One game won’t define the UNLV basketball season. One game shouldn’t erase the progress.
But losing in this spot — the Mountain West opener against an evenly matched opponent — hurts.
Just when it appeared the Rebels had turned the corner in rebuilding the program, as witnessed by an 11-2 record in nonleague games and many flashes of solid play, the Rebels regressed tonight in the worst possible spot.
They were ran off their home floor by Boise State 83-74 in an outcome many (that’s me) didn’t see coming. They were lackadaisical in transition defense, surrendered 13 offensive rebounds and became rattled when faced with adversity.
Didn’t see that coming, right?
It’s a reminder that the Rebels, regardless of the remade roster and clear strides, are going to need time develop before again competing for Mountain West supremacy. Entering league play, some thought they could contend for a championship.
Tonight’s outcome surely pumps the brakes on those predictions. Boise State, after all, played like the team to best.
The Broncos (12-2) are well coached. Probably the best-coached team in the league.
You can’t go 6-of-22 on 3-pointers and expect to win, against Boise State or any Mountain West opponent. You can’t lose the rebounding battle by 20 boards and expect to win. Your best player can’t go 2-of-14 from the field.
The Rebels turned a six-point lead into a 13-point deficit in less than seven minutes early in the second half. As Boise State poured in basket after basket, and the Rebels had repeated empty offensive trips, it became glaringly obvious: the Rebels need more time to reestablish themselves.
They were taken out of their game by a more-seasoned team and couldn’t respond. It was probably their worst performance of the season.
Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston in post are the best two interior players in the league, but instead of making them the focus of the offense, UNLV settled for missed outside shot after missed outside shot. When the 3-pointer isn’t falling, try another approach in scoring, or another shooter.
Those misses led to easy Boise State buckets. How many times did the Boise State player beat the UNLV player down the court? Easily five times during the 23-4 scoring outburst to put the game away.
Again, losing one game isn’t the end of the season. If anything, it will give players motivation to continue improving — which is arguably still the lone goal of the season.
When they evaluate what went wrong, they’ll surely look at the transition defense. Regardless of the opponent, you’d can’t lose a footrace down the court. The Rebels, for the first time this season, took second.
The timing of the league opener couldn’t be worse.