A difficult start to Mountain West play turned downright ugly on Wednesday night as UNLV fell to 0-2 with a road loss at Colorado State.
After the Rebels squandered a late 10-point lead, Patrick McCaw drove the length of the floor to hit a layup to tie the game with six seconds remaining.
But Ben Carter fouled John Gillon on the other end and the guard made the second of two free throws to give the Rams the win.
UNLV played extremely well for a big portion of the second half. Overall, it was another tough night.
Here are the grades:
UNLV coach Dave Rice made a move fans and media have been clamoring for when he announced McCaw would take over as the primary point guard. The move largely worked as McCaw was more engaged in the game than he had been in previous contests. He provided mixed results, however. All five of his assists came in the first 12 minutes of the game and McCaw committed four of UNLV’s 18 turnovers. A crucial miscommunication with Carter also led to a disastrous turnover on an inbounds play in the final minute. McCaw made 4 of 12 shots and went just 2-for-8 from 3-point range, but he did make a layup that would have forced overtime if Gillon hadn’t been fouled. Jerome Seagears was ineffective in his first start since being relieved of point guard duties. He finished with two points and a turnover, failing to record another meaningful stat. Seagears finished with a dreadful minus-17 plus/minus number in 22 minutes of action and got completely lost on the decisive defensive possession.
Derrick Jones Jr. was inserted in the starting lineup on Wednesday to infuse some energy. He was never able to really get the team going with the kind of big play he has become known for that can carry his teammates for several possessions. He finised with seven points, two rebounds and an assist in 22 minutes. Stephen Zimmerman had nine points and eight rebounds, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 as UNLV clung to the lead in the final minute. To make matters worse, he fouled a driving J.D. Paige on the next possession, but not hard enough to keep him from scoring. The 3-point play gave the Rams a 2-point lead. Zimmerman continues to be too weak, both with the ball in the paint on the offensive end and bodying up on defenders in the lane. He also leaves his feet far too often on defense. Dwayne Morgan, who is really just a starter in name, missed all four shots he took and turned the ball over twice in 11 disappointing minutes.
Carter was the best player on the floor for most of the night. He will probably only remember the turnover on the inbounds pass and the foul he committed on Gillon, who had almost zero chance to make the final shot before he was bailed out by the whistle. Those two plays proved incredibly costly for UNLV. Carter did finish with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Jalen Poyser was very good once again. The freshman had 12 points in 24 minutes of action. He made 4 of 6 from the field, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. Expect his minutes to continue to increase, especially with Seagears struggling in his first game off the ball. Neither Ike Nwamu nor Jordan Cornish were able to make a significant impact.
In the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t as bad a loss as Saturday night’s home defeat against Fresno State. Fort Collins is a tough place to win, even when the Rams are without their best player. Wednesday night’s game might sting more for UNLV fans, however. The Rebels had a 10-point lead late in the game and showed just how good they are capable of playing during a big run in the second half. The late collapse infuriated UNLV fans on social media, largely because it was nothing new. The Rebels continue to have trouble closing games and some of the same problems keep popping up. The offense went into panic mode as the lead dwindled late, particularly noticeable in the miscommunication between McCaw and Carter. Rice and the staff seem to tell and teach the players the right things, but they don’t appear willing to listen. It’s just not a great situation right now. On the bright side, the move of McCaw to the point guard spot should pay dividends in the long run.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj
Check our GameDay page for full coverage of the UNLV-Colorado State game.