Rebels offer little resistance in 91-77 loss at Colorado State

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UNLV forward Cheickna Dembele, left, is fouled by Colorado State forward Braden Koelliker, back, as guard Prentiss Nixon defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Fort Collins, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

UNLV falls to CSU

Colorado State guard Prentiss Nixon, left, steals the ball from UNLV guard Uche Ofoegbu during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2016, in Fort Collins, Colo(AP Photo/David Zalubowski) Launch slideshow »

It took UNLV more than seven minutes to score its ninth point of the second half at Colorado State on Wednesday night. CSU guard Gian Clavell did it in 53 seconds.

That hot streak from Clavell, which consisted of back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions early in the second half, broke open a tight game and eventually propelled Colorado State to a 91-77 victory in the Mountain West opener for both teams.

After shooting 46.7 percent and scoring 43 points in a fast-paced first half, UNLV’s offense slowed to a crawl after halftime, tallying just 34 points on 30.3-percent shooting over the final 20 minutes.

While the Rebels opened the second frame by making just one of their first 12 shots, Clavell pulled up three times in a row and splashed each one. Before he started his barrage, CSU was ahead, 48-46, with 18:19 remaining in the game. When he finished less than a minute later, the Rams had pushed the lead to 57-46. Two more Colorado State transition buckets by Nico Carvacho and Prentiss Nixon made it a 13-0 run and essentially put the game out of reach.

UNLV’s skid actually began toward the end of the first half, when CSU closed the period on a 10-0 run to take a 46-43 lead into the locker room. Seemingly stunned by that scoring burst, UNLV staggered out of the break and never recovered.

“That last 3-and-a-half minutes [of the first half] and the first four or five minutes of the second half, that was the game,” coach Marvin Menzies said. “I think they went on a [25-3] run during that stretch, and that was too much to get back in when you’re not making shots.”

Sophomore Kris Clyburn was UNLV’s top performer, posting 12 points, nine rebounds, four steals and a block in 28 minutes. Freshman Troy Baxter led the Rebels in scoring with 15 points, while Uche Ofoegbu (13 points), Jalen Poyser (12) and Jovan Mooring (11) joined in double figures.

The first 16 minutes featured some of the Rebels’ best offensive basketball of the season, as they moved the ball with purpose (seven assists on 14 field goals) and built a 43-36 lead. But the team’s season-long turnover issues popped up again in the closing minutes of the half, with four giveaways sparking Colorado State’s 10-0 spurt.

“That was just on us,” Clyburn said. “We had a couple miscues, a couple turnovers. Once we limit that, we should be in better shape.”

Clavell scored a game-high 21 points, but not all of Colorado State’s offense came from the outside. The Rams had success driving to the basket repeatedly, especially in the second half, and the result was a 40-20 advantage in points in the paint.

Faced with little resistance from UNLV’s interior defense, CSU shot 48.5 percent for the game.

“For a good stretch there, we were playing like we’re supposed to play, defensively and offensively,” Menzies said. “I mean, 77 points is a lot of points on the road. You can win with that. But you can’t give up 91. Anywhere — home, road, anywhere.”

Senior forward Tyrell Green suffered through his worst performance of the year, tying a season low with four points while making just 1-of-11 from the field (0-of-5 3FGs).

Clyburn attributed the Rebels’ second-half slump to poor ball movement.

“The first half, we were playing really well,” he said. “We were moving the ball, hitting shots. We had four assists in the second half. In the first half, we were moving the ball, getting to the basket, getting to the foul line, knocking down free throws. That’s something we’ve got to work on.”

UNLV is now 7-7 on the season and 0-1 in the Mountain West. The Rebels’ first conference home game is set for Saturday, when they’ll face Wyoming in a New Year’s Eve matinee.

Clyburn said the team expects to bounce back.

“This is only one game. We’re going to put this behind us, get on a plane and go back to Vegas and prepare for Wyoming.”

Follow Mike on Twitter at Twitter.com/MikeGrimala

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