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UNLV basketball:

No need for Rebels to hit panic button after loss to Wisconsin

Bad matchups, long road trips and injuries have affected outcomes


Sam Morris

UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield winces after hitting the ground hard during their game against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011. Wisconsin won the game 62-51, dropping UNLV to 9-2 on the season.

UNLV vs. Wisconsin Basketball

UNLV head coach Dave Rice looks down while walking along the bench during their game against Wisconsin at the Kohl Center in Madison Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011. Wisconsin won the game 62-51, dropping UNLV to 9-2 on the season. Launch slideshow »

Rebels lose to Wisconsin

KSNV coverage of UNLV men's basketball game at Wisconsin, Dec. 10, 2011.

UNLV basketball coach Dave Rice needs patience.

Yes, two double-digit losses in one week is a concern. And sure, the lack of energy displayed in those defeats points to possible issues of motivation and preparedness that could have fans worried.

But there are plenty of practical, if not predictable, reasons for the letdown, too.

For starters, the Rebels haven’t played at home since Nov. 22. By the time they tip off against UTEP on Wednesday, it will have been more than three weeks since they played at the Thomas & Mack Center.

That span covers six games — three at Orleans Arena — in which the Rebels went 4-2. It’s understandable that they would fade down the stretch.

“I told the team afterward, ‘I believe that during this six-game stretch away from our building that we’ve improved,’ ” Rice said. “ ‘At times today it didn’t feel like that, but we will be a lot better for having gone through this experience.’ ”

“There’s not a lot of teams that have to go through the experience of six games away from their building. It will toughen us up.”

Not only were both losses on the road, but they were against matchup nightmares for the Rebels. Both Wichita State and Wisconsin play a slow-tempo, grind-it-out game that is the kryptonite of the running style that Rice is trying to implement.

Plus, it took career games from a couple of unlikely guards to defeat UNLV.

Take this stat: Wisconsin attempted 26 3-pointers. Without Ben Brust, the Badgers shot just 3-of-19 behind the arc.

“It took a player getting hot for us to be on the left-hand side,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said. “That’s a good team. Hell, that team is not ranked. I’m very surprised.”

And on the personnel level, the Rebels’ best player in the early season, forward Mike Moser, is playing with an injured shooting hand. Most teams don’t charge through a schedule like this with their best player in pain and come out unbeaten.

So there’s the positive spin.

The other side of the argument is probably the more popular one among people who saw the North Carolina victory and don’t understand what has happened since then.

All of the above reasons for the losses could be flipped around as excuses. And there’s evidence to support that.

It’s unlikely that two random guards just happened to shoot the lights out against the same defense in the span of a week. Despite a few days of talking about how much better prepared the Rebels were to guard three-point shooters, the same holes appeared in UNLV’s defense.

“I didn’t feel like we were all on the same page defensively in the beginning,” senior Chace Stanback said about the Wisconsin game. “We weren’t talking as much as we should have, weren’t helping the helper on defense, rotating to the open guy. There’s a lot of things we could have done better.”

Add that to the pile of missed layups, poor rebounding and questionable effort, and it would be easy to write this team off.

But that’s shortsighted.

This is a rut, not a collapse.

Bad matchups, long road trips, injuries, off nights; this week does not a season make.

This team is talented and it has a lot of pieces. Next week it adds another one when Marquette transfer guard Reggie Smith becomes eligible.

This week has brought a lot of doubt to UNLV’s season. Even in the locker room there are questions about how to get back on track.

“I don’t know, but we better figure it out,” Moser said. “I’m not sure what we’re going to do.”

Rice does, although you may not like the sound of it.

“The only way to solve those kinds of problems is go back and practice, just get tougher, watch film and get better,” Rice said. “We’re still in a good position.”

In other words, be patient.

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

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Previous Discussion: 34 comments so far…

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  1. Stop making excuses and hold them accountable for their bad play. Only mediocre programs would write stories like this trying to cover up for terrible gameplay and preparation. If we keep coddling our players and coaches and attribute it to "too much time away from homecourt" and "great play from unexpected players", then we'll never achieve greatness. Great teams MUST win away from home....ummm, NCAA tournament anyone? Also, those guards who beat us should have been defended...it takes a PLAYER to defend them.

    These types of articles aggravate me. We should be calling out the coaches and players when they play bad, not send them to a corner for a timeout and give them a cookie.

  2. I fully echo Sinatra's comments...College Basketball is filled with schools that can upset a good team at home. The mark of a good team with character is being able to win on the road.

  3. This is the same way they started last year before conference play and wound up being a mediocre team that probably wasn't a top 64 in March. They could very well have 3 losses (Santa Barbara). Good teams have to beat good teams on the road. The great UNLV teams of the past that made it deep into March were able to beat ranked teams on the road.

  4. And "calling out the coaches and players" will accomplish....what? Beat them down? Lower their confidence? Yeah, that'll get them to play better and not make any mistakes. Yes, good teams win on the road, and I have no doubt this team will. We, as fans, might want to remember, this is a new system, do you think that is an instant transition? Yes, we could have won yesterday, mistakes were made, but to expect perfection at this point would be ridiculous. I realize they came out flat and made mistakes, I just don't get where the negativity will benefit in any way, shape or form, I really doubt that it would be a motivator. What, are you perfect?

  5. There is never an excuse for a lack of effort, and that's the biggest thing that stuck out to me during this game. If they don't want to win put in somebody who does. Stanback can't do everything by himself while Moser is hurt.

  6. unlv is a mid level program. that doesn't mean they can't do some real damage but they are not up their with the unc's and kentucky's just yet. this is also not dave rice's team yet. he hasn't had a chance to recruit much.
    this is a tough stretch for unlv. they should be playing better and i don't want to look past that but there's a good reason why these big pre-season games are all on the road. because no one wants to come to the thomas & mack and take an early season loss in a hostile environment. look at unc. they were in a neutral venue and couldn't pull off the victory. unlv has beaten several top teams in pre-season games at home over the past few years. teams don't forget that and other teams take notice. i give credit to unlv for going on the road to take on difficult opponents.
    all that really matters is the mwc anyway. if we take care of business in the conference none of these pre-season games will matter.

  7. Rebs are 9-2 with no bad losses and a win over UNC. They've done well so far and have shown tremendous heart in the UCSB game. With a healthy Moser they would have had a real shot at winning yesterday. I think the rest of the season is full of exciting possibilities.

  8. I agree with the earlier posts. This article (and others like it) need to put some feet to the fire instead of coming up with lame excuses. While 100% confident in this coaching staff and very pleased with the team's attitude I am at a loss for how they can come out with a lack of intensity and repeat their poor execution from a week ago. Using the fact that they haven't played at the T&M since Nov. 22 is a poor excuse. It's not like they had to leave town to play at the Orleans. Give me a break. I think the title of this article is completely backwards.

  9. Welcome to The Sun, Taylor, where overreaction and disdain for the optimistic runs rampant!

  10. Coach Rice's last tweet rules!!! Rehhhhhbullls!

  11. "Panic" probably isn't the right word. I think "urgency" would be better. As grateful as I am for the job Kruger did, he never seemed to "panic" when the team couldn't beat a zone and we got a mediocre team that couldn't win the MWC. I'm ready for some change and think we are on our way - just want to see these lapses get corrected and not downplayed.

  12. What a horrible game by our "point"-less guard. He's Little O to me after that pathetic showing. I hope that Reggie can handle the ball, and maybe not jack up 3 point shots with 30+ seconds left on the shot clock and nobody in position for the rebound.

  13. I agree with the critism about this article...an objective journalist should be able to point out the clear flaws in this team, e.g. low post defense and lack of passing. Watched the game a second time and I don't understand what we are trying to do on offense.

    Rarely will I blame a game on one player but lets be real folks. Bellfield probably had his worst game ever as a rebel. Not just because he missed shots, but because he failed to get his teamates involved and made terrible, momentum killing decisions all game. No excuses.

    From here on out Chace needs to be our number one option. Also, enough of this posting up our bigs, that's clearly not there strength. What was working was driving and kicking out for open shots or getting to the freethrow line.

    And one last thing, if we are going to "run" let be sure we can "finish."

  14. wow, one bad game and now oscar sucks? look, i think there's PLENTY of room for improvement on this team, but oscar's been pretty solid for us for 3.5 years now, and i'd still take him running the point for us anytime. i don't know about you guys, but i'm basically looking at this season as a transition year from the kruger walkin' rebels to what we will eventually be. we're trying to be the runnin' rebels again, but there's still a lot of kruger's mentality in these guy's heads. give it time. i was pretty annoyed last week that people wanted to act like the lack of effort against wichita wasn't a big deal, and now that we've seen a similar performance against wisconsin, it's fair to say that this team will have its ups and downs. i do think more consistent quality basketball is coming from the rebels, just in fits and starts this year. i'm just going to take the good with the bad this year and get excited for what's on the way. jones, reinhardt, morant, and cook begin the next phase next season, and who knows, maybe muhammad and/or bennett with those guys. our future looks pretty sweet for the first time in a long time, we just have to be patient. hell, if i can do that anybody can.

  15. Holding the coaches & players accountable and "calling them out" is not "negative"...it's setting the expectation that we want to see our team perform CONSISTENTLY at a high level, not just 1 game a year.

    Articles like this make me sick.

  16. If the Rebels run one more pick and roll with Massamba( hands of stone) Im going to jump in the cold pond behind my house. WTH. Seriously.He mishandles it every time. A minute left in game and we try to post him, WTH. My biggest concern is that no one is guiding the team...no floor general. Oscar is a safe ball handler. Kruger liked that. But he was never a creator. Rice wants Marshall to be that guy, but he doesnt have the handles. We still have a lot of potential. Just dont think right now Rice is getting the most out. They arent playing smart ball either at times.

  17. Also, Its early and i dont think the team has decided who the go to guy is in the clutch, or when we need a basket. Moser was on track but I think the wrist has set him back from that.

  18. It's amazing to read here how bad the Rebels are. Here they 9-2 under a new coaching staff with a win against the #1 team in the nation and you people want to rip them. Sure two losses against two good teams on the road hurts. Both of those teams should end up in the big dance.
    N.C, Duke, Ohio State, Kentucky, Kansas, UConn all have losses this year. Everyone of those losses have come in are thier only games away from home. It's hard to win on the road and these teams just don't schedule tough games away from home unless thier forced to. Like the Rebels playing Wichita. The Rebels have a very good team. They need their fans to be fans not critics. Go Rebs.

  19. Wisconsin doesn't lose many at home. Witcha State tough loss. 9-2 that's a passing grade in my book yet having said that, lets get back on track. A home game with the "Mack" packed will do wonders. Take care of business at home then lets get after the Illini.
    Coach will have us ready for conference play and Reg will give us a spark the guy is all energy!

  20. Rebels are doing great...the reason why some I think are so frustrated over the Wisconsin game is , it sure appeared we were better than that team , and should have won if we just played close to our game. That made it sting a little more. Come March we will be a tough out.

  21. The only thing I was disappointed in was the total lack of effort in the entire first half. I don't understand how you can not be jacked up for a game against a top15 team on the road.

    Also- I am not the biggest Q Thomas, but the one thing the guy can do is rebound- and we were getting killed on the boards the whole game. He should have been given a shot.

  22. No one can expect guards to throw up 3 pointers and make the kind of percentage they did. Unlucky if you ask me. Not only the make, but it gives time for the other team to set up their half court D.

    Bad luck in both instances.

  23. Wow, I just read the other comments. Really people? Bellfield has been a rock the entire time he has been at UNLV. He's a solid player. Also, I love it how everyone thinks they are coaches out there and throwing out the post game. Massamba has made tremendous improvement this season in his post game, and that opens up a lot of other opportunities, not just immediate scoring.

    We all knew Wichita was gonna be difficult (and if you didn't, you obviously don't know their program very well), we all knew Wisconsin was gonna be a very difficult year too. Both teams made a ridiculous amount of 3's. It happens. Kentucky loses to unranked Indiana, UCONN loses to unranked UCF, Pitt Loses to unranked LBSU, Memphis loses to unranked Murray St, all these things happen in college basketball. The top 40-50 programs all have a chance to beat each other, and according to the stats, we are ranked 24th. Wichita St is ranked 29th, and Wisconsin is ranked #1 according to kenpom. #1, yes. We have nothing to be ashamed about losing on the road to either team.

  24. Massamba needs less minutes, lopez needs more.

  25. Wade, you're right on point. 2 losses on the road to 2 very difficult teams and the negativity is astounding! I realize expectations are extremely high, and other teams aren't supposed to get lucky and make ridiculous amounts of 3s, but they did, and to degrade the team, coaches, and individual players at any time, let alone so early is downright pathetic! I just don't see what that could possibly accomplish. Support? What a concept! I didn't see one comment on here about how we shut down their star (0-10), only about how "bad" individual players did, or they didn't "bring it" like the armchair coaches thought they should have. I, myself, am thrilled at the progress this team has made, the coaches have done an amazing job in implementing a new system (it does take time!) I just hope our Rebels don't read this garbage, what do you think that would accomplish for them? This, from their own "fans"!

  26. The Rebel's will do fine

    Both losses were in difficult places to play.

    Beat up U. T. ElPaso

  27. Bellfield, Moser, and Marshall all had their worst games of the year. It happens. The only reason it was close was because Wisconsin was playing terrible as well, if you take out Brust's numbers, they shot 27% as a team. I strongly disagree with the posters who want to freak out and criticize the article for not attacking the Rebels. There's no point and doing that at this point, especially given the 9-2 record, a win over #1 UNC, and 2 non-bad losses on the road (1 against a ranked team). Chill.

    And.. Don't pay attention to Sinatra.. He spends his days posting inflammatory garbage on every article on this site (not just the UNLV ones). Just a classic troll. It's nice to see adrock take a more patient perspective this week, props to you.

  28. @UNLV-123, I've been on the Sun boards for years....hardly a troll. I demand the best from my Alma Mater and won't sugar coat it when they perform badly. I hold people accountable for their responsibilities and expect them to deliver on what they're paid to do. You on the other hand, must be part of the 99% of the population who believe people should be given things based on entitlement. I LMAO at people like you who are homers and accept whatever faults the team has "just because you're a fan". I'm a fan who demands the best so that we can become an elite team, not one who settles for less. You can settle for less all you want, I won't.

    UNLV made the move to hire Rice...an unproven commodity...less recognized name. They should be held accountable for their decision....one win against UNC doesn't prove anything when you can't beat an unranked team (Wichita) and then get torched by Wisconsin in a winnable game...if accountability is "negative" by your standards, so be it.

  29. Sinatra, Don't try to rationalize your unrealistic expectations by referring to them as "accountability". As I stated before, starting non-conference 9-2 with a win over #1 North Carolina is definitely good enough so far. I think expecting Rice to continue where Kruger had left off would be a hopeful expectation, and he has actually exceeded that in some respects. I know you expected UNLV to hire John Calipari, Roy Williams, or Mike Krzyzewski (again with the silly expectations), but considering the budget concerns and Dave Rice's ties to the community, he was a great choice. There WILL be growing pains, and at times the team will not look good, but overall there is a lot of excitement and positive energy around the team, especially with the guys coming in next year.

    Anyone who has read your comments over the years would realize that you're unhappy with anything and everything. The Rebels could be 11-0 and you would be complaining about how they only beat Cal State San Marcos by 44. Just stop it.

  30. We must go undefeated every year according to Sinatra. Must win all games! Or you are fired! Hire Calipari, and when he loses a game, fire his ass too!

  31. UNLV-123 & Wade: Amen!

  32. You can reward and be satisfied with mediocrity all you want. Be happy beating 1 good team a year...see Louisville. That's what B-Level programs expect from their schools. Don't you think that Duke, Kentucky, & UNC expect their teams to win every game? Of course they do....and they're proven programs who don't have to sweat about a loss or two. For programs like ours...we need to win games like the Wichita State game in order to be respected.

    Forget about the play for a minute and look at articles like this one written by the Sun...which makes excuses for the loss and doesn't hold people accountable. Yes, it's about accountability, something that's been lost in today's world. I guess that's ok with everyone here to accept it. It won't stop me from demanding the best out of every team member & coach. As a Fan, that's my prerogative.

  33. Sinatra, maybe you could reread this article...not only did this reporter discuss the positive, he also talked about the negatives. "All the above reasons could be flipped around as excuses. And there is evidence to support that." Also, "the same holes appeared in UNLV's defense", and "Add that to the pile of missed layups, poor rebounding and questionable effort". What is it you are actually looking for, how much negativity do you need? And who says anybody on here is accepting mediocrity? Maybe we actually have some patience and optimism. "Yes, it's about accountability"...really? What bull! "Articles like this make me sick." It seems like you just can't hear or read enough negativity to make you happy.

  34. Wisconsin, the commentator said, has lost like 11 home games in 10 years. Ridiculous!

    W St, I believe, would have beat Kentucky on that night. They were insanely good, for one game - against us.

    We can definitely pick up in some areas, regardless. For one, it was reported some of the guys were up late Tweeting the night before. Maturity? Don't know if was true, but it looked like it on the court. No energy until the last few minutes of the Wisconsin game.

    Bellfield will likely never have another game like that, as he's had few that bad before, even as a freshman. He's smart, and he'll figure out exactly why he was making those decisions.

    Excuse or not, Marshall is hurt as well with a back strain. Notice he wasn't in much in the 2nd?

    I'd like to see more from Lopez as well, but I'm not sure that his ankle has allowed him tons of minutes up to this point anyway???

    One gripe from me, though... Where's Quintrell? He may have some deficiencies, but including him in this offense will be important down the road. Having 4 bigs was critical in the NC game. We need him to take part more often, if for no other reason than to help give the team legs. I believe he can work his way into some better games, but even if not, he'll always give you rebounds. Spreading playing time, in my mind, is important for all positions, and we have enough talent to do it.