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October 1, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Instant Analysis: UNLV’s loss to 11-win Fresno State unexpected, unacceptable

The Rebels go scoreless the final 9 minutes, 52 seconds of the game in one of the worst home defeats in program history

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

A UNLV fan rests his chin in his hand in the final minutes of their game against Fresno State Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Fresno State, a 14-point underdog, upset the Runnin’ Rebels 61-52.

UNLV vs. Fresno State: March 9, 2013

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall waits to congratulate Fresno State after their game Saturday, March 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Fresno State, a 14-point underdog, upset UNLV 61-52. Launch slideshow »

Before the disaster that was the UNLV basketball team’s second loss of the season to lowly Fresno State, a script read by the public address announcer during the Rebels’ Senior Day celebration raised a red flag.

When introducing Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center for their final game, making four straight NCAA Tournaments was listed in each of their accomplishments. OK, I get it, the Rebels are 99.9 percent guaranteed to have their name called next Sunday.

It’s just a pair of defeats to 11-win Fresno State will surely be a gigantic black eye when the seeding gods huddle next weekend to piece together the bracket. The Rebels entered winning six of their past seven games, and five straight, working their way from the dreaded 8-9 line in seeding projections to a more manageable No. 4 to 6 seed.

Then, Fresno State came to town. And, in one of the uglier home defeats in UNLV history (yes, I wrote that), prevailed, 61-52.

The Rebels gave up way too many offensive rebounds, were ineffective offensively and got out-hustled by a team with little talent. UNLV entered 34-1 in its past 35 games at home and was a 15-point betting favorite — somehow Fresno State, not San Diego State or New Mexico, stopped the trend.

UNLV didn’t make a shot in the final 9 minutes, 52 seconds of the game. Again, UNLV didn’t make a shot in the final 9:52.

While the accomplishment of becoming the first UNLV players since Stacey Augmon and Chris Jeter from the back-to-back Final Four teams to make the tournament is nice, winning a game in the “Big Dance” would be a more significant accomplishment for Hawkins and Marshall. That’s why I thought the announcement is odd — the expectation at UNLV should be doing more than making the tournament.

To make that happen, the Rebels need to play a perfect game. The tournament is all about matchups, peaking at the right time, and in all honestly, luck. UNLV has proved in the defeats to Fresno State that it can’t overcome a team that plays its best or makes all of its shots.

It doesn’t matter that Fresno State made 8 of 12 of its 3-pointers in the first half; the Rebels got beat by a team they had no business losing to. What’s even more disappointing is how they were out of rhythm offensively and played with little urgency. Come on, 52 points at home. Against Fresno.

Everyone in the arena sensed UNLV would eventually pull away. (I even started writing about how they overcome adversity). Looks like the UNLV players had the same mindset, and in sports, that’s a formula for disaster.

The Rebels gave an underdog a glimmer of hope, and they paid for it. Dearly for it — the Rebels are back on that 8-9 seeding line. Ugh.

A 23-win regular season: When it is all said and done, the UNLV season won’t be judged by 23 wins, losses to Fresno State or great home wins against the Mountain West’s better teams. They’ll be solely judged on the postseason and how they survive and advance. If they Rebels can win next week’s Mountain West Conference tournament or advance to the second week of the NCAA Tournament, the season will still be considered a success. Yes, 23 wins is disappointing. It about three fewer than a team with this much talent is capable of. Right now, you can classify the season as one of underachieving. But it’s not over. There is much basketball left to play.

UNLV does it right on Senior Day: From a majority of fans wearing white to the crowd singing the national anthem and coach Dave Rice starting all three seniors, Saturday was an event Justin Hawkins, Anthony Marshall and Quintrell Thomas will surely cherish. It was a first-class ceremony by everyone involved. They also honored cheerleaders, members of the band and Jon "Jersey" Goldman — better known as the mascot, Hey Reb. Goldman received a framed No. 57 (UNLV, of course, opened in 1957) jersey and exchanged long hugs with school officials while uncontrollably crying. It was a good reminder of how important this basketball team is to our city. In good times and bad in Las Vegas, and there’s no secret our economy has struggled in recent years, the Rebels have been there to give us a reason to cheer. From the players, cheerleaders and Hey Reb, it’s a labor of love. Three cheers for UNLV honoring those students who are often lost in the shadow of the basketball players. It’s Scarlet. Gray. Every day. Well, except on Senior Day, which was a white-out game.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Unexplainable? no , unacceptable ? yes. So I guess the fans will really be upset when they lose in the first round in the MWC tournament. Ohhhh let's see could it be hmmmmm Fresno again in the first round?. If Boise States' point man hadn't fouled out in the last few minutes of the game earlier in the week UNLV would have lost that one too. When you have an inferior coaching staff you can't expect to win continuosly. No defense , no offensive rebounds, bad passing, poor ball handling, looks like it's very explainable.

  2. The Mountain West is probably the top league in the nation right now in RPI. (New Mexico just lost, at home, to Air Force.) There are no bottom feeders in this league, judging by how both UNR and Fresno have played as of late. So, this was one game, and it's over. See you Wednesday, Rebels!

  3. oh dang, I misread the title ,it reads unexpected not unexplainable , I'm so sorry, but still the same it was not unexpected according to Dave Rice.