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Ice-cold UNLV falls to Indiana State in Diamond Head semis

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels head coach Marvin Menzies reacts to play during a game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday Dec. 1, 2018.

A late comeback attempt fell short, and UNLV fell to Indiana State on Sunday, 84-79, in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic.

Even playing in the tropical climate of Hawaii, the Rebels offense opened the game ice-cold, missing nine of their first 10 shots from the field. It didn’t get much better the rest of the way, as UNLV finished the day shooting just 36.9 percent from the field (24-of-65) and 29.2 percent from 3-point range (7-of-24).

On the other side of the court, UNLV had no answer for Indiana State guard Jordan Barnes. The junior sharpshooter scored at all three levels and tallied a game-high 28 points on 11-of-15 shooting.

The loss drops UNLV to 6-5 on the season and knocks them into the consolation game of the Diamond Head bracket. The Rebels will play the loser of TCU—Bucknell on Tuesday before returning to the mainland.

Some quick thoughts on the defeat:

Going small comes up short

Head coach Marvin Menzies utilized a small-ball lineup for almost the entire game, and while sophomore guard Amauri Hardy played well (22 points, 7-of-11 FGs), he didn’t get enough support to make up for the Rebels’ slow start.

Freshman Joel Ntambwe played power forward for most of the game, and while he scored 21 points, he struggled to finish around the rim and shot just 5-of-14 for the game. Senior guards Kris Clyburn and Noah Robotham struggled with their outside shots (combined 2-of-13 from 3-point range).

The Rebels have typically played their best with smaller lineups on the floor, but against Indiana State on Sunday it just didn’t work.

No finish

UNLV’s guards may have struggled to make shots, but the big men were even worse. Sophomore center Mbacke Diong got into early foul trouble and finished with zero points on 0-of-3 shooting, while freshman power forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua went 1-of-5 from the field.

As a team, UNLV missed 15 shots that were categorized as layup attempts. That negated the Rebels’ 16 offensive rebounds and allowed Indiana State to get away with soft interior defense.

Little consolation

The Rebels were hoping to play some quality competition at the Diamond Head, but with the way the bracket is shaking out, it looks like they may not face a single good opponent during their time in Hawaii.

UNLV’s first-round opponent, Hawaii, is currently ranked No. 209 by KenPom.com. Indiana State is No. 133. And if TCU takes care of business, the Rebels will face Bucknell (No. 169) in the consolation game. UNLV is currently ranked No. 128.

In the long run, it won’t mean much, as UNLV is not a candidate for an at-large NCAA tournament berth and so a weak schedule won’t be a hindrance. But it has to be a bit disappointing to travel all the way to Hawaii during the holidays and not get a marquee matchup.

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

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