Bumpy road: Shockers shut down Rebels

UNLV’s first true road trip of the season wasn’t a pretty one as the Runnin’ Rebels dropped a 56-50 decision at Wichita State on Wednesday night in a Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge game.

The Rebels, who came into the contest averaging 83.1 points while shooting 46.7 percent from the floor, tied a season-high with 19 turnovers and shot just 40 percent, including 4-of-17 from 3-point range.

The loss snapped a four-game win streak for UNLV (7-2) while Wichita State (4-4) extended its nonconference home win streak to 34 straight games, second longest behind Duke’s 122 in a row.

HOW IT HAPPENED: UNLV, coming off an impressive 80-69 upset of No. 15 Oregon on Friday night at the MGM Grand Showcase during which it sank 10 3-pointers, managed just eight points in the first 12½ minutes as the Shockers jumped out to a 22-8 lead. All-American point guard Fred VanVleet, in his first extensive action of the season while battling a hamstring injury, repeatedly hurt the Rebels with high screen and rolls, easily penetrating past UNLV big men to the basket for layups or assists. The Rebels closed to within 52-50 on a Jerome Seagears’ 3-pointer with 22.6 seconds left, but failed to convert on any of its three final possessions down the stretch while Wichita State guards Connor Frankamp and Ron Baker sealed the win with two free throws each.

WHO STOOD OUT: VanVleet had 14 of his game-high 17 points in the first half before appearing to tire in the second half while Baker chipped in with 13 points. Freshman Stephen Zimmerman Jr. was the only UNLV player to score in double figures finishing with 11 points and six rebounds while Seagears added nine points and four assists but also had five turnovers.

THE SKINNY: The Shockers, considered a potential Final Four team when healthy, slowed the Runnin’ Rebels to a crawl with their trademark strong defense. UNLV struggled badly offensively in its half-court offense for most of the game with leading scorer Patrick McCaw, who came into the contest averaging 18.4 points per game, failing to score until midway though the second half and finishing with just five points on 2-of-8 shooting. The Rebels forced just nine turnovers as the Shockers finished with a 17-6 edge in points off turnovers.

Wichita State guard Ron Baker on holding UNLV 33 points under its average:
“I think we just stuck to what the scouting report had tonight. … UNLV was pretty simple when it came to their offense, and coach (Isaac) Brown broke down their film very well and we paid attention to detail.”

Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall on holding the Runnin’ Rebels to 22 first half points, including eight in the first 12½ minutes.
“We kept them out of the lane early. They were forced to take a lot of threes. They had some errant threes. … They average (83) points per game, and they shoot it at a very high percentage. They didn’t do that tonight.”

UP NEXT:The Runnin’ Rebels play at UC Riverside (5-3) of the Big West Conference on Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.

NOTABLE: UNLV tied its season-low with nine assists set against Oregon. … The Runnin’ Rebels finished with just two fast-break points. … Freshman guard Jalen Poyser had eight points, including 2-of-2 3-pointers, in 12 minutes off the bench. … The Shockers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and finished with a 10-5 edge in second chance points. … UNLV guard Ike Nwamu, who scored 19 points and connected on 5-of-7 3-pointers in Friday’s win over Oregon, scored five points and was 0-of-5 from 3-point range and 1-of-4 on free throws. … Wichita State won despite shooting just 50 percent (11-of-22) at the free throw line.

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