Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018 | 10:37 p.m.
So much for momentum.
UNLV came into Wednesday’s home date with Valparaiso on a four-game winning streak, but after 40 minutes of turnovers, missed shots, turnovers, offensive fouls and more turnovers, the Rebels found themselves on the wrong end of a 72-64 beating and back in the loss column.
The Rebels (4-2) built an 11-point lead late in the first half, but a season-high 25 turnovers allowed Valparaiso to stay close. The Crusaders then used a 21-2 run spanning halftime to springboard ahead by double digits, and with UNLV shooting just 29.3 percent in the second half, a comeback was out of the question.
UNLV made just 12 shots from the field over the final 20 minutes while committing 12 turnovers.
The culprits were legion for UNLV. Shakur Juiston and Amauri Hardy turned it over five times apiece, while Tervell Beck (four), Mbacke Diong (three), Cheickna Dembele (three) and Bryce Hamilton (two) also kicked it away multiple times.
Head coach Marvin Menzies was perplexed by the ball-security issues in his post-game press conference, even noting that Valparaiso does not normally play a style of defense that forces turnovers, but he was downright exasperated by the Rebels’ inability to make shots.
“We shot 60 percent in the first half, and we were on our way to playing a good offensive game even with the turnovers,” Menzies said. “I think we had 13 [turnovers in the first half], but at least we were making shots. We stopped making shots. I mean, we had shots right at the basket. We had layups and putbacks, dead point-blank putbacks and I know we’ll make those. Just didn’t make them tonight.”
After making 15-of-25 from the field in the first half, UNLV converted just 12-of-41 after halftime. The Rebels made only 2-of-14 from 3-point range over the final 20 minutes.
Juiston led the Rebels with 14 points and 19 rebounds, but the turnovers muted his effectiveness.
“Pretty much we turned the ball over ourselves,” Juiston said. “I don’t think they did anything to dictate us turning the ball over. Me myself, I had a couple times where I tried to make the pass when I could have just laid the ball up.”
Diong played well while he was on the floor, but foul trouble limited him to 19 minutes (he eventually fouled out with four minutes left in the game).
With Diong sidelined for long stretches, Valparaiso center Derrik Smits was able to use his 7-foot-1 frame to dominate around the basket. Smits totaled 20 points (8-of-16 shooting) and 13 rebounds in 30 minutes, and Valpo outscored UNLV in the paint by a 42-38 margin.
After struggling to handle Valparaiso’s defensive pressure, the Rebels have two days to correct the issue before hosting Cincinnati — a much nastier defensive team — on Saturday. For the season, Cincinnati is forcing 16.3 turnovers per game, which ranks in the top 50 nationally.
Menzies said that when turnovers start coming in bunches, it can be difficult to correct in-game. He said the Rebels will have to focus on fixing the problem in practice before facing Cincinnati.
“It’s hard in-game,” Menzies said. “I do think a lot of it can be corrected in practice, and it will. I’m sure of it. They knew it right away. It was very uncharacteristic of how they’ve been practicing. They’ve been pretty good in practice. Practice is not the game, however.”