk that led directly to a 3-pointer at the other end.

Yet by the end of that stretch they were only down six, and if not for a late whistle that evaporated precious seconds when UNLV was clearly trying to foul, the Rebels may have had a decent shot at a miracle.

They can’t complain about that, though. Breaks are earned. A combined 9-for-29 shooting night from Reinhardt and Dejean-Jones that was littered with contested shots and open heaves from beyond NBA range doesn’t apply. Neither does the defense that allowed Crabbe, the Pac-12 Player of the Year, to run free.

“We’ll be back,” Rice said.

Few doubt that. The bigger concern is how is the next one going to be different and not another log in the fire.

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

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  1. The Rebels simply couldn't make shots. They moved the ball on offense and took mostly good shots, but when you're cold you're cold. The defense played well, as evinced by the fact that the Rebels went almost twelve minutes without a field goal, and they still almost had a chance to win the game.

    There's plenty of work to be done in the offseason from the players to the coaches. I think next year is finally going to be the year where we really see the uptempo style of play. Rice is going to have his guys at all five positions on the floor. Also, I really hope the Rebels utilize a full-court press like Louisville does.

  2. LOL...it's like just because their nickname is the "Runnin'" Rebels they feel they must play that style of ball. Absolutely stupid. When they were forced into a slower-tempo half court offense, they looked like five guys playing at the local park. Just an absolute joke of a basketball program.

  3. CatCave, we played awful and lost a game but the so-called "joke of a basketball program" is the 4th winningest program in the country and averages the highest fan attendance on the west coast. Some joke, eh.

    I always enjoy reading the countless comments from folks who move to our city and then try to bash everything about it.

  4. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  5. "We'll be back" and doing the same things over and over expecting different results is called stupidity. Hope they do something positive and different in the years to come, if not, it's going to be always painful to see disappointing exits in the tourney openers for fans. 50-51 regular season games won don't mean a thing when you have the big 0 in your NCAA tournament resume with this type of talent.

  6. I'm proud of our guys they played hard & it wasn't meant to be. That said I'm happy that our beloved Rebels only shot 20 (3's) compared to 36 (3's) last year against Colorado.

  7. What a disappointing coaching job all year----there seems to be no plan and looks like half a$$ed street ball with a bunch of ball hogs all the time not a team at all just a bunch of selfish losers

  8. "We'll be back," Rice said.

    No crap Dave Rice. The question is will you be able to improve as a coach?

    It's too bad Rice will be back. Just bring the players back and bring in a coach who can figure out how to coach and get the most out of the talent on this team.

  9. If your team doesnt have leadership & a true pt guard in the backcourt....you are doomed. Doesnt matter what level, who you have or how talented you are anywhere else. Good guards will consistently beat you nine out of ten times. That is just a basketball FACT. Cal had it...we did not. Picture the 91' Semi vs Duke after Anthony fouled out. In a nutshell, that was our season vs quality comp in big games.

    That doesnt mean that AM is terrible or to blame. It is not his fault he isnt a true pt guard & doesnt possess those natural instincts. That one play when he drove & found himself all alone at the elbow for an easy 10ft jumper but didnt realize it because he was in "pass mode"...is the poster child for that. Cal's Cobb would have stroked it without hesitation...because he can run the system, facilitate, AND be a threat. AM can only do one or the other. He is great with the ball in his hands but cant or doesnt command the rest of the team's attention when he doesnt have it. Once they took away his penetration...he was lost. And if your pt guard is lost...so is the rest of your team offensively. Hence the countless wasted possessions & bad shots in the first half that, imo, was the key stretch in the game. They went cold & that was our chance to extend the lead to double digits. But we squandered it.

    Every Rebel team, regardless of coach, since the Ford Administration that ever won games & advanced in the Tourney had leadership & saavy in the backcourt. Every single one. It isnt rocket science. Does anybody believe Greg Anthony would let LJ face up 15ft from the basket & launch jumpers, in a tight game, when he could back his man down & own him or force the double? Great teams police themselves. And there wasnt a cop in sight for this team all year.

    My only gripe with Rice was pulling Birch for Moser. Erring on the side of offense in a physical half court game like that with their size is baffling to me. Dig in and grind, man. Bottom line: We got what we deserved.

  10. I asked my brother,who watches Lakers games mainly, to watch the rebel game yesterday. At half time I asked him what he thought. He said, "Rebels have the better players, but they aern't coached well." That is the problem. When Rice was hired, I thought he would be at a disadvantage recruiting wise. It turns out he's at a disadvantage with coaching.

    These are the mistakes he's making:
    1. Trying to keep all the players happy with shots and playing time.
    2. He never implemented a goto zone defense for good screening teams like New Mexico and CAl. Watch Cal struggle against Syracuse.
    3. Not designating roles for his players. Everybody wants to be the main man and hero. #1 option should have been Bennett in the low post. Ball should have been in his hands in the low post almost every half court possesion. BJD #2 option. Katin #3 shooting on the wing if Bennett gets double teamed. Moser or Birch is to offensive rebound and thats it.

    I hope Rice can look in the mirror and see his failures and comeback a better coach. I hope he can look at game films and critique himself instead of the players. At this point I can only hope.

  11. @CatCave, so UNLV should be penalized for being a newer school?

    I couldn't disagree more. Winning percentage is much more important than overall wins for a program.

    It's curious that I haven't read your name on the forums all year until now...

  12. Another year and another hideous performance when it matters most. That has been the calling card for these Rebel teams the last few years. Whether Coach Rice was on the bench or Coach Kruger. However Coach Rice has definitely been the culprit this year. I have been screaming it all year that the high ball screen offense that has two guys work and three guys stand is a joke. They basically do this against man or zone. Did Coach Rice not have a clue that Cal was going to play tons of zone? It worked very well against us the entire second half at Cal. Cal would have won if they did not miss tons of frethrows. We might be the only team in the NCAA's whose zone offense is the same as our man! Why are we the team that has guys like Katin and BDJ having to go one on one or wait for a drive and kick to get their shots? It is just a very poor concept that leads to guys forcing contested jumpers all game. That is why you go through prolonged scoring droughts and score in the 60's consistently. All I ever hear is how Rice is this offensive coach and once Marshall leaves and we get a "true" point guard then everything will change. Do you guys really believe that? Do you really think we will have alot more offensive sets and all of the sudden we will full court press and play fast? Coach Rice had tremendous personnel this year(better than what he will have next year) and this is the way they play? Even the biggest supporters must admit that they are a litle nervous about Coach Rice's abilities. He is going to have change an awful lot to make me a believer that he can be an effective coach at this level. But you can be sure we will get the same coach speak about how proud he was of the effort and how disappointed he was and how he is more determined than ever to bring this program back. Blah blah blah. What an embarrasing end.

  13. Boo hoo! Who cares? It makes no difference whether some sports team wins or loses in the scheme of life unless you are a participant or are dumb enough to spend your money betting on it. As I look to the East, the sun is still rising and as I scan the news, the world is still on fire and the US economy still sucks. So, I ask again, who cares about some dopey sports team? Ah, the media! They have lots of newspapers and TV commercials to sell so they pump up made up "rivalries" to peak the interest of those with little else to do.

  14. Gee Jerry. I feel so much better now that you put things in perspective. You don't like sports? Then go read and comment on the Wall Street Journal. Get lost.

  15. Well, sure glad I went to that debacle. Bennett is so SOFT- it is a joke that this guy will be a top 5 NBA pick. As soon as Birch left in the 2nd half Cal just went right at Bennett for dunk after dunk- by a big, slow white turd.
    For all you guys who love Goodman- the guy should be playing football- he has ZERO basketball skills. I love he hustles all over the place but he couldn't throw a rock in the ocean.
    Reinhardt is brain dead- dumbest (basketball IQ wise) white guy I have seen. Human turnover.
    And Rice gets totally out coached- again. What an embarrassment

  16. phillips-
    What game were you watching? Who moved the ball well? Who was taking good shots and who played good defense?
    You must've been sleeping when Thurman dunked on UNLV 6 times. Did you miss that? Wide open dunks do not equal good defense. The Rebs were LUCKY they were even close to Cal, as was stated numerous times by the TV commentators.
    IF Moser or Lopez stay, who are both juniors, and 'Kruger' guys, then Rice won't have his 5 on the floor. You'll have to come up with another excuse.

  17. Rice has to go for this school to have a chance in the future. He is not a Div. 1 coach and has no bussiness in this program. If UNLV doesnt remove him they are going to lose more fans than they already have. Some big booster has to step up and get this done and done now....

  18. Most of the fans on here are ungrateful. There are college basketball programs who can't even win five games per year. Yet, Dave Rice wins 50 games in his first two years, and people want him gone. The universities who are lucky to win five games per year would welcome him with open arms. The Rebels have been very fortunate to have been in the NCAA Tournament despite playing Division I basketball for only a little over 40 years.

  19. @djonian81 - The only reason I can somewhat agree with you about Birch is because he played well offensively against Cal. He made his open jumpers and had nice moves in the post. People complain about how Dave Rice and his staff are a joke, yet Khem Birch is a million times better offensively than when he was a Pitt.

  20. Nobody crashed the offensive boards late in the game when we had a chance to come back. Cal was missing shots late in the game and giving us opportunities to get out of the mess we got ourselves into. Instead, what did our fabulous team do...? They sat on the perimeter and watched the ball clank off the rim instead of crashing the boards hard like they wanted to win the game.

    Then on the defensive end, they didn't block out their man on the boards....they let Cal get second chances and dunks. WTF?! That's on Coach Rice. He should've pulled them and put some players in there that would at least work their ass off to win the game, not get rolled like a bunch of pansies.

    We're soft because our coach is soft. He may know X's and O's and how to "game plan", but he doesn't know how to motivate and inspire a team to will their way into a victory or to come back from behind.

    He also doesn't know how to manage the clock and late game rotations. Even the play by play TV guys were shocked and wondering what was going on. It's obvious to everyone else except the homers that this guy is clueless in big games.

  21. @gumby2323, i'd say more than a little nervous in Rice's abilities as a coach. I'd say almost zero confidence after two years. That's what we get when Livengood hires a coach with ZERO head coaching experience. I wasn't against hiring Rice but the fact that he had never been a head coach even at a small school raised red flags for me and now it is showing. Rice sold Livengood on the fact that he recruited Jimmer and he was the architect of BYU's offense while the 2010 season was still fresh in Livengood's mind. What has BYU done since Jimmer departed. I'm sorry but Jimmer's don't come around every year but Rice somehow thinks he is going to develope Reinhardt into the next Jimmer and basically gives Reinhardt the okay to shoot it every time he touches the ball. It was almost as if our offense ran through Reinhardt the last few weeks of the season. Jimmer didn't come in averaging 28 ppg, it took time to develop him. But Rice never punishes him for his horrible shot selection and his pathetic 35% shooting percentage. Even the announcers said last night that Rice has basically given Reinhardt the green light to shoot it whenever he wants. Rice needs to show big time improvements next year with his in game decision making, ability to attack the zone, different defenisve looks, and his lineup choices.

  22. Well that hurt rematch on their home court did not think it would be a factor but we paid the price.
    Rice bashers cool your jets
    Krugers players out schedule changing. Gonzaga barely escapes NM gives Alford 10 year extension then get spanked by Harvard. Seniors make programs hence CSU advances.Hence the Madness.
    Lets get this thing turned around thou

  23. @blueandgold - You act like Lopez-Sosa is going to play next season even if he comes back. He can't even get off the bench.

  24. The problem with this team was poor coaching all year, terrible shooters and no inside game and too many "me's" and not enough "we". It was like watching a pickup game at the YMCA all year. I really don't see any of these head cases making the NBA. The only basketball they will be playing after college is pickup games after work in the McDonald's parking lot

  25. @ricovegas (Reynaldo Colon) - The people on here expect change to happen essentially overnight, and that's not realistic.

  26. This is what drives me nuts about Moser

    "That's what gets a guy like Thurman six dunks when he averages, what, probably like four points a game?"

    Thurman, who scored six points in the first meeting on Dec. 9, came in averaging 4.5 points per game.

    "He can go shake Crabbe's hand for that one."

    ERRRR. Wrong. that's on UNLV's poor defensive rotations, and Rive's decision to keep Birch on the bench in favor of Moser's (supposedly) superior offensive game.

    This kid couldn't be more oblivious. It's on YOU, Mike.

  27. Out coached once again. Fire Rice, Beg Theus to coach.

  28. phillips-
    Birch shot a higher percentage from the field at PItt last year than he did at UNLV this year. Nice try.
    UNLV has played basketball for 54 years.
    Lopez-Sosa won't start next year if he chooses to come back, unless he improves drastically. But his competition won't be nearly as talented as this year. Take away Moser, Bennett, and Thomas and add Morant, Wood, and Smith.

  29. phillips - Coach Rice was handed a program with 4 NCAA appearances in 5 years(including a sweet sixteen appearance); and 8 returning players including 4 starters. Coach Kruger put a solid foundation in place and Coach Rice has done nothing to improve on Kruger's success. The only thing I can say is that Coach Rice has recruited better talent than Kruger but the overall results have been exactly the same. I do not think that expections have been that immense to give Rice a pass. He is accountable for the disappointing ends for two straight years. There is no getting around that. Winning 25 games a year is very nice, but winning no games in the NCAAs is not going to cut it.

  30. Are you related to Coach Rice, Phillips? You are obviously content with mediocrity. We are way too talented to lose in the first round every year! If you are satisfied with that, you are not a true Rebel fan.

  31. @lobo69 (Justice Spencer) - If Theus is so great, why can't he land a head coaching gig better than the NBA D-League?

  32. the team had no chemistry to make a big run in the tourney

  33. @blueandgold - The field goal numbers you mentioned mean nothing. He's shooting about one percentage point lower, but he taking more difficult shots than he did at Pitt. At Pitt, essentially all he could do was get put backs and dunks. At UNLV, he has developed a hook shot with either hand, and he can shoot mid range jumpers. So, you're dead wrong on that one. I said Divison I basketball. You can't make the Big Dance as a Division II team the last time I checked. You act like the froncourt is going to suck next year. They're going to be ten times better defensively at the four spot next year. Also, Chris Wood is 6'11" and is a great shooter who can stretch defense. However, he can also put the ball on the floor and get to the rim. Both Wood and Smith are top 40 players, so their frontcourt will be very good next year.

  34. @lcr - The program is not mediocre. He's won 50 games in his first two years here. UNLV is in the top ten percent of all Division I programs at this moment. The NCAA Tournament committee had them as a top twenty team. Coach Rice has been able to win in spite of what he inherited from Lon Kruger. Kruger was mediocre.

  35. We all knew the Rebels weren't quite ready for the big time but we had hope. At least we're not New Mexico fans today. Those guys and gals have to be crazy disappointed.

  36. Coach Bobby Hauck would love to be in Rice's shoes at this moment. With that said, I'm buying "Running" cough cough Rebel basketball season tickets today.

  37. Chris Wood is not going to be an impact player next year. I watched him aganst Montverde Academy and he is indeed a very good shooter, but he has very little lateral quickness, has virtually no upper body strength, is quite timid in the paint, and is much more comfortable roaming the perimeter looking to launch threes. He will by no means be as valuable as Bennett despite AB's often less than stellar effort. He has some nice upside but next year in the Mountain West, guys like Kirk, Bairstow, Spencer, Watkins, Buckner, Nance, and Upshaw to name a few, will bounce him around like a rag doll.

  38. The UNLV team is so loaded with talent. There are no excuses for this loss and losses like losing to Fresno State at home. I mean come on...a lottery pick in Bennett, then Moser/Jones/Birch/Rienhardt/Marshall and all the guys off the bench??? There is a choking in big games problem at this school losing in the first round 4 yrs in a row with bountiful talent. It all has to come back to the coaching. They have been soft ever since Tark left. So bummed...I wanted to see them play Syracuse. And New Mexico to play Arizona. MWC takes two steps back again.

  39. Usually when people improve 'a million times' on offense they shoot a better percentage. Didn't know that you watched all of Pitt's 10 games with Birch last year. Way to go.
    Never said the front court would suck. Mike Moser was supposed to be able to stretch defenses out this year. Worked against Nevada for the first 20 minutes of that game. What other game did that benefit UNLV in?
    I do look forward to Roscoe Smith because I believe he will be a 'tough' post presence who can play defense. But I didn't watch all of UConn's games when Smith played so I'm not sure. Just hopeful.
    But one thing is sure...I am not content with UNLV being mediocre. You can defend Dave Rice and his mediocrity as a coach. Can he get better? Of course. Could next year be better? Of course. But not without change.

  40. @Phillips- on one hand you rave about Rice- then on the other you tell us how great Birch is. How come Birch was on the bench most of the 2nd half? I agree, Birch is a rising star so it is on Rice that he sat most of the second half so Moser could "light it up".
    By the way- I was AT the game. Team is so poorly coached it is scary. And I was not a Rice hater 2 years ago- I had no problem with the hire even though I would have preferred Theus. Big difference between being a head coach and an assistant- and UNLV is finding that out the hard way.
    As for Bennett- good riddance- he is a walking, talking example of why I have not watched an NBA game in over 20 years.

  41. @gumby2323 - Chris Wood is not a five. He's a stretch four who is getting stronger and better at playing in the paint. I never said he'd be an impact player. However, I think he can provide a productive 10-15 minutes per game.

  42. @rose1414 (aj foyt) - The funniest thing is how people like you are never on here commenting after they win. It's easy to be critical when things aren't going well. Where are you when they;re winning? I don't see you or others making these comments.

  43. I like being Objective and honest. You should try it, but it would mean you would have to get your nose out of Rice's butt.
    This team is very poorly coached. Rice is a nice guy- too nice. He never gets in his players face- not saying he has to be like Frank Martin, but how about yanking guys when they put up crappy shots?

  44. Phillips - Wood will have a difficult time getting minutes from Goodman and Smith. In fact it would not be a bad idea to redshirt him and put some meat on him. Floating 4 men are not particularly successful in this conference. Even if Moser leaves, the minutes at the four spot should go to Goodman, Roscoe Smith and possibly Morant depending on his improvement. I do like his potential to be a nice addition in time however.

  45. The sad thing is that Rice will be back. Maybe the worst motivator in the NCAA.

  46. I got to chat with one of the old Rebels coaches a few weeks ago and he told me Rice has no half court plan.In fact Rice was proud in not having a half court game plan. Have to say it shows.

  47. Gumby- Goodman needs to redshirt and learn some basic offensive skills. He is an absolute disaster on the offensive end. It that guy starts next year this team will be REALLY bad.

  48. MIKE MOSER: luv ya.... Ignore the idiots in Your ear... Do not declare for the draft..... You had a bad luck injury and desperately need the next year to recover and rebrand yourself....... Go talk to Anderson hunt! Champ game MVP .... Came out early... Never played in the nba

  49. The inability to feed the post is insane.... And Bennett's weak with the ball.. Knocked loose almost every time.......

  50. The fact that we didn't make Thurman shoot free throws was sick.... Embarrassing

  51. Goodman is so pumped up he makes great moves but doesn't finish... He will be vastly improved next year ... Fairly common for freshmen

  52. If rice wants to run n gun he should watch a VCU game

  53. An unfortunate ending for the season, but fits given how things went for them with their struggles on the road, inability to protect the ball, poor shooting and missing free throws.

    I am among those with high expectations for the future, though. When coaches and styles change, you can get caught between two systems. The team is right there now, but with clearing out some guys from this team, next year should bring a more cohesive effort.

    And I like Rice. Look at what other options there are for hiring a coach - win fast cheaters, guys looking to move up and out for more money, guys that are looking for working retirement, or up and comers. Rice is an up and comer. The idea being he builds a program, but will stay in his community, rather than bolt for a better opp. Really, he was the best option, and he's a smart guy and will learn and improve.

    Only one specific point of criticism - for Anthony Bennett. He has a ton of talent, but he's going to need to put in a lot of work and put forth a lot more effort on the next level or he's going to be a bust.

    As good as Bennett is, the team is going to better without him, since they'll be more of a team. This year, seemed like everyone deferred to him, waited for him to dominate and that only happened in small bursts. I can't even count the amount of times he got beat on D or his shot blocked by guys that'll be working for Enterprise Rent a Car and starring in their commercials saying 'Hey I played college sports, really, I did. Honest!'

    While elite talent like that is tempting, I hope the team thinks twice about who they bring in. You can look at Kentucky to see why. Last year, they were hugely fortunate to bring in two warriors in Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Talented as can be, but complete animals with a passion for winning and an understanding that comes through team play. This year's KY team - something like 4 guys with first round grades - but a first round exit in the NIT.

  54. @gumby2323 - Morant is a five. He's not skilled enough to play the four.

  55. @MWCRob - Your post is spot on. I don't think he's going anywhere. He's coaching at his alma mater, able to land elite talent, and even took less money when he got the job to assemble a quality coaching staff. Anthony Bennett has his work cut out for him in the NBA, but the talent is there to get better. I think that the Rebels can get five guys to score in double digits next year, which would be nice since the defense can't single out anybody. Finally, I think Dave Rice has done a good job of not only finding talented players but also finding guys who have the right mental makeup.

  56. I still have to stress: We do not have a losing record against Cal. 1-1 is respectable against a Pac-10 conference that is doing pretty well for themselves in the tourney right now. Also, we smacked around, and I mean SMACKED AROUND, both Jacksonville State and UC Irvine in the fall and that school up north twice this spring.

    We go into the "student" part of the "student-athlete" year as one of only 68 teams to get to the big dance. Kentucky didn't even get there this year, with better talent than we had.

    Now people can say "Oh, Rice has fewer NCAA tourney wins than Hauck has football wins" but that's not the full story. Ask Jacksonville State how we run.

  57. Wow, even a 5-year old had us losing to Cal:
    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/15750...

  58. Well, at least we're not alone; Lobos fans are all crying in their meth right now:
    http://thelobolair.com/forum/showthread....

  59. would have been better playing in the nit to maybe have some home games at home to help the athletic dept. get out of debt . we have that productive football camp in ely nevada they have to pay for soon

  60. Phillips -I have not watched Morant play much. So you are probably correct as to having him play the five but if that is the case, I shudder to think what guys like Kirk are going to do to him in the post next year. DM is razor thin.
    Rose - You are absolutely right that Savon needs major work offensively, however, he does a few things that this program needs badly! He rebounds, he plays hard all of the time, he competes on defense, and he likes to slash and cut to the rack. There is no one else in the program that is willing to do those things on a consistent basis. Kid has the toughness this program is dying for. We were undefeated this year when Savon played 10 + minutes in a game. If Rice does not start him at the 4 from day one he brain dead. That is unless we want to continue being the softest most contested jump shooting team in America.

  61. @gumby2323 - New Mexico likes to play two bigs in the low post. One way Morant could get around the size disadvantage is to front Kirk. Bairstow would have to move to the high post, and New Mexico would have to quickly swing the ball around the perimeter to get the ball to Kirk. Overall, I'd like to see more fronting in the post next year because they have the athletes to do it.

  62. I too, agree the program is heading in the right direction. Coach rice is doing a good job recruiting both the right high school and junior college talent. He'll also have a full roster of his players for next year with a TRUE starting pg to run the show. I agree the in game coaching adjustments need to get better, but i think they will with time. After all, how many of us mastered our jobs in the first two years.

  63. First year
    Bennet
    Birch
    Jones
    Katin
    Savon
    Cook

    Gone
    Marshall
    Q.T.
    Hawkins
    Lopez

    Recruits look good coming in plus redshirts.

    Good times are ahead!

    Time to go out and support the baseball team. Be at the 335 club with the bleacher bums watching UNLV's top 25 program!

  64. Phillips , you're as pathetic as Rice you should be his press secretary. I think the Sun should have a survey on keeping Dave Rice I know He'd get one vote to stay ,,, you.
    Whats the 1990 stand for in your title? is that the year you were born? that would exlain how naive you are about Rebel Basketball. The excuses you hand out sound like an Obama press secretary.

  65. @fedup2here (Kenny Rogers) - At least you've been consistent in your Dave Rice criticism, even when they win. I'll give you that but not much else. Also, what does Obama have to do with this?

  66. @Kenny Rogers, I hope you're joking about what the 1990 stands for. Who's the naive one?

  67. Patticus nailed it. That is EXACTLY how they "should have" played all year but didnt when it mattered most. Its easy to make Rice the lone scapegoat because without question he deserves some of the blame. His is the "bottom line" position and is judged by results. But its a bit more complicated than that and the reality is that he isnt the only villain here.

    The players share equal blame. Rice's halftime & post game comments prove he knows how to attack a zone with high post/low post inside-out action which makes Graney's whole article in the RJ about being unprepared....retarded. Even Bennett said the zone didnt bother them & wasnt unexpected. But there is a difference between planning & execution. The coaches fulfilled their end but the players have to execute it....which is why a true pt guard & leadership on the floor is mandatory to advance in the tournament & win a half court game! The players have to buy in & sacrifice their individual games for the team goal...and I think the players wanted to...but they just didnt have the catalyst on the floor or on the bench to make them conform.

    Having said that though, it's Rice's job to impose those standards & demand the execution. And if they dont...they should sit. Ok, so sit AM? Sit Bennett? Sit Katin? Sit BDJ? Sit all that talent on the bench? YES! YES! YES! and YES! However, the time to do that was in December & January. THAT was his failure of this season...not the X's & O's. Rice needed to legislate via the bench that HE defines what "freedom" means. He defines what "execution" means. He trusted them and they straight up burned him. Dont take my word for it...just look at the shooting percentage in key, must win games.

  68. "averages the highest fan attendance on the west coast"

    Ha. UNLV is notorious for counting tickets sold, not butts in the seats. Everyone in the country knows this. Local corporations and businesses buy piles of those tickets for their clients and guests - that never show up!

    The UNLV football games and their attendance numbers can't be denied - an empty stadium and the announcement of 30k in attendance makes about as much sense as hiring Heath Schroyer as a coach.

  69. @djonian81 - You're right that Rice deserves some of the blame. Nobody is perfect. Also, your analysis is spot on about preparation and execution. Coaches prepare, but the players have to execute. You can't blame the coaches when the players have an off night shooting. I also agree that not having a true point guard or leader on the floor really killed the team. I feel like Rice could have gone harder on Bennett and Reinhardt. They was only about two times all season where he pulled them for not playing defense or out of control. He had a tighter leash on other players, but probably a little bit too loose. In his defense, he had a fine line to cross. Sitting guys too long as punishment might have cost the team another game or two.

  70. Disagree Phillips. Reg season wins not the measure of a program. Winless in first round while being higher seed everytime = MEDIOCRE

  71. "Disagree Phillips. Reg season wins not the measure of a program. Winless in first round while being higher seed everytime = MEDIOCRE"

    I've been saying that for years. Good one lcr....too bad the homers can't see that.

  72. Thank goodness the ticket office is so bad when I tried twice to buy season tickets they performed like coach rice and while I'm standing at the window two times trying to give my money away they blew both shots at my money.......thank goodness they suck selling tickets.......or I would have wasted money and time watching this garbage live-----how can they seriously discuss building a new stadium for this school when they can't run what they already have! I couldn't care less anymore about this program they have succeeded in distroying a fan.

  73. For everyone hoping that Morant is going to have a big impact, remember he didn't even start in High School at Gorman. He came off the bench. He has zero offensive skills. However, he is a freak athlete (he won the high jump and triple jump state championship in high school, and he won multiple dunk contests) who can block shots on defense. I think by his junior or senior year he might be able to contribute, but next year I see him getting about as many minutes as Goodman did this season.

  74. Way to represent the conference, as a five-seed no less. Maybe we can hire Steve Fisher to provide an off-season clinic to Coach Rice (and Lobo coach Steve Alford) on how to win in the NCAAs. Pathetic.

  75. @SpaceCowboy - You mean the same Steve Alford who lost to Harvard?

    @sportsarefun - There were three other top 150 players on Bishop Gorman during his senior year. Also, Stephen Zimmerman is the number two sophomore in the country. He was a freshman on that team.

  76. Where is beloved Kruger now? He got crushed by a team we swept and Oklahoma paid a fool's fortune for him.! Where is Alford now 10 year extension one and done! Boise State never was close against LaSalle. CSU is taking a beating from Louisville.
    When Rice upset #1 NC and started landing recruits you guys loved him a little growing pains and its cry, cry, cry!