FORT COLLINS, Colo. – For about six minutes in the second half on Wednesday night at Moby Arena, UNLV showed a glimpse of the type of dominating basketball it is capable of.
The Runnin’ Rebels, trailing 41-32 with 15 minutes to go, went on a 23-4 run behind the 3-point shooting of freshman Jalen Poyser and the tough inside play of junior forward Ben Carter, who would finish tying his career-high with 16 points while grabbing a career-high 12 rebounds.
But for the second straight game, the Rebels collapsed at the finish line thanks to costly turnovers, poor defense and a key front end miss of a one-and-one by usually reliable Stephen Zimmerman Jr. and dropped a devastating 66-65 decision to Colorado State.
UNLV (9-6), expected to contend for the Mountain West title, is now off to a surprising 0-2 start in conference play.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Guard John Gillon, who had an open path to the basket after driving past senior guard Jerome Seagears, was fouled by Carter and sank the second of two free throws with 1.1 seconds left for the game-winning point, capping a 8-3 run by the Rams over the final 47.4 seconds. The Rebels finished with 18 turnovers, including a key one by Carter when he overthrew Patrick McCaw on an inbounds pass with 47 seconds left that enabled CSU guard J.D. Paige (nine points) to toss in a short floater that cut UNLV’s lead to one. After Zimmerman missed the front end of a one-and-one, Paige drove for a layup and was fouled and converted the three-point play to give Colorado State a 65-63 lead. UNLV tied it on McCaw’s driving layup with 6.6 seconds left, but Gillon came right back and was fouled on his drive to set the stage for his game-winning free throw. The Rebels were out of timeouts and McCaw then missed a 60-foot desperation heave at the buzzer.
WHO STOOD OUT: Carter, McCaw (11 points, 5 assists, 5 steals) and Poyser (12 points, 2-of-3 3-pointers) all had big games while Zimmerman added nine points and eight rebounds before fouling out. Stocky senior forward Tiel Daniels, a transfer from Southern Illinois, led the Rams with 12 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks while junior forward Emmanuel Omogbo and freshman guard Prentiss Nixon added 11 points each.
THE SKINNY: The Rebels are 2-5 over their last seven games including losses to Arizona State (66-56), Fresno State (69-66) and Wednesday night to the Rams that featured frustrating second half meltdowns. Turnovers – Colorado State finished with a 22-10 edge in points off turnovers – and suspect free throw shooting (9-of-16, 56.3 percent) continue to be a problem. Rice gave his squad a loud, profanity-filled tongue-lashing afterward that could be heard down the hallway from the locker room while Carter, who dedicated the game to his late grandmother, was seen openly sobbing outside the locker room immediately after the game. Yeah, this one hurt.
QUOTES TO NOTE:
UNLV coach Dave Rice on UNLV blowing a 10-point lead in the final seven minutes, including getting outscored 8-3 in the final 47.4 seconds.
“We put ourselves in position to win the game and we did not get it done. Too many mistakes tonight. It’s unacceptable. … It can’t keep happening. We’ve got to execute better. We’ve got to count on our guys making better plays than that. We work on it all the time, and we’ve got to do better than that.”
Rice on his feelings after blowing a second straight winnable Mountain West Conference game at the wire.
“I’m pissed off. It’s ridiculous. It can’t keep happening. We know what we’re supposed to do and we didn’t do it. Bottom line. … We’ve got to be tough enough down the stretch to make winning plays and win games. That’s how this thing works.”
Carter on Rice’s loud postgame locker room dressing down of the squad.
“We gave that one away, and a lot of it was on me. I had some crucial turnovers and a bad foul at the end. I understand Coach Rice’s frustration. He should be frustrated. We’re not showing how good we can be, how good we are. Back to the drawing board. We’ll get better.”
UP NEXT: The Runnin’ Rebels (9-6, 0-2 Mountain West) are scheduled to stay in Colorado and practice in Denver for two days before heading to Laramie, Wyo., for a Saturday afternoon game against defending Mountain West Tournament champion Wyoming (8-6, 1-2), which defeated Air Force, 64-52, on Wednesday. The game will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 3 p.m. PST.
NOTABLE: McCaw, who started at point guard and was urged to become more assertive offensively, finished with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting, including just 2-of-8 from 3-point range. He is now 4-for-21 from beyond the arc in his last five games. … Freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr. made his first college start and finished with seven points and two rebounds in 22 minutes of action. … Poyser had his third consecutive double-figure game off the bench and is averaging 13.3 points while having connected on 7-of-11 3-pointers during that span. … McCaw has committed nine turnovers in two Mountain West games.
RIP grandma sue! this one is for you tonight ????
— Ben Carter (@Ben_Carter13) January 6, 2016