Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017 | 11:15 p.m.
If you’re UNLV, you hope this is rock bottom.
Wednesday’s 77-59 home loss to Boise State didn’t match the 49-point margin by which the Rebels lost to Duke, or even the 26-point margin by which they lost at Arizona State, but this defeat felt much, much worse.
The Rebels were simply outclassed by Duke’s sheer talent level, and Arizona State got insanely hot from the 3-point line for an entire 40 minutes. Losing big under those circumstances can be understandable. But there were no such excuses for losing so badly to Boise State, a decent-to-good 10-4 team (3-0 in Mountain West play) that looks like a conference contender only by default.
For UNLV, it was a disheartening game filled with low points. There were bad shots, like the behind-the-back step-back 2-point jumper over two defenders that Jovan Mooring missed midway through the first half. There were ice-cold shooting performances, like usually-reliable marksman Tyrell Green going 4-of-13 (0-of-4 from 3-point range). There were even free-throw woes, like Cheickna Dembele double-clutching so badly that a teammate crashed the paint early and was tagged with a lane violation.
But more than any of that, there were defensive embarrassments from the opening tip until the final buzzer. On the first possession of the game, UNLV allowed Boise State leading scorer Chandler Hutchison to get wide open for a 3-pointer, which he swished. On the next possession, guard Paris Austin dribbled through the lane unimpeded for a layup. Then Hutchison breezed through the paint for consecutive layups off the dribble, and Boise had a 9-0 lead before UNLV had a chance to blink.
It didn’t get better from there, as BSU shot 18-of-34 in the first half and went into halftime with a 41-20 lead. And just to drive the point home, the Rebels came out of the locker room and left Hutchison open again on the first possession of the second half, allowing him to drill another 3-pointer en route to a career-high 28 points.
When asked what the Rebels were missing on the defensive end, Green didn’t hold back.
“Heart and passion for sure,” Green said. “I just feel like we had too many letdowns defensively. We started the game off terribly and that just started the whole game for them, and for the rest of the way we just couldn’t get stops.”
Boise State made 18-of-34 shots in the first half (52.9 percent). To put that in perspective, UNLV made just 19 field goals for the entire game (19-of-64).
UNLV had no answer for Hutchison, allowing the 6-foot-7 swingman to convert 12 of his 19 attempts, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range.
“They jumped out on us early to start the game,” Mooring said. “They made some shots, and the type of team they are, once they make shots the basket just gets bigger and it becomes a long day for the defense. It got to the point where we were just scrambling.”
UNLV coach Marvin Menzies attributed the dreadful defensive performance to a lack of energy and a total breakdown in communication.
“We just didn’t communicate on the floor,” Menzies said. “It’s been a weakness of ours, and we’ve got to find a way to do it. You can’t talk for another individual. We’ve got three or four guys that have to understand, communication is key. We’re not doing it and that was one of the biggest problems, because we were guarding guys that were not shooters — we were flying out at them — and we had shooters that we were closing out really short on … I played some man, I played some zone, I played some matchup. I was trying to find something that worked.”
Boise State slowed down a bit in the second half, connecting on 43.3 percent from the field (13-of-30), but UNLV couldn’t make a dent in the deficit. Nick Duncan’s 3-pointer with 13:26 remaining gave BSU its largest lead at 59-27, and even when UNLV rolled off a 14-0 run, the Rebels never got closer than 18 points.
Green admitted that the team was discouraged by the lopsided score.
“I can’t really speak for everybody, but as a team we all just have to find it together,” he said. “I think we were just looking at the score and looking at the time and just saying it was over, but we just can’t. We’ve got to keep playing. We’ve got to keep going in situations like that, so we have to learn from this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
UNLV is now 1-2 in the Mountain West and 8-8 overall, with a trip to Utah State set for Saturday.
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