Going into Tuesday's game against Arizona State, it was expected that the major challenge for UNLV would be their inability able to keep pace with ASU's high tempo offense. It turned out however, that UNLV was more than capable of running with the Sun Devils. The Rebels played with effort and intensity that made for a hell of a game on Tuesday night. Unfortunately for UNLV, there's a guy named Jahii Carson who plays for the Sun Devils, and he's pretty damn good.
"Jahii is an NBA player" coach Dave Rice said, "...a first round draft pick."
The sophomore guard totaled a career high 40 points (26 in the second half) and whenever ASU found themselves behind, Carson was there to get his team back on track. That being said, there's plenty of blame to go around for the Runnin' Rebels' shortcomings. Almost as much a factor as Jahii Carson's incredible performance, is the Rebels' pitiful free throw shooting. UNLV has been horrible from the line all year, but this is the first (and probably not the last) time you could say it truly cost them a game. When you play a good team like Arizona State, you have to take care of the things you can control. Shooting 15 of 29 from the line won't get it done.
UNLV got solid contributions all around with 5 players in double figures. Roscoe Smith continued to look impressive, almost matching his career high in rebounds from last Friday, grabbing 21 rebounds and putting up 18 points (topping his career high). Center Khem Birch was also a factor for the Rebels with 11 points, 14 rebounds and 8 blocked shots. His intensity was unmatched by any UNLV player on the court and he got all 12,915 fans in attendance at the Thomas and Mack Center on their feet after every block.
I honestly didn't expect the Runnin' Rebels to play as well as they did Tuesday night. For the most part, they played well enough to come away with a victory against a good team. I credit their effort and intensity for keeping the crowd in the game throughout the night and it gave UNLV an advantage they desperately needed. But in the end, when you can't capitalize on free throws and you give a talented team like Arizona State opportunities, your not gonna win games like these.