UNLV basketball:

Blog: Rebels’ defense carries them to 62-42 victory against Utah State

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The UNLV student section unveils the giant Khem Kong prop as Utah State center Jarred Shaw shoots a free throw during their game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 | 10:01 p.m.

UNLV vs. Utah State: Jan. 22, 2014

UNLV forward Khem Birch dunks over Utah State guard Jo Jo McGlaston during their game Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

UNLV 62, Utah State 42

Game over

Deville Smith scored 18 points, Roscoe Smith registered another double-double and the Rebels snapped a two-game home losing streak with solid defense in a 62-42 victory against Utah State tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The story of the game was Utah State's 3-point shooting, which has been a strength all season but was non-existent against UNLV. The Aggies normally hit better than 40 percent behind the three-point line but they were just 2-for-17 tonight.

Without the outside shot, the Aggies basically only had Jarred Shaw offering anything on offense. The big man finished with 14 points but 12 of those were in the first half. Once Carlos Lopez-Sosa spent some time guarding him, Shaw never looked the same and had to sit for awhile with three fouls.

Both teams finished under 40 percent shooting from the field, with UNLV hitting 38.2 percent and Utah State down at 30.8.

The Rebels return to the Mack on Saturday for an evening game against Fresno State.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.

 

I find most of the talk from the Rebels about their struggles at the Thomas & Mack Center to be a bit odd and bordering on ridiculous. The general comment coming from the players is that maybe there are more distractions, like family and friends, at home than there are on the road.

While there’s truth to that, it was also true last season when the team lost only two regular-season home games all year, or two seasons ago when the Rebels were perfect at home. The reasoning, to me, sounds more like justification from players who simply don’t have the answer. And that’s OK. The results have been just as much, if not more, on the coaching staff, and Dave Rice hasn’t had any great answers either.

The fact is the Rebels (11-7, 2-3) haven’t played with the same urgency or execution in most of their home games, something they hope to improve on tonight at 8 against Utah State (12-5, 2-3).

The Aggies may be without starting forward Kyle Davis, who injured his knee in Saturday’s road loss at Boise State. Davis, who averages 9.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game, isn’t expected to miss much time but he’s doubtful for tonight’s game.

That would put even more importance on the play of 6-foot-10 Jarred Shaw, the team’s leading scorer who missed five games earlier this season after a drug-related arrest. Shaw was reinstated after pleading guilty to a third-degree felony marijuana possession charge. That’s expected to go down to a misdemeanor, and Shaw has averaged 16.5 points and eight rebounds per game over the four games since his return.

But this game isn’t about Utah State. It’s about the Rebels and how they decide to respond after losing their fourth and fifth home games this season during the last home stand. If they come out and play like they did against New Mexico then it should be no problem. The problem is UNLV is far from consistent, and it’s difficult to say exactly how it will respond tonight at home.

Bern’s prediction: The last two games have been pretty easy to handicap, but I don’t have a good feel for this one. Utah State is the second-best three-point shooting team in the country, and Shaw provides an inside presence to help keep the defensive pressure away from the perimeter. I don't feel confident in it, but I'll stick with my prediction from ESPN 1100 earlier this evening: UNLV 74, Utah State 67

Season: ATS 13-5, O/U 12-5-1

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

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy