LAS VEGAS -- It was a big game for all the wrong reasons. UNLV was honoring the late Jerry Tarkanian with a blackout, towels and a pregame tribute to Tark the Shark. But Boise State came in and spoiled the night with a 53-48 victory.
"It was a very physical game, and they were able to knock us off the block and push us off our spots a bit," head coach Dave Rice said.
UNLV shot just 18 of 60 from the field (30%) and 2 of 18 on threes (11.1%). The Runnin’ Rebels scored just .69 points per possession; it was UNLV’s second least efficient performance on offense this season.
But Dave Rice’s side had a chance to knock off Boise State due to the Broncos ineptitude on the offensive end. Boise State shot even worse than UNLV from three (1 of 18), but was better overall at 37.9 percent from the field.
UNLV held the most efficient offense in the Mountain West to .77 points per possession; it was the least efficient night of the season for Boise State.
The reason for UNLV’s defensive success came from switching screens. It was a strategy that Rice employed in the first meeting that Boise State won in overtime. Switching screens took away the three-pointer – Boise State is top 10 in the country in three-point field goal percentage.
But switching every ball screen leads to lots of mismatches, but UNLV was good enough to force tough shots even when the Broncos had a favorable matchup. The problem was on the other end.
A Rebel squad that’s without its leading scorer Rashad Vaughn, who had surgery on Wednesday to fix a torn meniscus, was desperate for offense. Jelan Kendrick and Goodluck Okonoboh were the only two Rebels to post anything near an efficient performance. Kendrick scored 15 points on 6 of 15 shooting, including hitting UNLV’s only two threes; Okonoboh had 10 points on 3 of 5 shooting.
But Chris Wood’s 4 of 13 and Pat McCaw’s 2 of 10 shooting sunk the Rebels. UNLV’s top two options were held to a combined 17 points on 6 of 23 shooting (0 of 7 from three). They were so ineffective, Rice was calling plays for Kendrick and Okonoboh in the final five minutes.
But now for UNLV, which sits at 14-12 (5-8), the season isn’t about achieving preseason goals.
"What I want for us, starting with New Mexico on Saturday, is for every guy to be able to look in the mirror at the end of the game and say that they did everything they possibly could to try to help the team," Rice said.
But for the Broncos (19-7, 9-4 MW), this was another step toward chasing an NCAA Tournament bid. Boise State’s RPI sits at 36, according to WarrenNolan.com. The Broncos sit 54th in KenPom.com’s ratings and are projected to win four of their last five games.
UNLV heads to New Mexico on Saturday, while Boise State heads home for a date with Nevada.
Chris Wood did not start, but played 34 minutes, due to missing an "academic appointment".