Rebels basketball:

Painful lessons from ugly loss must sink in for UNLV to bounce back vs. Wyoming

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Erin Hull / The Coloradoan / AP

UNLV’s Daquan Cook sits on the bench as he watches his team during a 75-57 loss to Colorado State in an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.

No amount of post-mortem on UNLV’s 18-point road loss Wednesday will satisfy anyone in or outside the program. Discussions of the curl screen play that Colorado State used to beat the Rebels time and time again devolve into debates of whether the effort or execution was more lacking.

In the end, it doesn’t matter because neither was up to snuff and choosing one over the other doesn’t make that game anything other than the beatdown that it was. UNLV coach Dave Rice knows that, and as the Rebels (15-8, 6-4) attempt to move on to today’s home game against Wyoming (14-8, 5-4) he addressed the debacle in hopes of moving past it.

“The blame always has to start with the coach,” Rice said. “Players have to respond to what the game plan is, but I’ll always take responsibility for that.”

UNLV and Wyoming will tip off at the Thomas & Mack Center at 7 p.m., and the game will stream on ESPN3.com. The Cowboys are coming off a tough overtime loss at New Mexico, but they feel like winners because they'll run out onto Jerry Tarkanian Court at full strength.

Sophomore Josh Adams returns after a one-game suspension for hitting a Utah State player Feb. 1. More importantly, coach Larry Shyatt surprised his team in Las Vegas with the news that he’d return to the bench after missing three games, including the past two, with a viral infection.

Shyatt looked in good spirits Friday as he briefly met with UNLV assistant coach Heath Schroyer, a former Wyoming coach, before the Cowboys’ practice time.

“It was a tough week, but I am feeling a thousand times better,” Shyatt told Wyosports.net Friday afternoon. “I got released from my doctors early Wednesday, but I knew I couldn't make it to Albuquerque.”

The Cowboys went 2-1 in Shyatt’s absence with his three assistant coaches — Scott Duncan (New Mexico), Allen Edwards (Air Force) and son Jeremy Shyatt (Utah State) — each acting as the head coach for one game.

“They played very good basketball in his absence,” Rice said.

Both the Cowboys and Rebels are 5-2 in their past seven games, and Wyoming’s four league losses are by a combined 16 points. The Cowboys went to overtime in two losses to New Mexico, but they also have victories at Boise State and at Air Force.

Starting another winning streak for UNLV should start with viewing its opponent as a viable threat, which multiple players said the Rebels didn’t seem to do at Colorado State.

“We got used to being able to come back after our last few games,” junior Bryce Dejean-Jones said. “… We need to take every opponent that we play seriously.”

That this idea needs to be reinforced a week into February to a team that has five losses on its home court is a problem. Of course, the Rebels already know they have issues, so that’s not exactly breaking news.

Another issue that’s popped up several times, including at Colorado State, is UNLV allowing poor shooting to affect it on defense. Rice said the best way to try to handle that is to discuss it openly and then “make sure I have guys in the game who are going to compete at both ends of the court whether we’re making shots or not. We’re 23 games into it, so there’s no excuse for not playing hard and executing at both ends of the floor.”

No one would argue with that. The maddening thing about these Rebels is that everyone has seen versions of what they could be when everyone’s dialed in. Recent examples include the 62-42 victory against Utah State and the last three and a half minutes against Boise State.

Those are examples of what UNLV wants to be, while Wednesday was a case of falling painfully short of that goal. Only the Rebels, from the top down, can decide which of those they want to be against Wyoming.

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

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