Rebels lose again at home, but meaningless 3-point streak lives

Updated January 17, 2018 - 11:57 pm

Well, at least the most meaningless streak in the history of UNLV basketball continues.

Yes, the Rebels made a 3-pointer for the 1,024th straight game.

So, you know, there’s always that.

I’m not sure what metrics folks at sports books around town are using when applying odds to the Rebels, but the televisions must not be working in order to give those setting lines a closer view.

UNLV has now dropped eight straight against the spread.

It really is the least of its issues.

The Rebels lost another Mountain West home game Wednesday night in which they were a prohibitive favorite, this time falling to a New Mexico side with absolutely no depth and less talent than the Lobos have had in years.

I mean, if there is a time to get New Mexico, this season is it.

But there it was, an 85-81 victory for the Lobos before an announced gathering of 10,564 at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Rebels losing a game they led by 11 with less than seven minutes left, losing a league contest for the third time in Las Vegas this season because when they needed to make intelligent plays and defend with any level of common sense, they didn’t.

Or couldn’t.

“Obviously, a disappointment,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “I think we played hard enough, but we just didn’t do the little things needed and we let the game slip away late. We had several opportunities, but we didn’t play smart.

“I hate losing at home. (The players) hate losing at home. I don’t know what to tell you. Look, guys. We fought. They fought. They won.”

It became apparent far earlier than this, the 18th game. UNLV is not good at all defensively in terms of understanding whatever concepts are being taught in practice and then attempting to execute them during games.

The Rebels are out of position.

They can’t guard anyone off the dribble.

They still fall for fake pumps at the absolute worst times.

They struggle against ball screens.

They continue to give what should have been a beaten opponent in New Mexico life by putting it on the free-throw line.

Menzies talks a lot (too much) about immaturity.

UNLV’s biggest defensive mistake in crunch time Wednesday was made by a senior.

The Rebels aren’t near good enough to be 19 of 30 at the free-throw line and beat anyone halfway decent. They’re absolutely not good enough to surrender 19 points in the first seven minutes of a game they’re favored to win by eight, hand such momentum to a team that hadn’t won on the road and not expect things won’t be close all night.

Oh, yeah. That’s right.

New Mexico entered 0-8 away from Albuquerque.

“Tough loss,” said UNLV junior Shakur Juiston, who went for 14 points and 14 rebounds in 36 minutes. “Can’t hang our heads. We need to move on and prepare for the next game. I’m not going to downplay (New Mexico’s) talent. Everyone has enough talent to win on a given night. They came out and matched intensity and handled adversity and made big shots.”

Jordan Johnson made what the folks in attendance thought was a big one when the senior point guard’s 3-pointer with 5:36 remaining allowed UNLV to continue the streak that has been ridiculously overblown for its supposed importance over the years.

Think about this: UNLV took a second-half lead by attacking the basket and either finishing around the rim or drawing fouls.

It was 51-51 with 14:47 left.

It was 67-56 UNLV with 6:48 left.

And still …

“I heard (fans) yelling, ‘Hit a 3! Hit a 3! Hit a 3!’” Johnson said.

Well, he did.

And the place went crazy.

And they still lost.

It means UNLV is 2-3 in conference and that its league season continues to only be about securing the best possible seed for the Mountain West tournament.

Which happens to be in Las Vegas again.

Which, at this point, might be more appealing to anyone other than the guys who play here all the time.

“We have to understand the discipline it takes to win games against teams in conference,” Menzies said. “The margin is very, very thin. A very small margin.”

At least the legendary UNLV voice of Dick Calvert, who has announced how many games the 3-point streak is at with each passing make, probably won’t be heard saying this at the next home game:

“One.”

So, you know, there’s always that.

Contact columnist Ed Graney at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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