WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about Thursday’s game with the University of Wyoming at 3:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247
Is UNLV where you thought it would be at the beginning of the season with the fourth seed heading into the Mountain West Tournament?
It’s not surprising to me. I picked the Rebels fourth in the preseason poll. Two potential problems were obvious in October practices – the top six players were transfers, and there were not enough shooters on the team. The biggest surprise to me is Nevada getting the No. 3 seed, even though I consider Deonte Burton the top NBA prospect in the conference. The next big surprise is Boise State being so bad in relation to its expectations and experience.
The Runnin’ Rebels may have been the most up and down team in the MW this season. Is it the influx of new faces or do you see anything else there?
The absence of a true leader and go-to scorer was a major issue in several of the losses, for the most part. No player stepped up to take control of the team. Point guard play was a weakness for about two months. The Rebels were really shaky down the stretch in some key games. The on-court chemistry between the players is not that impressive, and the coaching staff does not manage or teach shot selection very effectively.
Wyoming played at the pace it wanted, but UNLV showed it also could slow the game down and overcome what the Cowboys do to frustrate teams as the Runnin’ Rebels grinded out a 48-46 win Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
For the fifth time in 10 conference games for UW, this one was decided by a single basket. And for sixth time this season, junior forward Larry Nance Jr. had a chance to win or tie a game. But down two his short shot in the key, which was contested by UNLV junior forward Khem Birch, didn’t fall.
Nance has made game-winning shots three times, and three times he did not. But in those instances where he didn’t, it wasn’t because of a lack of effort, want-to or it wasn’t what UW wanted. In all those cases, it wanted Nance with the ball.
Here is some second half highlights, including the final possessions of the game:
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, about tonight’s game with the University of Wyoming at 8 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247
UNLV’s play this season has been up and down, so what would you say are the biggest factors for that?
The Rebels’ top six scorers are transfers – from USC, Pittsburgh, Connecticut, Fresno State, Mississippi State and Mississippi – and the next two players in their rotation are freshmen. For whatever reasons, the coaching staff has struggled to coax consistent efforts out of this team. Inexperience and instability at the point guard position was a problem early in the season, but the bigger issue now seems to be the absence of strong leadership. UNLV is a weak perimeter shooting team and a poor defensive team when it comes to stopping guards off the dribble. It’s a team with a lot of issues.
The team was selected by the coaches and selected media, and I was one of those selected to vote.
My first team was the same as the coaches and other media members. I also picked New Mexico junior guard Kendall Williams as the Player of the Year, New Mexico’s Steve Alford as the Coach of the Year, UNLV forward Anthony Bennett as Freshman of the Year and Colorado State’s Colton Iverson as the Newcomer of the Year.
WyoSports senior editor Robert Gagliardi did a question-and-answer session with UNLV men’s basketball beat writer Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal about tonight’s game with Wyoming at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.
Look for Q&As with writers who cover the Mountain West foes of UW throughout the conference season.
Question: At 15-4 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West, how would you assess UNLV’s play to this point? What’s been good and not so good? Answer:The Rebels have shown only brief flashes of their potential, but that’s not surprising. From the start, I expected this team to underachieve according to expectations the first two months of the season and begin to peak in February and March. Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser and Khem Birch have started only three games together on the front line. Bennett, Birch and guards Katin Reinhardt and Bryce Dejean-Jones are newcomers. It’s not a young team at this point, but it’s a group still learning how to play together as a team, especially on the offensive end. UNLV’s resume was not that impressive until it beat San Diego State on the road last week. At the same time, the Rebels don’t have any bad losses, and each of their four losses were by six points or fewer to quality opponents — Oregon, North Carolina, New Mexico and Colorado State.