Losses, frustration continue to mount for Rebels

Another day, another disappointing ending for UNLV’s basketball team.

The Runnin’ Rebels once again found themselves in position to win an important Mountain West basketball game on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. But in what has become a recurring theme for Dave Rice’s young squad, the Rebels failed to make the key plays down the stretch and dropped a 71-69 decision to New Mexico.

Jordan Goodman’s rebound of a Deshawn Delaney driving miss with 9.1 seconds left proved to be the game-winner for New Mexico (13-6, 5-2). The Rebels had a chance to force overtime on the ensuing possession but Jelan Kendrick had the ball knocked out of his grasp by Arthur Edwards on a drive to the basket and UNLV (10-9, 1-5) lost for the sixth time in its last seven games.

“It’s very frustrating,” freshman guard Rashad Vaughn, who finished with 13 points, said. “To fight through the whole game and still come up short … it’s frustrating. Very frustrating.”
(Check out Barry Wong’s VIDEO highlight package below)

Christian Wood finished with 20 points, including a dunk off a nifty assist by Kendrick that tied it at 69-69 with 39.7 seconds left, and Patrick McCaw added 13 points, six assists and five rebounds for the Rebels, who occupy ninth place in the Mountain West above just Air Force (8-10, 1-6) and woeful San Jose State (2-17, 0-7).

Not exactly what was expected from a team that brought in what was touted as the best recruiting class in school history and one of the five best in the nation.

“We’ve just got to figure out a way to get over the hump,” freshman swingman Jordan Cornish, who had nine points, including 3-of-5 3-pointers, said. “It’s attention to details.”

The details this time once again centered around not blocking out after Delaney’s miss and allowing Goodman to easily put in an offensive rebound for the winning basket. New Mexico, taking full advantage of the absence of starting UNLV forward Goodluck Okonoboh (sore foot), finished with a 38-16 edge in points in the paint and a 9-7 advantage in second chance points.

“Conference season, that’s how it is,” Rice said. “It’s one play here or there. It’s not just at the end of the game. Every play is important.”

Senior guard Hugh Greenwood, who said he had extra motivation to do well because of some tweets from an alleged UNLV fan demeaning his mother Andree’s battle with breast cancer, scored a game-high 22 points, including 6-of-9 3-pointers, to lead New Mexico.

“I don’t mind when people attack me personally,” Greenwood told the Albuquerque Journal afterward. “That’s all well and good. We put ourselves in positions (as basketball players) to do that. But family is different, especially with mum going through what she’s going through. As a family, it’s very, very difficult to (hear) jokes about cancer and jokes about driving my mum here in a hearse. It was hurtful and obviously it motivated me tonight.”

UNLV used its final timeout prior to Kendrick’s final drive.

“It was a situation where we drove it and got the ball to the rim but we just weren’t able to get the ball into the basket,” Rice said. “Any time you can get the ball close to the rim in that situation you’re pleased. We just would have liked to have gotten the ball in the basket.”

The Rebels five Mountain West losses have been by 5, 2, 9 (in OT), 6 and 2 points. All except the 53-47 loss at San Diego State on Saturday afternoon went down to the final possession in regulation.

“We’ve just got to stay together, and continue to work and continue trying to find an answer and continue trying to win,” Vaughn said. “It’s a bumpy road right now and we’re going through it. It’s going to turn around. We’ve just got to continue to stay together, listen to our coaches and try to get better every day.”

UNLV returns to action on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack when it hosts Utah State (11-7, 4-2).

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