Blog: UNLV goes cold late in 67-64 loss to Fresno State

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Steve Marcus

Fresno State Bulldogs forward Orlando Robinson (10) and UNLV Rebels guard David Jenkins Jr. (5) fight for a rebound during a game at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021.

Published Wed, Feb 24, 2021 (7 p.m.)

Updated Wed, Feb 24, 2021 (10:23 p.m.)

UNLV failed to get off a potential game-tying shot on its final desperation possession, and Fresno State pulled out a 67-64 win.

The second half got ugly for the home team, as the offense completely stagnated and the team was unable to generate any open looks. Bryce Hamilton made a handful of contested shots, but that was the extent of UNLV's scoring down the stretch. Hamilton finished with 27 points and zero assists.

After Fresno State made 1-of-2 free throws with 3.6 seconds left, UNLV had one more chance to attempt a tying 3. Caleb Grill took the inbound pass at halfcourt and attempted to throw it ahead to David Jenkins, but the play was busted and time ran out as Jenkins lunged to corral the off-target pass.

Fresno State dominated in two areas: the 3-point line and the free-throw line. The Bulldogs made 10 3-pointers to UNLV's three, and they made 17 free throws to UNLV's nine.

UNLV is now 10-12 on the season and falls to 7-8 in Mountain West play. These two teams will meet again on Friday.

Fresno State leads UNLV late

This has turned into a brawl, and Fresno State is taking it to UNLV.

UNLV went more than five minutes without a field goal to allow Fresno State to pull ahead, and with 3:47 remaining the Bulldogs have a 60-54 lead.

UNLV is now shooting 45.3 percent from the field, but just 2-of-12 from 3-point range. Meanwhile, Fresno State has hit 10-of-26 from beyond the arc. Adding to UNLV's scoring woes, Nick Blake and Mbacke Diong have both missed the front end of a 1-and-1, which is indicative of how difficult it has been for them to put the ball through the basket in the last few minutes.

Moses Wood just fouled out as well, giving T.J. Otzelberger fewer offensive options as the game enters the stretch. Diong has had an excellent game, with 16 points and eight rebounds, but he has hardly touched the ball in the last 10 minutes.

Fresno State just looks like the fresher, more aggressive team right now.

UNLV surges ahead to open second half

Bryce Hamilton and Mbacke Diong continue to carry UNLV, and with less than 12 minutes remaining the scarlet and gray hold a 48-44 lead.

Hamilton is up to 18 points after hitting a 3-pointer and dropping in a floater, and Diong scored on a putback to help UNLV surge ahead just after halftime.

The UNLV lead could be a little bigger, but freshman guard Nick Blake just got pickpocketed by Fresno's Deon Stroud, who went the other way and threw down a 360-degree dunk. T.J. Otzelberger called timeout after that play to settle his team down.

Fresno State leads UNLV at half

UNLV suffered through an ice-cold shooting half, and Fresno State has taken advantage by building a 32-30 lead at the break.

It seemed like the scarlet and gray couldn't buy a jump shot over the first 20 minutes, as they made just 1-of-9 from 3-point range. David Jenkins, who came into the game as the No. 16 3-pointer shooter in the nation, has missed all four of his long-distance attempts so far.

At the other end of the floor, a usually weak-shooting Fresno State squad managed to connect on 7-of-15 from deep. UNLV's defensive game plan has accommodated them, as they're sagging off shooters and daring the Bulldogs to make them; so far, they've made enough to keep UNLV at bay on the scoreboard.

Bryce Hamilton is leading the way for UNLV with 11 points, while Mbacke Diong has 10 points and four rebounds. Fresno State's leading scorer is guard Deon Stroud, who has made two 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 12 points.

UNLV tied with Fresno State in first half

Fresno State is frustrating UNLV with hot shooting from 3-point range, and with 7:23 left in the first half we've got a 22-22 tie.

Mbacke Diong has come to life in the last few minutes, throwing down an alley-oop dunk and then getting a steal and going coast-to-coast for another dunk to give him seven points already, but Fresno has countered by shooting the ball better than they have all season. Four Bulldogs have already hit 3-pointers, and they're 6-of-12 from long distance as a team. Conversely, UNLV is just 1-of-7 from deep.

If Fresno State cools off or if UNLV starts connecting, the scarlet and gray may be able to create some separation.

Bryce Hamilton hitting early for UNLV

Bryce Hamilton has come out firing, and thanks to his six quick points UNLV has a 9-8 lead over Fresno State with 15:33 left in the first half.

Hamilton struggled on Sunday against San Jose State, shooting 7-of-25, but he has connected on three of his first four shots tonight, including a couple of tough in-between floaters, to help UNLV get off to a good start at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV appears to be making it a point to get the ball to Hamilton on the move, as all of his touches have come on off-ball screens designed to get him downhill in a hurry. Let's see how Fresno State adjusts as the game goes on.

Freshman guard Nick Blake accounted for UNLV's other bucket with a long 3-pointer.

Three keys for UNLV vs. Fresno State

UNLV got back to .500 in Mountain West play (7-7, 10-11 overall) by virtue of a two-game sweep at San Jose State last week, and now the scarlet and gray will try to keep that momentum going when they host Fresno State for a two-game set at the Thomas & Mack Center starting tonight (8 p.m., FOX Sports 1).

Three keys to watch:

Post offense

T.J. Otzelberger has spent all season trying to figure out a way to maximize his team’s production, and against San Jose State the answer was throwing the ball into the post on offense. That old-fashioned method worked — for two games, at least — as freshman Devin Tillis backed his way in and had good success down low.

Will UNLV stick with that kind of methodical offensive approach, or was it an opponent-specific wrinkle? We should find out in the first few possessions against Fresno State.

Jenkins’ shooting

Junior guard David Jenkins got off to a slow start this year, but he’s been on fire over the second half and now ranks No. 16 in the nation in 3-point shooting (43.3%). He has been deadly off the bench of late, checking in with a green light and making 19 3-pointers over the last six games.

Now that their best outside shooter is locked in, can UNLV find a way to get him more open looks? Jenkins is averaging 6.0 long-range attempts per game, but the UNLV offense could be even more efficient if they can get him up to eight or nine attempts. Keep an eye out for designed plays run to spring Jenkins free beyond the arc.

Diong’s defense

Fresno State big man Orlando Robinson is a tough cover. He is 7-feet tall and has the range to step out and shoot the ball (41.7% from 3-point range on 1.3 attempts per game), so UNLV will need a strong defensive performance from senior Mbacke Diong.

Aside from Robinson, Fresno State is bereft of offensive talent, and the Bulldogs are especially lacking in outside shooting. If Diong keeps Robinson in check, the rest of UNLV’s defenders should be able to win their matchups.

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

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