The transition from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West has not been a smooth one for UNR's basketball team.
Points have been hard to come by for the Wolf Pack in conference play, as UNR had averaged just 62.6 entering Tuesday night's first Governor's Series meeting with UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center. And thanks to a 6-for-24 performance from beyond the 3-point arc and an inability to get much going on the break, the Wolf Pack were thumped by the Rebels, 66-54.
Extended pressure from UNLV's guards turned UNR (11-9, 2-4) into a bunch of jump shooters, forcing the Wolf Pack to run their offense farther away from the basket than they would prefer.
Not only did UNR struggle from the perimeter, the Wolf Pack couldn't rev up their transition game, get to the rim and finish.
"We're trying to limit the opponents' offensive transition," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "We didn't let them run, and the fact they had zero fast-break points is a huge number for us."
The Wolf Pack were willing to settle for jump shots, particularly from the perimeter, and that's not what they do best.
"We weren't as aggressive attacking them as we needed to," said UNR's Deonte Burton, who along with Jerry Evans Jr. finished with 14 hard-to-come-by points. "They extended their defense on us and forced us away from the basket."
Evans, who was 5 of 10 from the field, said a failure to do the little things well doomed the Wolf Pack.
"Mental breakdowns, turnovers, being careless and not converting free throws and not blocking out, all those things cost us," Evans said.
The Wolf Pack played a lot of zone in the hopes of slowing the Rebels (17-4, 4-2), and the ploy worked to a degree as UNLV was 6 of 22 on 3-point attempts. But the key difference was UNLV's 16 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points.
"No question, that hurt," UNR coach David Carter said. "Sometimes when you're playing zone, it's hard to put a body on a body, and we didn't do a good job of that. We'd play good defense for 35 seconds, then give up an offensive rebound, and then you're starting all over again. That's hard for any team, especially on the road."
Still, the Rebels had difficulty putting away the Wolf Pack. An early 14-point second-half lead dwindled to 59-52 with four minutes left and a chance for Malik Story to cut it to six at the foul line.
But Story missed his second free throw, and Mike Moser was fouled by Devonte Elliott, who subsequently fouled out on the play. Moser made one of two free throws for a 60-52 lead. Moser hit a jumper on the Rebels' next possession, and UNR managed two points in the final 3:59.
"Moments like that are a killer," said Carter, who used just eight players. "We started the second half with three turnovers in the first 1:15, and we're playing uphill the entire half.
"We played well at times, but we weren't able to sustain it. That won't get it done in this league."
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.