Las Vegas Sun

December 6, 2021

Currently: 75° — Complete forecast

Live coverage: UNLV loses to Wichita State on last-second foul

1121_sun_UNLVWichita06

Steve Marcus

Wichita State Shockers guard Tyson Etienne (1) sinks his second free throw with seconds left to put Wichita ahead of UNLV during a game in the Roman Main Event basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Wichita beat UNLV 74-73.

Updated Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021 | 11:05 p.m.

UNLV Falls to Wichita State, 74-73

UNLV Rebels guard Keshon Gilbert (10) and Bryce Hamilton (13) react as Gilbert is called for a foul on Wichita State Shockers guard Tyson Etienne with 3.4 seconds left in the second half of a game in the Roman Main Event basketball tournament at T-Mobile Arena Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021. Launch slideshow »

Wichita State guard Tyson Etienne made two free throws with 3.4 seconds left to give the Shockers a 74-73 win over UNLV.

It was a brutal loss for the scarlet and gray, who had taken the lead seconds earlier on a spectacular bucket by Keshon Gilbert.

UNLV had gone 10 minutes without a field goal and trailed by a point when Bryce Hamilton drove the lane and missed a contested floater. Gilbert was there to rise up and score the putback with 5.5 seconds to play, however, giving UNLV the late lead.

Gilbert was all over the court in the second half, as the go-ahead score was his third offensive putback. He finished with eight points and three rebounds, but he learned a difficult lesson just a moment later when he was whistled for a foul on Etienne 30 feet from the basket with 3.4 seconds to play.

Etienne, who finished with a game-high 28 points, made both freebies to deal UNLV a disappointing loss.

The scarlet and gray went 0-2 in the Main Event and are now 3-2 on the season.

UNLV protecting late 61-55 lead over Wichita State

If UNLV hangs on to win this game, Keshon Gilbert deserves a lot of the credit.

The freshman guard hasn't put up amazing stats—four points and two rebounds in 12 minutes—but his energy and tenaciousness have been invaluable. During his last stint on the court Gilbert crashed the offensive glass twice for key putbacks, forced a turnover with his ball-pressure defense, and scrambled to block a layup attempt from behind. When Gilbert subbed out a moment ago the bench rose to greet him enthusiastically.

With 6:49 remaining UNLV is clinging to a 61-55 lead, thanks in large part to Gilbert's contributions.

UNLV leads Wichita State, 59-54

Jordan McCabe is enjoying a breakout game, and with 10:57 remaining UNLV is protecting a 59-54 lead.

So far this half McCabe has whipped two highlight behind-the-back passes, one to Royce Hamm for a layup and one to Bryce Hamilton for a corner 3, and the senior point guard now has 11 points and eight assists on the night. McCabe also showed his toughness on the defensive end a moment ago by racing back and drawing a painful charge to break up a Wichita State 2-on-1.

Hamilton has a team-high 12 points, while Hamm has six points and eight rebounds.

Wichita State is heating up from long distance, as the Shockers are now 8-of-19 from 3-point range. UNLV will have to close out on open shooters over the next 11 minutes if they want to seal this win.

UNLV leads Wichita State at half, 39-31

UNLV has responded to Friday's loss in a good way. The scarlet and gray came out with energy and played a strong opening 20 minutes, building a 39-31 halftime lead over Wichita State.

Mike Nuga has had the hot hand for UNLV. The senior guard has connected on 5-of-8 for the field, including 1-of-3 from 3-point range, giving him a team-high 11 points on the night. Point guard Jordan McCabe has knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, chipping in eight points. Bryce Hamilton has nine points, including two on a nice two-handed jam off a baseline cut (assisted by Marvin Coleman).

Wichita State has been most effective when able to get the ball inside against UNLV's defense, using muscle to score 20 points in the paint (to UNLV's six). Guard Ricky Council leads a balanced Shockers attack with six points.

Wichita State has used a full-court press at times and it has created problems for UNLV's ball-handlers; the scarlet and gray have committed seven turnovers as a team. All things considered, however, Kevin Kruger has to be happy about the way his team is bouncing back from their first defeat just 48 hours ago.

Hot shooting start for UNLV vs. Wichita State

UNLV is knocking down 3-pointers for the first time this season, and with 11:04 left in the first half the scarlet and gray have a 17-14 lead over Wichita State.

Long-distance shooting has been a decided weakness for UNLV through the first four games, but three players have already connected and the team is 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Bryce Hamilton got things started with a 3 off the dribble in the opening minutes, and Jordan McCabe stepped into an assisted 3 a few minutes later. On UNLV's most recent possession Donovan Williams jab-stepped before launching a triple from the right wing that rattled in.

Hamilton, McCabe and Williams each have five points.

UNLV looking to bounce back against Wichita State

Just 48 hours after an encouraging but ultimately disappointing loss to No. 4 Michigan—the dreaded “moral victory”—UNLV is back in action on Sunday in the consolation bracket of the Main Event, taking on Wichita State (9 p.m., ESPN2).

Three keys for the scarlet and gray:

Bench production

Kevin Kruger rode his starters against Michigan, and he rode them hard. The starting lineup of Jordan McCabe, Mike Nuga, Bryce Hamilton, Donovan Williams and Royce Hamm combined to log more than 22 minutes together in Friday’s 74-61 loss, which is an astounding amount of court time for any lineup in a single game. And it worked—to an extent.

While the starters played Michigan to a virtual standstill (the Wolverines outscored them, 37-35, after UNLV gave a meaningless foul with three seconds remaining), the bench contributed next to nothing. The reserves attempted only two shots for the entire game, and it was clear Kruger was avoiding going to his depth pieces in order to keep them from getting exposed.

After leaning on the starters for such intense minutes, Kruger will probably be more inclined to use his bench 48 hours later against Wichita State. In particular, guards Marvin Coleman and Justin Webster (who played just two minutes apiece against Michigan) should return to the regular rotation. If they can make a few shots between them, it will alleviate some of the pressure on the starters and make the scarlet and gray a more well-rounded team.

Get to the rim

UNLV has been one of the worst teams in the country so far this season when it comes to generating shots around the rim; just 27.0 of their attempts have come around the basket, which ranks No. 341 out of 358 teams, according to Hoop-Math.com.

Some of that shot distribution is to be expected when the team’s high scorer, Bryce Hamilton, is a mid-range artist, but the scarlet and gray need more easy looks at the hoop. Wichita State could be just what the doctor ordered in that regard, as the Shockers play very small and allow opponents to attempt 41.5% of their shots from close range, which ranks them No. 312 in the nation.

Can Hamilton, Nuga, Williams and the team’s other slashers eschew jumpers and force their way to the rim? In this game, UNLV would be better for it.

Respond

UNLV lost for the first time on Friday. It was the team’s first loss under Kruger, and after a 3-0 start it will be interesting to see how they respond to their first taste of defeat.

It shouldn’t be an issue—this team has already made effort and intensity a hallmark of their playing style—but it’s worth monitoring. If the scarlet and gray come out with energy and play well against a quality opponent in Wichita State, that will be a good sign for the prospects the rest of the season.

What: UNLV (3-1) vs. Wichita State (3-1)

Where: T-Mobile Arena

When: 9 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

Line: Wichita State -3.5

UNLV leaders

Bryce Hamilton, 18.0 points per game

Royce Hamm, 12.8 rebounds per game

Jordan McCabe, 3.7 assists per game

Wichita State leaders

Tyson Etienne, 15.7 points per game

Dexter Dennis, 6.5 rebounds per game

Qua Grant, 2.5 assists per game

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

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy