UNLV lost to SDSU in a tragic way. Keeping it close in the first 20 minutes, the majority of the second half was a slow drowning that resulted in a double digit loss.
No one expected the Aztecs to run away with the game. And no one expected - or would even imagine - that the Rebels would lose a key player that night: Ben Carter.
Carter went down early in the first half with an apparent knee injury. It was first labeled as a left knee sprain. It took Carter over one minute just to walk the few steps off the floor. He was assisted off the court and could not place any weight on his foot.
His face showed agonizing pain and he was clearly fraught with disappointment. It was the kind of look that a player portrays when he truly questions whether he will be stepping back on the court any time soon.
It was a heart breaking loss for UNLV, a team that has time and time again relied on Carter for physicality off the bench and a spirit to motivate a team that has experienced a share of drama and uncertainty on and off the court this season.
Carter is a talented big man and the most vocal leader that UNLV has this season. He also may be the most consistent, something that UNLV has not possessed this season.
Ben Carter is a product of Las Vegas basketball and graduated from Bishop Gorman High School. And although he spent some time at Oregon, he recently came back to Vegas to finish his collegiate basketball career. He is so proud to play in Las Vegas that just a few days ago, he posted this tweet:
And this season, his numbers have been strong. He averages around 24 minutes per game with a little over 8 points, 6 rebounds, and an assist per game. He also shoots an impressive 55% FG and 75% FT.
But outside the numbers, his leadership has been most impressive. As an elder statesmen among a fairly young squad, front court men such as Stephen Zimmerman and Dwayne Morgan clearly respect and follow Carter's lead.
Both coaches and players have not shared much information about Carter's status over the last two days following the SDSU loss. However, several of them have shared their thoughts about his situation and reemphasize how vital his presence is to the UNLV basketball program:
It's hard to quantify how important Ben Carter is to our program .He's our heartbeat .To call him a glue guy is to be totally uninformed.— Max Good (@CoachMaxGood) January 31, 2016
Keep @Ben_Carter13 in your thoughts. Ben's more than an impact player; he's a pillar of our program with his toughness, spirit & leadership— Todd Simon (@CoachTsimon) January 31, 2016
If Carter cannot return because of a significant knee injury, it would spell out bad news for UNLV. He has been counted on in each game this season to pull rebounds, take charges on defense, and provide an inside-outside offensive threat. Without it, the Rebels would rely much more on Dwayne Morgan to play added minutes.
In a season filled with so many ups and downs, the possibility of losing Ben Carter would be tremendously disappointing for the Rebels.
No matter the outcome, UNLV fans across the country continue to send their well wishes for Carter's injury and are hopeful that he might return some point in this season.
Check back here for updates on Ben Carter's injury status.