Rashad Vaughn completed several fancy drives to the basket to provide some of the only positive moments for UNLV offensively in a disappointing 59-46 loss to No. 14 Utah at MGM Grand on Saturday night. Those plays were too few and far between, however. Vaughn finished 6 of 16 from the field and missed both of his 3-point attempts. He also turned the ball over four times, which was a real problem for the entire UNLV backcourt. Point guard Cody Doolin took just one shot, which he missed, and finished with three points and just two assists. He also turned the ball over twice. Jelan Kendrick coughed it up three times and went just 2-for-8 from the field. On a night where the offense struggled to get anything going, the UNLV backcourt was a major bust.
Chris Wood once again put up big numbers in the loss. The much-maligned sophomore had eight points, 13 rebounds, two blocks and two steals on Saturday night. Still, UNLV fans want more. Wood was getting crushed throughout the game on Twitter. While critics continue to call his impressive numbers phony because of all the glaring shortcomings in his game, there comes a point where it must be conceded that he’s a very good player. With that out of the way, it does seem fair to want more out of Wood. Every strong move to the basket is seemingly followed by a questionable shot, a lazy pass or a blown assignment. His frontcourt mate played some of his best basketball of the year in the first half only to be marginalized after the break. Goodluck Okonoboh looked right at home at the MGM Grand early in the game. He was scoring, blocking shots and causing all sorts of trouble for Utah’s bigs. The Utes figured it out, though. After the freshmen had six points, five blocks and three rebounds in the first half, he posted one point, one block and no rebounds in 13 minutes after halftime. It was either a great adjustment by Utah or Okonoboh simply disappeared. The frontcourt did do an excellent job getting on the glass against one of the better rebounding teams in the nation, actually winning that category on the stat sheet.
The bench is getting shorter and shorter for UNLV at this point. Patrick McCaw continues to be the only substitute getting substantial minutes for the Rebels and he didn’t play up to his recent standard. McCaw made just 2 of 8 shots and went 1-for-6 on 3-point attempts. While he finished with five points, three rebounds and a steal, McCaw just didn’t have his typical impact. Dwayne Morgan played just 12 minutes and appeared very out of sync. Jordan Cornish didn’t dent the box score in five minutes of action.
UNLV came out with a strong first-half performance on Saturday night and looked for much of game as if it might have a chance to upset the No. 14 team in the nation. In the end, the Rebels were once again left desperately searching for answers. Dave Rice had none during the post-game news conference on Saturday night. He talked repeatedly about offensive execution, something that has been lacking for much of the season. Whatever Rice wants out of the team isn’t translating on the floor nearly enough. The positive out of the game was that Rice stressed going in the importance of rebounding against Utah and UNLV actually won the battle on the glass. That enabled UNLV, especially early in the game, to dictate tempo at times. That’s certainly a positive. Larry Krystkowiak, however, figured out a way to get the game played at Utah’s pace in the second half and the Rebels couldn’t adjust.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj.