UW-UNLV men’s basketball Q&A

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, on Saturday’s game with the University of Wyoming.

Tipoff is at 6 p.m. MT at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

Matt Youmans

Matt Youmans

In your wildest imagination did you ever see the season go as it has for UNLV at 15-13 and 6-9 in the league?

In my wild imagination, if the season turned into a debacle for the Rebels, they could finish fifth in the conference. It appeared to be a team too talented to slip below fifth in a mediocre conference. I always was high on San Diego State, Colorado State and Wyoming, so I had UNLV finishing third or fourth. The Rebels’ upset of Arizona in December fooled some of us who were impressed with this team’s talent and potential. But that said and all excuses aside, to finish seventh or eighth is just ridiculous.

 

Injuries have played a factor in the struggles, but what else has led to the team’s shortcomings this season?

The Rebels were starting to put things together before the Rashad Vaughn injury. Still, that’s an excuse, too, because they lost six of seven games from Dec. 31 to Jan. 21 with Vaughn in the lineup. UNLV has come up short in most close games, and part of that is young players failing to execute and learning how to win, and part of that is the coaches not making the right moves. For a variety of reasons, it’s not a good defensive team. You always can find a few stats that say the defense is solid. But a good defensive team does not allow 51 points in the second half to Air Force or 48 points in the second half to Utah State, etc. A consistently good offensive team does not score 48 points in a home loss to Boise State. This team never has developed a real identity, and that’s a big problem.

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UW-UNLV men’s basketball Q&A

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 Wednesday’s Mountain West opener for both teams. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

Follow on Twitter: @mattyoumans247

Matt Youmans

Matt Youmans

With UNLV’s 71-67 win over No. 3 Arizona last week, who now is No. 8 this week, have the Rebels found themselves heading into league play with a roster filled with young talent?

A lot has changed in a week. The Rebels looked a little lost and were being disregarded going into the Arizona game. Believe it or not, that was the first time since December 1995 that UNLV was a double-digit home underdog. This team took severe beatings from Stanford and Arizona State. But the young guys actually did find themselves last week. Chris Wood dominated inside and Rashad Vaughn took over as the leader and go-to scorer. Patrick McCaw, Dwayne Morgan and Jordan Cornish are playing with more confidence as freshmen off the bench. Now this team has a true belief it can beat or compete with anyone.

How is the team different, aside from the youth, than the last couple of UNLV teams?

Cody Doolin, as a senior point guard, has added maturity and set a good example for the young players. Also, and this is very important, the coaching staff is doing a better job of running a disciplined program. Last year, it was the ‘inmates running the asylum’ cliché. There are obvious improvements in team chemistry and maturity. The victory over Arizona helps in that everyone is buying in to what the coaches are selling now.

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Shyatt couldn’t be happier with play, presence of Nance Jr.

Conference play begins Wednesday in the Mountain West, and Wyoming hosts UNLV at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Laramie.

Matt Youmans, who covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal asked UW coach Larry Shyatt about senior forward Larry Nance Jr. and his return from ACL surgery back in early March. Youmans asked Shyatt if Nance has exceeded his expectations as far as his return and play so far this season.

Larry Nance

Larry Nance

“Larry’s never exceed my expectations in anything because it starts with the family and his value system,” Shyatt said. “Then it flowers onto the court. Was he ahead of schedule from a physical aspect? Absolutely. In this day and age, with young athletes I’ve had a chance to watch, coach and coach against, what  breath of fresh air to have a person that’s both fun to be around off the floor and who understands the game mentally.”

Nance was voted as the Preseason Player of the Year in the MW by the media, and Youmans asked Shyatt if he thinks Nance is the best player in the league.

“I haven’t seen many of the players, nor would I get into predictions,” Shyatt said. “You let that play out. It’s sort of fun to write and talk about, but it’s absurd to speculate when we haven’t had a league game yet.”

Nance leads UW with 14.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game. He also is shooting 57 percent from the field (69 of 121). Nance is second in steals (1.3 per game) and third in assists (2.3 per game).

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UW-UNLV postgame thoughts

They played hard, the effort was there and so was the guts and determination to make a late-game charge.

But it wasn’t enough for the Wyoming Cowboys as they lost 71-67 to UNLV in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament Thursday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

UW (18-14), the tournament’s fifth seed, lost its 13th straight game to UNLV in Las Vegas. It will find out late Sunday night if it plays in the postseason. It should get an invite to the CBI or CIT tournaments.

Here are some second half highlights:


Thursday’s game was a bit odd.

Sophomore guard Josh Adams carried the Cowboys in the first half. He scored 18 of his game-high 24 points then, including a dunk that had the entire crowd — about an even split of UW and UNLV fans — in awe. Adams also had seven rebounds, three assists and tied a career-high with two blocked shots.

UNLV kept Adams at bay in the second half, then it was Jerron Granberry’s turn. All of his career-high 18 points came in the second half. He scored UW’s first 10 points to start the half, and his three-point play with 23.1 seconds left pulled the Cowboys to within one at 66-65.

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UW-UNLV men’s basketball Q&A

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.

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UW-UNLV men’s hoops Q&A

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.

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UW-UNLV Q&A

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.

UNLV (20-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) plays at Wyoming (18-8, 4-8) at 5:30 p.m. today in Laramie.

Question: UNLV has won 14 straight home games but has struggled on the road, especially in league play. What are the main reasons for the Rebels’ road woes?

Answer: When you say “struggled” you’re being too kind. The Rebels are 1-9 in their past 10 Mountain West road games, a pathetic skid that started with a 68-66 loss at Wyoming last Feb. 4. The coaches and players share the blame. The coaches are obviously not motivating the players or making the necessary adjustments on the road, and the players need to be held accountable for a lack of effort and intensity. UNLV’s past three losses at Air Force, Fresno State and Boise State were particularly disturbing because the team’s effort was poor. In addition to those factors, the Rebels have all kinds of problems scoring in their half-court offense, and most of the conference road games are played at a slower pace. Defense travels better than offense, too, and UNLV is weaker defensively under Dave Rice than it was under Lon Kruger. It’s an immature team with a relatively new coaching staff, so some struggles on the road can be expected, but 1-9 is ridiculous.

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UW-UNLV Q&A

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.

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UW-UNLV Q&A

For the second time in less than a week, Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and who covers UNLV men’s basketball answered five questions I had for him on Thursday’s game with Wyoming in the quarterfinals of the MW Tournament.

What was your take of last Saturday’s UNLV-Wyoming game and what surprised you the most about the outcome of the game? The Cowboys played well, the Rebels shot well as expected, and the officiating was awful. Two soccer flops by UNLV players drew key fouls on Leonard Washington and JayDee Luster. Sometimes officials act as if they get paid by the whistle. The game was choppy and ugly because of too many unnecessary foul calls. That did not surprise me, because I get used to seeing poor officiating, and the final score didn’t surprise me. But in reality it was closer than an 11-point game.
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UW-UNLV Q&A

Matt Youmans covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he answered five questions I had for him about Saturday’s game with Wyoming.

What is the big difference between UNLV at home and on the road? The Rebels feed off the crowd at home and really excel in their transition offense. On the road, they are lackadaisical defensively, don’t run nearly as much and rely too much on 3-point shooting. This UNLV team does not defend or rebound that well, which is obviously a bad combination, especially on the road. The emphasis on 3s, with little interior offense, is the team’s fatal flaw. But the Rebels shoot so much better on their home floor, that helps every other aspect of their play.

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