Game 1 Spartan Basketball: Repelling the Rebels
Against all odds, the Spartans could have pulled this one out
The Spartans first game of 2018 was a close, thrilling, hard-fought 82-76 overtime loss to the visiting UNLV Runnin’ Rebels.
It was an unexpected toe-to-toe battle with the now 12 & 3 UNLV Rebels squeaking out the win with just a little more strength and athleticism in the end over the now 3 & 11 Spartans, who were 13 point underdogs.
The Spartans surprised some folks in this outing given UNLV’s record and being nationally ranked in rebounds, going to the charity strip and points per game, while the Spartans were unceremoniously going for a fifth straight game with 20+ turnovers and mistake-prone basketball.
FIRST HALF SUMMARY:
The Spartans first possession of the game started with...a turnover, but the Spartans were scrappy and played tough with quick scoring and a few steals that had them leading most of the first half. Noah Baumann, Keith Fisher and Oumar Barry were the primary contributors to the 8-point lead the Spartans built until the team went dry for the next 4 minutes.
The Rebels started to find their stride and pulled to a 7-point lead at about the 3-minute mark of the first half.
The Spartans showed great ball movement and throttled UNLV’s top player, 7-foot freshman center, Brandon McCoy, fairly well throughout the game. Though McCoy did get his expected points, he was held to 3 rebounds for the game, thus keeping him from his double-double game average.
SECOND HALF SUMMARY:
UNLV’s McCoy came out strong to start the half and the Rebels had a 10-point lead before the Rebels also hit a couple of multi-minute scoring droughts.
The Spartan defense and persistence contributed to the Rebel lull and kept things close for most of the overtime game that had upset potential all throughout.
With about 3 minutes left in the game, a Spartan steal and a couple of induced offensive Rebel fouls put the Spartans in the bonus that soon found them just one point behind with a minute remaining. Noah Baumann then hit his third of four 3-pointers with about 30 seconds to put the Spartans up 66-65; erasing a once 11-point Rebel lead.
As the Rebels tied the game at 66 with 5 seconds remaining, an over-eager Spartan push up the court nearly caused another turnover leaving them with 1 second for an inbound pass attempt that ended in a miss.
The 5-minute overtime ensued with the UNLV Rebels increasing the aggressiveness by attacking the rim and earning 16 free throws.
Rebel, Jovan Mooring, hit a strong-side 3-pointer from the left corner to give UNLV a 72-69 lead to help the Rebels squeeze out a win.
Most key team stats were about equal on both sides, as it was a battle of the 20+ turnovers for each team that would have clearly made the game a more decisive win IF one side had this relatively under control.
- Spartan turnovers are most obviously an issue overall. They also had a few breakaways to seemingly easy scores but the Rebels were still able to steal or block shots from behind. That’s an awareness issue if it happens more than once or twice.
- Points-off-turnovers is terrible. The Spartans could have won on this stat alone, but scoring disappears at this juncture.
- The Spartans definitely hustle and fight, but it clearly takes more than that to win consistently. In set plays, for example, there’s more uncertainty and lack of continuity instead of a natural, comfortable team flow.
Though the Spartan’s record may not reflect it, they have been very competitive in each of their Mountain West games this season. With some “tightening up”, as mentioned, they surely can make themselves NOT as terrible as some are making them out to be.
Game 2 Spartan Basketball: Playing with Wolves
There’s just no sugar coating this one
The Spartan’s 33-point loss to the New Mexico Lobos in their second game of 2018 was a meeting of opposing turnover forces: the Spartans continuing their multi-game streak of 20+ turnovers and the Lobos 5th in the nation in forcing turnovers.
Well…the Spartans earned their 6th straight game with 20+ turnovers that the Lobos took clear advantage of by scoring 20 points off Spartan turnovers that added to the Spartan 80-47 loss in Albuquerque. The Spartans had zero points off Lobo turnovers.
The other significant “force” the Spartans knew going in was a bombardment of Lobo 3-pointers; given the Lobos have hoisted well-over 500 of them in the season so far. The Lobos were almost 40% with 13 for 36 on 3’a in their win.
FIRST HALF SUMMARY:
Missed 3’s and sluggish play characterized the first few minutes for both teams.
The Lobos soon overcame their slow start by attacking the rim with hard-driving, scoring layups that eventually opened the floor up for open 3-pointers. The Lobos then quickly blew open an 18-6 lead.
Spartan head coach Prioleau’s timeout allowed his team to re-group to then pull to within 7 points, but they could not counter the Lobo offensive or defensive pressure for the rest of the game; led by Chris McNeal, Anthony Mathis, and Antino Jackson
Spartans Ryan Wellage was most active on the boards and in scoring for the first half. Wellage scored 17 points for the game, though it took nearly 20 shots to get there. Oumar Barry also provided a short, entertaining spark with a block, steal and rebounds.
SECOND HALF SUMMARY:
The 3-point onslaught continued for the Lobos and it never got close for the Spartans. Even missed 3’s brought offensive Lobo rebounds that the Spartans couldn’t corral.
The Lobo press and defensive aggressiveness basically helped keep the Spartans from any offensive rhythm and coordination.
Spartan missed layups and turnovers also characterized the second half for the Spartans. At one point with 5 minutes remaining, the Spartans also committed 5 turnovers in the span of 2 ½ minutes, which fed into their dreaded 20 turnovers.
Overall, the Spartans weren’t athletic or talented enough to compete on this evening, as they never got close to the Lobos the entire half.