The UNLV Rebels played their worst half of basketball this season, committed an outlandish amount of turnovers, and their best scorer, Patrick McCaw, seemed disinterested - or tired - much of the game. UNLV definitely let this game go by losing a low scoring game, 56-50.
Wednesday evening's match up against the Wichita State Shockers was completely winnable for the Rebs, but surprisingly, it was not a zone defense that stifled UNLV. Instead, it was the Shockers relentless half court man defense that slowed the pace of the usual fast speed UNLV attack. It caused the Rebels to commit 19 turnovers.
In addition to failing to harness needed defensive rebounds -- especially in the last 2 minutes of what became close game -- the Rebels couldn't respond to any run that the Shockers made.
Therefore, in their first true road test of the season, the Rebels faltered. Again, as affirmed over a week ago, a plague to the Rice era has been an inability to convert wins on the road. Wednesday was an ideal example.
Many of the young Rebels looked lethargic and became easily discouraged that they experienced their first true slice of "home cookin'" on the road going in Wichita State's favor (a team almost unbeatable at home). The foul calls did not go the Rebels' way and the Shockers' crowd was roaring. The Rebels looked, how shall I say, shocked.
So far, based on my earlier predictions last week on UNLV's 5 game non-conference test, I am 2-0. The Rebels are 1-1. As I mentioned in a previous piece, I didn't believe the Rebels could undo the Shockers home dominance and their more experienced squad (even though the Shockers didn't play as a dominant, well seasoned team).
A good sign for Rebel fans: If UNLV had to be as offensively stagnant as they were, it is a good thing to get it over with early in the season. Hopefully, the Rebels will never experience another game where they can't achieve scoring 30 points until minutes into the second half. A bad sign for Rebel fans, when the Rebels' offense goes silent, it seems to be contagious for the entire team, and for the entire game.