Milli Vanilli probably had worse back-to-back road performances during their brief career than UNLV compiled during the last week. Cool thing is: there’s not a reason the Rebels should run off stage.
Plenty went wrong (again) during UNLV’s loss at 16th-ranked Wisconsin. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s only early December. That’s when kinks are to be worked out, especially on the road. The Badgers enforced their ‘no-running’ rule to a tee, as frustration mounted with every possession the Runnin’ Rebels forced.
This is still a helluva of a non-conference road schedule for the Rebels as they continue to grind out the remainder of it.
Credit Wisconsin and their veteran head coach Bo Ryan for doing what they do best in a place their opposition really doesn’t get their way in. There’s no shame in walking away from a place like that with a loss. That said, can’t buy the notion this game couldn’t have been competitive, or that it was unwinnable even.
One thing UNLV did well was hold Wisconsin to under 40% shooting all game, though they were beaten in the rebounding, assists, turnovers and steals categories. The Rebels rushed shots virtually the entire time until cutting the lead to single digits with less than three minutes left when they finally committed to the post. That move also cost them precious time.
UNLV guards struggled for the second straight road contest, shooting a combined 7 for 25 (28%) from the floor. As the guards go, the Rebels go. Besides Mike Moser, there doesn’t seem to be much desire for rebounding as a team right now. Defense was also suspect. That’s strange considering there are two coaches on the Rebels’ bench with stellar reputations for teaching defense. But, it’s December, and that’s when new coaching staffs develop more chemistry. That’s when poor performances, lethargy and whatnot should be had.
A college basketball team’s best basketball should start to bloom sometime in early March. The Rebels are far from it time-wise and sort of far performance-wise. That’s okay. In regard to premium seeding for the NCAA tournament, these losses are tough if the goal is say, to earn a 3-seed. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with expectations. A veteran team are the Rebels, but a new style and staff will expend its share of growing pains on all of them. You could see the resistance; it was easier for UNLV to revert back to old habits against Wisconsin when they weren’t easily afforded their new brand of basketball. If you’re UNLV, you break old habits in December and have new ones formed by February.
The Rebels probably aren’t going to give themselves a break over it, as it’s not their way. Coach Dave Rice will most likely hold himself and his staff accountable for these results. Fans, however, shouldn’t be as hard on them.
It’s early. It’s only December.