Saturday afternoon's tilt at the Thomas & Mack, featured two teams on complete opposite sides of the standings, and two teams trending in complete opposite directions.
UNLV (10-19, 3-13), all alone in the cellar of the Mountain West Conference, and in the midst of an eight game losing streak, which most recently featured an 81-58 drubbing at the hands of the Air Force Falcons. Nevada (23-6, 12-4), tied for first place, winners of four of their last five games, with one of those four being a 104-77 whooping of the Rebels. And this game went exactly as you would have expected a first versus last game to go, as UNR hammered an uninspired Rebels team 94-58.
After matching shots and playing with the Wolf Pack for the first five minutes of the game, the much more talented UNR team began to pull away and entered halftime with a 15 point, 45-30 lead.
The Rebels disappointing season can be accurately summed up in the final two plays of the half.
After a discombobulated attempt at a pick roll didn’t work, point guard Jovan Mooring was left with the ball just inside half court. After failing to do anything besides look at his defender for five seconds, he was whistled for failing to advance the ball while being closely guarded. Possession was given to UNR with 10 seconds remaining in the half. Guard Marcus Marshall put a 3-point shot that missed, the Rebels allowed the rebound to hit the ground, and showed no sense of urgency for chasing it down. It was recovered by the Packs D.J. Fenner, who connected on a 2-point jumper with 3 seconds left to close out the half.
Coming out of the half, the Rebels showed some signs of life, and looked to be playing with more sense of urgency then they did in the first half. Rebels forward Cheickna Dembele connected on a nice jump hook to open the scoring. Forward Christian Jones hit jumpers on back to back possessions, guard Jovan Mooring connected on a big 3-pointer and after two Uche Ofoegbu free throws, the Wolf Pack lead had been cut to 11, at 55-44. However, that would be as close as the Rebels would get.
Following that run by UNLV, Reno would answer with a 15-2 run of it’s own, behind a variety of Marcus Marshall 3-pointers, Cameron Oliver dunks, and Lindsey Drew steals, effectively crushing any hopes of a comeback by the Runnin’ Rebels.
While this was expected by most who have watched the Rebels this season, it’s still alarming to see how much of a disparity there really is in talent between the two rosters. Cameron Oliver, a potential first round draft pick, only scored 9 points on the night. That’s not giving credit to the UNLV defense. Oliver just wasn’t need. UNLV was so overmatched by Jordan Caroline, 31 points, Marcus Marshall, 28 points, and D.J. Fenner, 11 points, that the Wolf Pack just didn’t even need their best player for the afternoon.
UNLV was led in scoring by forward Christian Jones, who tallied 15 points on an efficient 7-10 shooting. Jovan Mooring and Chris Clyburn each notched 12 points.
As noted above, both Marcus Marshall and Jordan Caroline had huge days against the much maligned Rebel defense, with Marshall connecting on eight 3-pointers, giving him 103 on season. He’s the first Mountain West player to exceed 100 3-pointers for a season since BYU’s Jimmer Fredette did it back in 2010.
UNLV takes on the Aggies from Utah State at the Thomas & Mack on Wednesday, March 1st. Tip is scheduled for 8pm pt.
UNR heads to northern California to take on the Spartans of San Jose State, on Wednesday. Tip is slated for 7pm pt.