After 40 minutes of trying (and failing) to put the ball in the basket, UNLV was handed its worst home loss of the season, 77-64 at the hands of Fresno State.
The Rebels shot just 29.8 percent for the game, including a horrid 8-of-31 performance in the second half. Jordan Johnson shot 1-of-5 and Jovan Mooring connected on just 3-of-16 from the field.
At the other end of the court, Fresno State feasted inside, scoring 44 points in the paint — 18 more than the Rebels managed. Bryson Williams scored 20 on 9-of-13 shooting.
After two straight blowout defeats, UNLV is now 19-9 on the season and 8-7 in the Mountain West. The Rebels will try to break out of their mysterious slump on Sunday when they travel to New Mexico.
Rebels trail Fresno State by 15 late
The Rebels are playing hard, but they haven't been able to sustain offense or make a run in the second half so far, and Fresno State has a 66-51 lead with 7:58 to play.
Fresno State's lead has hovered between 11 and 18 points for the entire half, and UNLV hasn't been able to make a dent. The Rebels are shooting just 5-of-22 since the break, including 0-of-5 from 3-point range.
Both teams are in the double bonus, so free throws could become a factor down the stretch if UNLV is able to creep within single digits.
Fresno State leads UNLV, 58-41
The Rebels' struggles have continued into the second half, and with 13:46 to play, Fresno State has widened its lead to 58-41.
Power forward Bryson Williams has scored 19 points for Fresno, while guard Jaron Hopkins has 17.
UNLV has made just 4-of-13 from the field so far in the second half, including 0-of-3 from 3-point range. With the offense underperforming like that, it's hard to imagine a comeback is in the books over the final 13 minutes.
Fresno State leads UNLV at half, 43-30
Fresno State has a 43-30 lead at halftime, and UNLV is lucky it's not worse.
The first 20 minutes of this game looked like a continuation of the 40 minutes they played at San Diego State, as Fresno outworked and out-executed them at every turn. UNLV made nine field goals in the half and committed 10 turnovers. By all metrics, this game should be a blowout.
But Fresno State is not the type of team that can easily pull away. True to form, the conservative Bulldogs have made only two 3-pointers, which has allowed UNLV to hang within shouting distance.
Jordan Johnson was active in the first half and forced his way to the free throw line, racking up a team-high seven points on 5-of-6 from the stripe. Brandon McCoy struggled through a 1-of-7 shooting performance, so a better half from him is probably essential if the Rebels are going to make a run.
Fresno State reserve big man (and resident Rebel-killer) Terrell Carter hasn't been much of a factor, with zero points and zero rebounds in seven minutes.
Rebels down 25-12 to Fresno State
Jordan Johnson just had his pocket picked at the top of the key, leading to a Deshon Taylor breakaway dunk. The bucket extended Fresno State's lead to 25-12 with 7:38 left in the first half and forced Marvin Menzies to call timeout. As the players moved toward the sideline, the fans in attendance began to boo.
It's been a boo-worthy performance so far. UNLV is shooting 4-of-14 from the field with eight turnovers, and the majority of the offensive possessions have been ugly.
The Rebels are going to be tested tonight. Nothing is coming easy, and they're getting nothing from the home crowd. It will take a ton of mental fortitude to right the ship and get back into this game.
Rebels fall behind Fresno State early
This hasn't been Brandon McCoy's night so far. The freshman big man has taken two ill-advised jump shots (and missed both), he missed an easy layup, and he committed offensive goaltending on a Tervell Beck shot that would have otherwise dropped through the rim.
The rest of the Rebels haven't played much better, and with 11:34 left in the first half, Fresno State has a 16-9 lead.
As expected, the Rebels aren't getting much help from the home crowd. No more than 4,500 fans were present for the opening tipoff, and some of them started booing after a turnover that led to a Fresno State fast break and a foul on UNLV before the last media timeout.
Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Fresno State
It's getting to that point in the season where every game matters, and UNLV's home tilt against Fresno State today is shaping up to be a big one. The Rebels (19-8, 8-6 Mountain West) are tied for fourth place in the conference, while Fresno (19-8, 9-5) sits one game ahead with four to play.
What does UNLV need to do to come out on top? Three keys to watch:
Compete at the 3-point line
Fresno State is an elite shooting team, ranking 12th in the nation in 3-point accuracy (40.7 percent). Fortunately for the Rebels, FSU doesn't attempt many for some reason (318th in attempts).
UNLV has had some difficulties defending opponents that deploy stretch offenses with shooters at every position, and that's not Fresno State. The Bulldogs have two shooters to be concerned about — junior guard Deshon Taylor (40.0 3FG%) and senior guard Jahmel Taylor (42.0 3FG%) — but beyond that, the Bulldogs field a fairly traditional offense.
Look for the Rebels to cling to the two Taylors defensively while relying on the rest of the defense to hold inside the 3-point arc. It's a tenuous game plan that will depend on the frontcourt's ability to contain Terrell Carter, which will be no small task.
To the rest of the world, Fresno State senior forward Terrell Carter is a part-time player who has averaged 4.9 points and 2.5 rebounds per game in his four-year college career. But against UNLV, Carter transforms into something else entirely.
Using his strength and aggressive playing style, the 6-foot-8 ball of burliness has given the Rebels all kinds of problems. In his last four games against UNLV, Carter has averaged 15 points and 5.3 rebounds, and his impact has gone beyond the numbers, as he's been too much of a physical presence for the Rebels to handle.
With the defensive game plan centered on slowing Fresno State's guards, the Rebels can't devote extra attention to Carter in the paint. Don't expect double-teams or help in the post. It will be up to Brandon McCoy, Shakur Juiston and Mbacke Diong to step up in one-on-one situations and keep Carter from wrecking another game.
Play with passion
UNLV came out flat at San Diego State on Saturday, with disastrous consequences. That kind of thing can't happen again against Fresno State at home — or can it?
The Rebels don't have a homecourt advantage at the Thomas & Mack Center, so it will be up to each player to find internal motivation for such a big game. Is MWC tournament seeding enough of a carrot to spike their intensity level? Or maybe they can call on the revenge factor, seeing as how Fresno State beat them in a close game at Fresno last month. Whatever it is, UNLV has to match Fresno's energy or the Bulldogs will beat them up physically and deal the Rebels a painful late-season loss.