UNLV basketball:

Blog: Rebels overcome awful outside shooting in 78-70 win against CSU

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Colorado State guard Daniel Bejarano is defended by UNLV guard Jelan Kendrick, left, and forward Khem Birch during the first half of their Mountain West Conference game Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 | 10:18 p.m.

UNLV vs. Colorado State: Feb. 26, 2014

UNLV guard Bryce Dejean Jones reacts after a play during their Mountain West Conference game against Colorado State Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won 78-70. Launch slideshow »

UNLV 78, Colorado State 70

Game over

Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 19 points, Roscoe Smith grabbed 11 rebounds and UNLV overcame a blown double-digit lead to fend off Colorado State 78-70 tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Rebels led by 10 at halftime and by 12 with 12:34 remaining but their 3-point shooting was atrocious — 1-for-13 in the second half, 7-of-28 for the game. Settling for those shots gave CSU an opportunity to cut into the lead despite top player Daniel Bejarano watching that pivotal run from the bench with four fouls. UNLV's lead shrunk to one before the Rebels started attacking the rim and drawing fouls that allowed them to pull back away.

Kevin Olekaibe scored 15 points and Deville Smith finished with 12. CSU's J.J. Avila led all scorers with 22 points while Bejarano finished with 21.

UNLV dominated the offensive glass the entire night, grabbing 19 while limiting CSU to nine. Without the benefit of those extra possessions the Rams attempted 11 fewer shots than the Rebels.

UNLV shot 32.3 percent in the second half and 40.3 percent for the game. CSU shot 41.1 percent.

The Rebels move to 18-10 overall and 9-6 in Mountain West play. They return to action on Saturday at Air Force.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's game.

 

With the Mountain West title out of reach and an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament out of the question, it’s fair for outsiders to wonder what exactly UNLV is playing for right now.

The simple answers are for conference tournament seeding and pride. In theory, the Rebels (17-10, 8-6) are playing tonight’s game against Colorado State (15-13, 6-9) for the same reason they play every game on the schedule: to win.

That’s a nice idea, but it’s clear this team, like most, performs differently when particularly motivated (at New Mexico) or occasionally just doesn’t show up for some reason (at Colorado State). With less on the line, it’s understandable for some to ask that opening question. The key is that the Rebels don’t themselves wonder what they’re playing for, and based on Saturday’s game at Boise State that’s not an issue.

Coming off the home loss to New Mexico, there was concern how the Rebels would bounce back after falling out of the conference-title race. Even though they didn’t get the victory, UNLV played very well for much of Saturday’s one-point loss. A similar performance tonight would be enough to get past Colorado State.

The game tips at 8 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

Overall motivation is a concern because this is a team that expected to be in the NCAA Tournament. They still have one chance — win three (or four) games at the Mack in mid-March — and outside of that their season will end somewhere else in some other tournament.

I think the reality of that is probably setting in on some of the players as they begin the final four-game stretch of the regular season. The Rebels will likely give San Diego State their best game no matter the circumstance, but I’m not sure what to expect in UNLV’s other three remaining games — tonight, at Air Force this weekend and the finale at UNR on March 8.

The effort at Boise State was a big positive, and the Rebels came up a little short in the end. The same effort in each of the remaining games would yield very positive results, but what are the odds of that actually happening?

Bern’s prediction: I think if the Rebels win they will also cover the 6.5-point spread. But based on recent results I have no idea what I’m talking about when picking this team’s games. UNLV 69, Colorado State 61

Season: ATS 16-11, O/U 19-6-2

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

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