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Live blog: Rebels drop fifth straight, lose at Utah State

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels guard Amauri Hardy (3) takes the ball up court after a Fresno State turnover at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

Updated Saturday, March 3, 2018 | 7:59 p.m.

Utah State handed UNLV its fifth consecutive loss, 79-67, and the regular season has mercifully come to an end for the Rebels.

UNLV finishes 19-12 on the year and 8-10 in Mountain West play. By virtue of this loss, the Rebels are locked into the No. 8 seed for the conference tournament and will open up against Air Force in the play-in round on Wednesday.

Brandon McCoy posted 18 points and seven rebounds, but Utah State had no issues scoring inside (or outside) against the Rebels' shaky defense. Utah State scored at a rate of 1.162 points per possession, led by Koby McEwen's 18 points.

Rebels trail 72-59 late at Utah State

With 4:05 to play, it looks like UNLV is headed for its fifth straight loss as Utah State leads, 72-59.

Brandon McCoy just finished a layup off a pass from Jordan Johnson and drew a foul in the process, so he'll head to the line after the timeout to try to inch the Rebels a little closer, but unless they get some stops on the other end, any hope of a comeback is just wishful thinking.

Utah State is shooting 50.0 percent for the game (27-of-54) and scoring at a rate of 1.20 points per possession.

Utah State leads UNLV, 64-53

Utah State withstood UNLV's big push at the start of the second half, and the Aggies have pushed their lead back up to 64-53 with 7:55 to play.

After opening the half hot, UNLV has scored just five points in the last five-plus minutes, allowing Utah State to regain some breathing room.

Kris Clyburn appears to be ready to check in after the timeout, which would be his first action of the evening.

Rebels cut Utah State lead to 48-46 in second half

UNLV has opened the second half with a 16-6 run, and Utah State's lead has been trimmed to 488-46 with 14:47 to play.

Tervell Beck got things started with a powerful dunk, and Jovan Mooring and Jordan Johnson made consecutive 3-pointers to keep the momentum going. Shakur Juiston then came up with a steal and a breakaway dunk, Brandon McCoy scored in the post, and Juiston just muscled his way to another basket to pull UNLV within two points.

McCoy is up to 13 points on the night, while Beck has 12. UNLV has made 7-of-8 from the field in the second half while forcing four Utah State turnovers.

Utah State leads UNLV at half, 42-30

The Rebels' shaky defense collapsed down the stretch as Utah State hit three 3-pointers in the final two minutes — including a Daron Henson triple at the buzzer — to take a 42-30 lead into halftime.

Utah State shot 51.7 percent in the first half (15-of-29) and made 6-of-12 from 3-point range. Guards Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen have each hit a pair of 3-pointers and have each scored 10 points to lead the Aggies.

UNLV hasn't been able to get into the open court at all, and its halfcourt execution has not been crisp. The Rebels have made just 10-of-24 from the field and committed seven turnovers. Brandon McCoy is leading the way with 11 points.

A more curious development has been Kris Clyburn's status. The junior swingman has not played tonight, despite being dressed. The team has not announced any injury or disciplinary action, so for now it appears Clyburn has simply been benched.

Utah State leads UNLV, 25-24

In a game that has been oddly paced so far, Utah State has a 25-24 lead over UNLV with 3:46 left in the first half.

Neither team has been able to get into transition consistently, and most of the game has been played with deliberate, halfcourt sets. Utah State has had the advantage there, as the Aggies have moved the ball well and carved up UNLV's interior defense for seven layups and dunks already.

UNLV hasn't scored a basket in nearly three minutes, but Tervell Beck and Brandon McCoy have kept the Rebels close from the free-throw line (combined 7-of-9). Beck has a team-high eight points, while McCoy has seven.

Rebels trail early at Utah State

With 11:48 left to play in the first half, Utah State has a 16-14 lead over UNLV, but the Rebels have reason to be concerned.

Utah State has already scored on five uncontested layups or dunks, which is a bad sign for the reeling UNLV defense. The Aggies are shooting 58.3 percent (7-of-12 FGs).

Shakur Juiston and Tervell Beck have been active early for the Rebels, scoring four points apiece on inside buckets. UNLV has made 5-of-11 from the field (45.5 percent).

Three keys for UNLV basketball at Utah State

UNLV hasn't won a game since Valentine's Day, so the Rebels will almost certainly bring their best effort tonight at Utah State in the regular-season finale for both teams.

A win would give the 19-11 Rebels their elusive 20th victory, and also bring them back to .500 in Mountain West play (8-9). The winner of this game will also lock in the No. 7 seed for next week's conference tournament, while the loser will slot in at No. 8.

Can the Rebels shake off Wednesday's slaughter at the hands of UNR and bounce back with a good effort against Utah State (14-16, 7-10 MWC)? Three keys to watch:

Stop the bleeding

After four games of free-falling, UNLV simply needs to play well. The win-loss result of this game is negligible — whether UNLV is the No. 7 seed (with a win) or the No. 8 seed (with a loss) won't matter in the long run unless the team starts playing at a level that can challenge other conference teams in next week's tournament.

Can the Rebels get back to pushing the pace on offense and running the floor for easy baskets? Can they figure out a way to get three or four defensive stops in a row? This is a team that desperately needs to find something on which it can hang its hat, and this is the only game left before they start playing for keeps.

Match up in transition

Utah State is one of the best shooting teams in the country, and they are especially scary in transition, when guards Sam Merrill and Koby McEwen have the green light to rise up for quick 3-pointers.

Merrill in particular has been ridiculously hot over the second half of the season, as he's made 53.6 percent of his 3-pointers in conference play while averaging a team-high 17.4 points per game. In transition, he's shooting a scorching 49.7 percent on the year and averaging 1.35 points per possession.

The Rebels need to mark McEwen and especially Merrill as they change ends. Leave either for a split second, and it could end up costing a quick three points.

Rebound

The Rebels struggle to defend in halfcourt situations, and they certainly don't get any better in scramble situations after allowing offensive rebounds. If Utah State is able to collect long offensive rebounds and whip the ball around the perimeter, UNLV stands no chance of getting out to the Aggies' dangerous 3-point shooters.

Utah State is not a team that normally pounds the glass — the Aggies rank 253rd nationally with an offensive rebounding rate of 24.5 percent. But UNLV is a shaky rebounding team (244th in defensive rebounding rate, 71.8 percent), and it won't take more than a handful of second-chance 3-point attempts to swing this game. That makes defensive rebounding a top priority today.

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

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