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unlv basketball:

You don’t want to start like that’: Rebels fall by 11 in opener

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels guard Noah Robotham (5) fights for the ball with Loyola Marymount Lions guard Jeffery McClendon (25) during a game at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

UNLV Falls to Loyola Marymount in Season Opener

UNLV Rebels forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong (34) hangs on the rim after dunking against Loyola Marymount Lions at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Launch slideshow »

In the final two minutes of a humbling loss to open the season, a UNLV basketball player attempted a short jumper in the lane. But the shot badly misfired and awkwardly hit off the top front of the backboard.

Yes, it was that kind of night for the Rebels.

They committed 24 turnovers, lived up to the preseason billing of being a bad shooting team by making just 2 of 18 attempts on 3-pointers, and were outscored by 18 points in the second half of a 61-50 defeat to visiting Loyola Marymount.

Loyola Marymount is far from a juggernaut and is expected to be a middle of the pack team in the West Coast Conference. Yet, it made things look easy in the second half against the Rebels, slowing down the pace of the game and forcing UNLV into repeated poor shot attempts.

“We have good players. They didn’t show it tonight,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said.

But, as Menzies quickly points out, there were some bright spots — especially on defense.

UNLV held Loyola Marymount to 18 points in the first half and led by seven points at halftime. The Rebels also won the rebounding battle, limited Loyola Marymount to 38 percent shooting, and had 10 blocked shots, including five by Cheikh Mbacke Diong. Diong, who had eight points on 4 of 4 shooting and six rebounds, was arguably UNLV’s most productive player.

“It’s always a hard time to lose,” said Shakur Juiston, UNLV’s senior leader who scored a team-best 12 points. “For it to be the home opener, it really hit home.”

Kris Clyburn hit a 3-pointer in the first half. Noah Robotham rattled home a 3-pointer in the final minute for his lone points in a 1-for-8 shooting night to go along with six turnovers.

“We will live to fight another day,” Menzies said. “(Only making) 2 of 18 (3-pointers), I think we are better than that.”

The score was tied at 36 midway through the second half before Loyola Marymount went on a 12-0 scoring run to take the lead for good. Like most of the game, the scoring outburst was fueled by UNLV turnovers and poor play.

“We played really hard but incredibly careless,” Menzies said. “Our guys were out of sync offensively and played too rushed. They didn’t handle some in-game corrections and adjustments real well. We have to clean up some of that stuff.”

UNLV returns to action Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center against UC Riverside.

“When it comes to a young team and building a program, you will have up and downs,” Menzies said. “But you don’t want to start like that.”

Ray Brewer can be reached at 702-990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21

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