Rutledge searching for shot of confidence

If it seems UNLV junior guard Mareceo Rutledge has a hitch in his shot, there’s a reason for it. He’s not exactly brimming with confidence when he eyes the rim.

“When I shoot the ball, it’s like a nervous feeling. It’s not like I’m shooting it and feeling real confident,” he said. “I’m not relaxed at all.

“I’ve been struggling with my jump shot. Nine times out of 10, at least it seems like that, I’m going to miss it.”

Rutledge is shooting 38 percent from the field, including 9-for-36 (25 percent) on 3-pointers. Those numbers are below expectations for a player who arrived this season with the reputation for being a long-range threat.

After two years at Yuba College in Marysville, Calif., where he averaged more than 20 points per game, Rutledge has had difficulty adjusting to his backup role with the Rebels.

In 14 games off the bench, Rutledge is averaging 4.6 points and 2.8 rebounds in 13.1 minutes per game.

“Sometimes, historically, junior college guys are a little bit more inconsistent in that first year. With Mo, I think that’s the majority of it,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “It’s not unusual for a first-year guy.

“At moments, he has really looked explosive and shot it well. At other moments, he looks like he’s not quite sure, and he’s tentative and not very aggressive. But I think he’s moving in the right direction.”

Rutledge played a season-high 20 minutes and scored nine points in the Rebels’ season-opening victory over Montana State. He scored 10 points in 16 minutes in a loss at UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 27.

But since the Santa Barbara game, Rutledge has shot 10-for-33 over an eight-game stretch, with his only real bright spot being a nine-point effort in a win against Minnesota on Dec. 30.

While he’s having trouble scoring, Rutledge said he has worked to improve his defense and rebounding.

“It starts at practice. Basically, I’ve just got to show Coach that I’m able to produce in practice,” he said. “The minutes are shorter, but I’m not really worried about it.

“They basically recruited me to shoot the ball. I know it will start falling eventually. I’ve got to be out there on the floor and help in other ways.”

NO TV FOR UNLV — The Rebels, 12-3 overall and 1-0 in the Mountain West Conference, play at Air Force (8-6, 0-1) at 3 p.m. Saturday. It’s the only one of UNLV’s 16 conference games that won’t be televised. The conference’s TV network, The mtn., instead is carrying the Colorado State-Brigham Young game at the same time.

TICKETS AVAILABLE — UNLV is offering a Mountain West season-ticket package. The cost for eight games is $210 for the plaza level, depending on location, and $105 for the balcony level.

The Rebels’ first conference game at the Thomas & Mack Center is Tuesday against BYU.

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