UNLV coach Dave Rice isn’t big on moral victories. But that’s exactly what his team left famed Allen Fieldhouse with on Sunday afternoon.
The Runnin’ Rebels (9-5) finished arguably the toughest scheduling stretch in school history – three games against top-15 ranked teams in 16 days along with a key Mountain West trip to icy Wyoming thrown in for good measure – with a closer-than-the-final-score indicates 71-56 loss at No. 13 Kansas.
UNLV led at halftime, 33-29, and was tied 51-51 with less than 12 minutes to go before the Rebels appeared to finally run out of gas.
Point guard Frank Mason III scored seven of his game-high 18 points during an eight-minute stretch that saw the Jayhawks (11-2) outscore the Rebels 21-6 and UNLV, which made just two of its final nine shots, never got closer than 13 points the rest of the way.
“We don’t take consolation in the fact that we played them close and that we were in the game,” Rice said. “What we do take consolation in is that we made progress and we played well. We’re very disappointed with the outcome … but this will help us moving forward for sure.
“We were right there for about 32 minutes and we have to continue to get better at winning these types of games.”
Christian Wood and Cody Doolin each scored 12 points to lead the Rebels, who fell to 0-5 all-time against the Jayhawks. Rashad Vaughn, noticeably battling the effects of the flu, and Jelan Kendrick each added 10 points while Goodluck Okonoboh finished with six points, seven rebounds and five blocks and Patrick McCaw scored nine points.
“I thought we out-toughed them in the first half,” Rice said. “We just got out-executed in the second half.”
Kansas, meanwhile, turned up the heat, shooting 60 percent from the floor after intermission, including 5-of-8 from 3-point range. The Jayhawks finished with a 45-31 rebounding edge, a 19-4 advantage in fast break points and also turned 12 UNLV turnovers into a 20-6 edge in points off turnovers.
Former Findlay Prep star Kelly Oubre , had his second career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds while Wayne Seldon Jr. and Perry Ellis each finished with 16 points to join Mason in double-figures.
“They are a very good defensive basketball team,” Doolin, who also finished with seven assists, said. “I thought coming out into the second half their pressure affected us a little bit as far as them denying us on the wing.”
UNLV made just 10-of-29 shots (34.5 percent) in the second half, including a number of open 3-pointers, and was outrebounded, 22-10, after intermission.
“We just have to be a little stronger and tougher,” Doolin said, “but I was very pleased with our effort in the first 32 minutes or so.”
UNLV returns to Mountain West action on Wednesday night when it hosts rival Nevada (5-8, 1-0), which knocked off visiting Air Force, 80-62, on Saturday for its third straight win, at 8 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center.