Rebels denied at buzzer, lose sixth straight

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L.E. Baskow

San Jose State forward Ryan Welage (32) looks on as UNLV forward Tyrell Green (3) loses the ball out of bounds during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017.

UNLV falls to San Jose State

UNLV forward Cheickna Dembele (11) goes strong to the basket over San Jose State forward Brandon Clarke (15) during their game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017. Launch slideshow »

UNLV did a lot of things right in Saturday’s home game against San Jose State. The Rebels were physical. They pounded the glass. They hit their free throws down the stretch. And they got clutch shots from Jovan Mooring and Tyrell Green in the closing minutes. It should have been enough to earn their first win since Jan. 21.

Except it wasn’t. Mooring missed a potential game-tying runner at the buzzer, and San Jose State completed a sweep of the season series with a 76-74 victory.

It was the Rebels’ sixth straight defeat, the program’s longest losing streak in more than 20 years, and all the losses — especially the close ones — are clearly having an impact on the players.

“As you can imagine, the guys are pretty distraught to have another close one slip away,” coach Marvin Menzies said. “I can’t remember the last time as a head coach I’ve been in a situation where we struggled this much with close games. We’ve got to find a way to get over the hump.”

UNLV appeared to be in prime position to snap the losing streak when Green drained a 3-pointer to tie the game at 74-74 with 40 seconds to play. But on the ensuing possession, San Jose State guard Terrell Brown whittled down the clock before driving the lane and scoring over Rebels defender Kris Clyburn to give SJSU a 76-74 lead with 14 seconds to play.

Menzies elected not to call timeout after Brown’s basket, and the ball ended up in Mooring’s hands on the right wing. Mooring drove toward the baseline but never truly escaped his defender, and his contested floater bounced off the rim as the final horn sounded.

After the game, Menzies said he wanted to attack the San Jose State defense before it had time to get set. And given the way Mooring played down the stretch, Menzies was probably right to trust him with the game on the line.

San Jose State had a 66-59 lead with seven minutes remaining before Mooring went to work. The junior guard hit a pair of free throws, then scored on three consecutive dribble-drives to key an 8-2 run. A minute later, he hit two more free throws to pull UNLV within 72-69 with 2:55 to play.

Mooring’s run of 10 straight points got the Rebels back into it, and when Green buried his 3-pointer from the left wing to tie it (assisted by Mooring), it looked like UNLV had all the momentum.

The Rebels certainly wanted the win. They played their most physical game in a long time, out-rebounding San Jose State, 38-29, and outscoring the Spartans 22-10 in second-chance points. The Rebels also earned 31 free throws by going hard to the rim throughout the course of the game.

But SJSU shot the ball well (52.8 percent for the game, 53.8 percent from 3-point range), and shooting is the Rebels’ kryptonite. UNLV hit on 23-of-56 from the field (41.1 percent) and struggled from the free-throw line (21-of-31), failing to take advantage of their aggressive play.

On one critical sequence late in the second half, UNLV may have wanted the win a little too much. Trailing 72-69 with less than 2:30 to play and the shot clock dwindling, the Rebels’ defense clamped down. Mooring got into a passing lane and deflected the ball into the backcourt, and Mooring and SJSU guard Jalen James gave chase. James got to the loose ball first, but Mooring — unaware that the shot clock was about to expire — took another stab at the ball and was called for a foul 70 feet away from the basket. After the whistle, Mooring saw there was just one second left on the shot clock when he committed the foul and hung his head. James made both free throws, and Mooring’s extra effort ended up hurting the Rebels’ chances.

Mooring finished with 18 points and eight assists, but his miss at the buzzer and his unnecessary foul in the backcourt will probably stick with him in the wake of yet another loss.

“He’s a kid that’s giving us all he can,” Menzies said of Mooring. “It’s just time and score. You’ve got to know time and score, and not just in the game, but in possessions. There’s a shot clock ahead of you on both ends of the court, so he’s just got to look up…He was just playing hard.”

Green tallied 28 points on 8-of-13 shooting and also pulled down nine rebounds in 31 productive minutes off the bench. Christian Jones posted 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Brown finished with 12 points and three assists for San Jose State, which has now won four straight. Forward Brandon Clarke had 13 points, seven rebounds and five blocks.

San Jose State has now won four straight games and sits at 13-10 on the season (6-6 in Mountain West play). UNLV is 10-16 (3-10 MWC) and still searching for answers, especially on the offensive end. Four of the six losses during the Rebels’ losing streak have come by a combined 10 points, and UNLV has shot just 38.5 percent in those games (95-of-247).

Menzies and the Rebels will have eight days to pull it together, as they won’t play again until they travel to San Diego State on Feb. 19.

“I feel for the guys,” Menzies said. “I feel for everybody associated with the program, because losing is something that we don’t want to make a habit. So we’ve got to get this monkey off our back as quickly as we can and get ready for the next game. We’ve got a few days in between now, because we don’t play until next Sunday, so that’ll give us an opportunity to try to really, really drill our individual skill development and get our offensive tools and weapons going a little bit, because we just can’t continue to shoot 41 and 39 percent and expect to win games.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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