Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016 | 7:03 p.m.
Not only did the UNLV basketball team lose to San Diego State today, the Rebels were thoroughly beat, and physically beat down, by the best team in the Mountain West.
Here are some more observations from the Rebels’ 67-52 loss.
What the game means: Those holding out hope for the Rebels to run the table and win the league tournament in March to qualify for the NCAA Tournament probably aren’t feeling too good about their chances after today. As San Diego State fans started chanting, “This is our house; This is our home” from the upper decks in the final minutes of the game, it became obvious the Rebels are nothing more than a middle-of-the road team. They had no chance in their own building to beat the best team in their league. Weaknesses, especially on the interior, were exposed.
How the game was lost: UNLV got beat up, plain and simple. The San Diego State defense was so tight it forced UNLV into three shot-clock violations and had seven blocked shot. San Diego State was so physical on the inside it out-rebounded the Rebels 44-27. And San Diego State, a team whose offense is pretty painful to watch, scored constantly at the rim. UNLV has been guilty of not being a physical team all season. Tonight, that claim was validated. San Diego State showed why it is the league’s best team — every season.
Losing Ben Carter: Losing one of the most anticipated games of the season might not have been the Rebels’ most significant loss tonight. Junior forward Ben Carter went down midway through the first half with an apparent knee injury and didn’t return. He couldn’t put weight on his left leg when being helped off the court in what is being called a knee sprain. You could argue Carter has been UNLV’s most consistent player — whether that’s providing interior defense, a scoring threat in the post and leadership to younger players. UNLV was a different team without him in the game, especially some possessions which lacked offensive flow and organization. And they couldn’t produce scoring chances in the post, settling for 3-pointers and making just 5 of 23 attempts. Sure, part of that, surely, was San Diego State’s stingy defense. (We’ll keep you posted on Carter’s long-term prognosis).
A look at the stat sheet: Pat McCaw, UNLV’s best player, was held scoreless in the second half until the final two minutes and the Rebels trailing by double digits, finishing with just 10 points. ...Stephen Zimmerman Jr. led the Rebels with 14 points and 10 rebounds. ...UNLV, again, struggled from the free throw line in making just 3 of 9 attempts. ...Ike Nwamu finished with eight points, including a coast-to-coast dribble drive where he dunked over a defender. Derrick Jones Jr. had a few dunks on alley-oops, too. ...San Diego State had four players in double figures, including Trey Kell with a team-best 14 points.
Up next: The Rebels, who have a 2-5 record in true road games, play next Tuesday at New Mexico and Saturday at Fresno State in the start of the second half of Mountain West play. This is the time of the year where, regardless of how good or bad the season has gone, a few good wins can bring confidence for the stretch run of the season in March. After tonight, the Rebels should be pretty humbled and need of a boost.