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Defense betrays UNLV in loss at Colorado State

Updated February 1, 2020 - 5:55 pm

FORT COLLINS, Colo. — A week to prepare for a streaking team has its benefits. The game plan is fully understood, the players are rested and the team is ready to enter a hostile environment such as Colorado State.

Having a grasp of what the opponent would do helped UNLV, at least for the first 16 minutes. But from that point on, the Rams pretty much did what they wanted.

Colorado State ended the first half on a 16-3 run en route to a 95-77 victory Saturday over the Rebels, who allowed more than 90 points for the first time this season.

The loss was the third straight for UNLV (11-12, 6-4 Mountain West), whose 6-1 conference start was their best in 12 seasons. Colorado State (16-8, 7-4) has won seven of eight.

The focus in UNLV practices was limiting the Rams in transition and hounding them off the 3-point line. But that didn’t work, as Colorado State hit 64.7 percent on 3s (11 of 17) and had a 20-5 fast-break scoring advantage.

“Our focus got away from us,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We knew we needed to guard the 3-point line. We knew we had to guard them in transition, and when they got it going, we couldn’t turn them off.”

Colorado State shot 61.5 percent overall (32 of 52), scoring 42 points in the paint. Guard Isaiah Stevens led the way with 21 points, hitting 7 of 8 shots, including all five 3-point attempts.

“We’ve got to keep working,” UNLV guard Elijah Mitrou-Long said. “It sounds like a broken record, but we gave these guys early 3s in the start. They’re good players, so they see the ball go in once or twice and then the net gets bigger and bigger.”

Once the Rams’ percentage began to rise, so, too, did the foul total for the Rebels. Colorado State was in the bonus for more than 21 minutes.

“It took our rhythm from a lot of guys,” Otzelberger said. “We had three or four guys during that first half with two (fouls) and then a bunch right away with three to start the second. You’re subbing out of necessity instead of playing the guys you want to play. That’s on us. We’ve got to do a better job of guarding without fouling.”

The game started well for UNLV, which held Colorado State without a field goal for 6:46 of the first half in taking a 33-25 lead. Bryce Hamilton had 12 of his game-high 28 points by then.

But the Rebels were outscored by 26 points the rest of the way.

“I think we just didn’t move the ball as well as we should,” UNLV guard Marvin Coleman said. “They were in gaps and doing things so we couldn’t get the ball side-to-side quick enough. We let it stick a little too much and got a little stagnant.”

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