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UNLV squanders double digit lead in loss to Colorado State

The Runnin’ Rebels lead by as many as 13 points in the second half but were unable to hold it in its conference opener to the Rams.

NCAA Basketball: UNLV at Colorado State The Coloradoan-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Nobody knew what to expect from UNLV in its conference opener against Colorado State in Fort Collins. The Runnin’ Rebels had not played in 33 days due to COVID issues in the program and the team was shorthanded, most notably they were without starting point guard Marvin Coleman who was out due to “medical reasons.”

UNLV, entering the game at nearly 10-point underdogs, surprisingly kept the game close early on against a Colorado State team coming off a series split of San Diego State. The Runnin’ Rebels, who lead at halftime, extended its lead into the second half by as many as 13 at 59-46 with under nine minutes left in the second half.

Colorado State quickly came back with three 3-pointers, after missing its first seven 3-pointers in the second half, to get back within single digits at 61-55. That marked the beginning of the end of UNLV’s lead, as Colorado State finished the game on a 12-2 run to take the win 74-71.

“I was proud of the effort that our guys brought,” head coach T.J. Otzelberger said after the game. “Certainly, we’ve had some challenges. At the same time, we didn’t come here for a moral victory or a pat on the back or a good try. We came here to win the game and we didn’t get the job done.”

Otzelberger said that fatigue played a factor for UNLV’s struggles down the stretch. The Runnin’ Rebels only scored two points in the final four minutes as the Rams went on its 12-2 run. UNLV struggled form behind the arch in the second half, as they only made one 3-pointer on 12 attempts.

Bryce Hamilton carried UNLV with 23 points on 10 of 26 shooting. Hamilton hit a jumper with under a minute left to briefly give UNLV a lead, 71-70. Colorado State answered on its next possession on a David Roddy layup.

On its next two possessions, UNLV drew up plays for Caleb Grill and David Jenkins at the end of the game that resulted in missed 3-pointers. Following Grill’s miss, Colorado State made it a three-point game, 74-71 thanks to two made free throws from Isaiah Stevens.

Grill and Jenkins each added 11 points, as did Mbacke Diong. Hamilton said after the game that those plays late in the game were supposed to go to Grill and Jenkins, but the team did not execute them well.

Stevens led Colorado State with 25 points, six rebounds and four assist. Roddy added 18 points and Kendle Moore’s 15 points came from five made 3-pointers.

Along with Coleman, the Runnin’ Rebels were also without Devin Tillis (concussion protocol), Isaac Lindsey (season ending surgery), and Trey Hurlburt (medical reasons). Otzelberger said that he is hopeful Coleman could return sometime next week, but there is no set timetable for his return. Edoardo Del Cadia replaced Coleman in the starting lineup and finished with eight points before fouling out.

Due to the stoppage the program had, this was the first conference game for UNLV this season, and they will have to turn around and play the Rams again on Saturday in a critical game for the Runnin’ Rebels.

“Everything that we do between now and Saturday is going to be to be very intentional with our effort, our preparation, our focus, our physicality and our toughness because we need to win that game on Saturday.”

Both teams face-off again in the second game of the series Saturday at 1:00 pm PT on FS1 and on ESPN Las Vegas 1100 AM/100.9 FM.