Jeremy Rincon / Ballislife
Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Predictable as it is, it’s a shame that so many storylines away from the court have taken the attention away from what was an incredibly entertaining basketball game Saturday night.
UNLV and Boise State were both great for 45 minutes — mostly on the offensive end, but there were some solid defensive plays, too — and yet when it was over, all anyone could talk about was a couple tenths of a second, Leon Rice and a red light that had one job to do and failed.
I’ll touch on those points quickly, but I also want to use this space to dive more into the 91-90 Boise State victory and where it leaves UNLV (17-10, 8-6), which is now in a three-way tie for third place with the Broncos and Wyoming.
First, the so-called controversies:
• I have zero problem with Leon Rice’s reaction. It was an emotional moment for everyone involved, and the Broncos have been through a buzz saw of close defeats this season. Take your “classless” argument somewhere else because I’m not hearing it. Moving on.
• If the Rebels really think they were robbed of an extra 0.2 or 0.3 seconds after Derrick Marks’ shot in the final seconds of overtime, then they should have stopped the game. I understand why UNLV coach Dave Rice wouldn’t want to do that — it would have allowed the Broncos to get set defensively — but if you legitimately think you got screwed on that one, then say something right then. It's a split-second decision, but that’s the only solution.
For what it’s worth, I saw a replay once and it looked completely normal in real time — the ball spun around inside the rim once, which took some more time. I’ve seen a screen shot that shows the ball through the net at 3.4 but I’m confident you could find this minor inconsistency at the end of nearly every single game.
To me there didn’t seem to be anything egregious, and if the Rebels disagreed, their time to complain was then. Not now.
• It’s annoying that the red light on UNLV’s second-half and overtime backboard didn’t work. On that we all agree. It would have made things much easier.
Taco Bell Arena employees came out after the game, and after nearly an hour of tinkering, they got the light working on that basket. If that would have been the only way to fix it during the game, I don’t think that was any kind of real solution at the time considering the improbability that the light would actually come into play.
And as for one of the many rules for these situations, that the game’s not over until the red light goes off, Fox 5 put that to rest early Sunday morning. We’ve all seen the shot of Deville Smith’s fingertip on the ball with the clock at 0.0, and Fox 5 also has a great shot of Smith still touching the ball with the red light on at the other basket.
It’s a tough loss for UNLV, but no amount of discussion or conspiracy theory-type breakdowns make it anything other than a tough loss.
Enough of that. On to the actual game.
Wood on fire
Freshman forward Christian Wood is on a nice little run, and it was ignited with a drive to the rim. Wood likes to drift outside and shoot 3-pointers — 44.9 percent of his shot attempts this season have been beyond the arc. The problem is he’s not very good at making them, hitting 25 percent of his 40 attempts. Entering the Boise State game, where he went 2-for-2 from deep, Wood has been 0-for-10 over the past eight games.
But against New Mexico, he used the propensity to his advantage by waiting for hard closeouts and then driving past the Lobos’ defenders. And once he gets into the lane, Wood is good at either finishing or drawing contact.
It was the most aggressive I remember seeing him for an entire game, and he’s been rewarded with minutes. Wood played 16 against New Mexico and then 17 against Boise State, where he was the Rebels’ most-efficient offensive player at an absurd 2.02 points per possession. That ties for the most minutes he’s played in back-to-back games.
Eventually he’s going to have to be able to shoot that outside shot well enough to make defenders respect it to keep closing out, but this was a positive development.
Another thing lost in the wake of the loss is how well UNLV responded after dropping a pivotal home game to New Mexico. The Rebels blew their shot at the league title race and then came out and shot better than 50 percent on the road. That usually results in a win.
In order to keep moving forward, and in an effort to build for next year as much as finish this season, I think 20 minutes per game from Wood could be a positive for both he and the team moving forward.
On the Marks
Boise State junior Derrick Marks is no better than Boise State’s third-best player this season. Senior Ryan Watkins has developed an impressive post game that will earn him All-Mountain West honors, and Anthony Drmic is very efficient compared to Marks’ over-dribbling.
But when he’s going, man is Marks fun to watch. He was 2-of-8 for four points going into overtime, and 5 of his 6 misses were in the paint. Like many guards this season, Marks simply had no idea what to do once he ran into UNLV’s Khem Birch at the rim.
Once overtime hit, he stretched things out with a 3-pointer and then went right back to attacking, and finally was able to convert. Marks was on another level the entire extra session as he scored all 13 of Boise State’s points on 5-of-5 shooting plus a couple of free throws. He finished with 17 points and three steals while Drmic and Watkins each had 22 points with Watkins pulling down 15 rebounds.
As a sidenote, I would pay good money to watch Marks and Deville Smith play one-on-one to 21. Those two were fantastic at creating opportunities down the stretch.
No charity case
The Rebels are awful at the free-throw line. There are no two ways about it.
They wanted to think that the early-season struggles would fix themselves, and for a while it was better, but for the season, they’re bottom 40 in the country (65.2 percent).
Overall in conference play, it’s actually up to 69 percent, which is good for second to last, but over the past five games, it’s at 57.8 percent (48-for-83). That’s been a factor in the majority of UNLV’s losses. That’s common for an inconsistent team, but no one wants that to be them.