Midway through the first half, UNLV junior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones limped off the floor while clutching his right hamstring. That was the injury, and then came the insult.
Dejean-Jones watched from the sideline, where he might stay for a while, as the Rebels were dealt their first exhibition loss since 2001.
Dalton Groskreutz scored 20 points and DeQuan Thompson had 18 as Division II Dixie State upended UNLV 71-70 on Friday night before a stunned crowd of 12,076 at the Thomas &Mack Center.
“Sometimes with young guys, lessons can be learned in a difficult way,” Rebels coach Dave Rice said. “Thank goodness it’s an exhibition game. But we’ve got to get better in a hurry.”
UNLV had a shot to win, but Daquan Cook’s 3-point attempt was blocked at the buzzer.
Aside from their lackluster and sloppy play, the Rebels’ biggest concern is the status of Dejean-Jones, who scored 10 points in the first 10 minutes before pulling up lame while standing on the right wing.
Dejean-Jones, the team’s top returning scorer, appears questionable to play in UNLV’s regular-season opener against Portland State on Nov. 8.
“Bryce is as tough a guy as I’ve been around. He told me he either felt or heard a pop in his hamstring,” Rice said. “It’s a day-to-day situation. It’s fairly significant. I know he probably won’t practice for the next few days. Anytime you lose an all-conference player, it’s a major blow.”
Junior center Khem Birch led the Rebels with 10 points and 15 rebounds, and Roscoe Smith totaled 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“For us to lose and see those guys celebrate like that, it’s the worst feeling,” Smith said. “It hurt. We prepared hard for this game.”
The Rebels were out of sorts on both ends of the floor, but their offensive woes - 20 turnovers, 14 missed free throws and 8-for-28 shooting from 3-point range - triggered their demise.
“That’s a pretty good recipe for getting beat,” Rice said. “I was very disappointed with our intensity on the defensive end. We’re going to have games where we don’t shoot the ball well, and it can’t affect us on the defensive end.”
UNLV, which led 38-37 at halftime, fell behind Dixie by six points with eight minutes remaining.
The Red Storm ran circles around the Rebels for the most of the second half and put together a highlight reel of dunks and 3-pointers. Curtis Papenfuss’ 3 from the top put Dixie ahead 69-64 with 6:17 remaining.
Groskreutz made all three of his 3-point attempts. The Red Storm shot 45.8 percent from the field and hit 8 of 19 3s.
“When Bryce left, our perimeter defense kind of fell apart,” Birch said.
Cook, Deville Smith and Chris Wood each scored eight points for the Rebels, who used 11 players, including seven newcomers.
The Rebels shot 34.8 percent from the field, with junior guard Jelan Kendrick going 2-for-14.
A year ago, UNLV survived a scare and defeated the Red Storm 81-80 in overtime. This time, the visitors from St. George, Utah, left with lasting memories.
“We had a number of things to talk about as a team,” Rice said, explaining his late arrival to the postgame news conference. “That’s why we play these exhibition games.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.