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Offense goes cold as UNLV beaten by No. 2 UCLA

The honeymoon was short-lived as the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels went cold in the team’s latest matchup with national attention geared toward the game.

UNLV lost, 73-51, to the No. 2 UCLA Bruins Saturday, Nov. 27 from the Thomas & Mack Center.

“Obviously, not the result we wanted but also probably not the fight that we expected,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “I feel bad for the guys a little bit, we didn’t play like we practiced. We just seemed a little hesitant and put ourselves in the hole early.”

The loss sends the program to a 4-3 record and it has now lost three of its last four after starting the season 3-0.

Moreover, UCLA was coming off of its first loss of the season; a similar position for its opponent as UNLV also played Michigan after it suffered its first loss of the year.

“I’m kind of tired of playing the new team card,” Kruger said. “I think this is a group now that we’re going to start demanding that that’s done. To that extent, we will pick the good [out of games against high-level competition]. These guys can do it. These guys can absolutely do it and we will continue to get better.”

The Rebels first true road test of the season comes next in the form of an away game at SMU.

It will be the first of two straight away from Las Vegas for the program.

“I think they’ll respond well to practice,” Kruger said. “I think Monday, you’ll see a group -- they understand -- They won’t be rah-rah and fake but they’ll have a different level of intensity to them. They bounce back after each loss and have good days.”

Despite the lopsided final score, UNLV held the first lead of the game at 2-0.

The problem came when UCLA scored the next 14 straight.

“I think they just played their style of defense,” forward Donovan Williams said. “I think ultimately they came out and executed offensively and defensively better than we did. They stayed in front and they stayed in the gaps. I think the challenge for us was creating better shots than we had tonight.”

It also didn’t help matters when the Rebel offense went scoreless for five plus minutes toward the end of the first half.

“I can’t speak for everybody else but I know for me, it’s hard to even think about [scoreless stretches],” Williams said. “Because if we don’t make a shot, we have to get back and play defense so as the game goes on, in that span of seven minutes, we’re just trying to play. We know we’re missing shots but we don’t know it’s been seven minutes since we made one.”

For a brief moment in the second half, UNLV cut the deficit to single-digits at nine points.

“We had some moments where we really did fight and compete,” Kruger said. “Even right out of the half, cutting it to nine right at the first media timeout. We had done what we needed to do but we just couldn’t sustain it.”

At the under-12 timeout, down 11, the Rebels had held the Bruins scoreless for almost two minutes.

However, UNLV was scoreless for three minutes of its own.

That run would stretch to nearly six minutes for the home offense, falling behind by as many as 24 points.

The Rebels were held to 30% shooting from the field and 22 from three-point range.

“Just being able to get good shots,” guard Bryce Hamilton said. “I still feel like we’re a good shooting team. The more passes, the more we drive and create for each other, we’ll get better open shots and we’ll start knocking them down.”

The Bruins shot 47% from the floor and 47% from beyond the arc.

Second-string guard Keshon Gilbert provided a spark off-the-bench once again before being handcuffed with two first half fouls.

“Keshon still gets in there and he goes after the ball,” Kruger said. “Keshon is going to do what Keshon is going to do. That’s what we love about him and that’s why he’s going to keep playing.”

He was not the only one in foul trouble as four UNLV players were saddled with two fouls at one point.

Williams and senior forward Royce Hamm Jr. both ended the game with four fouls apiece.

Hamilton, who is the team’s leading scorer, scored his first basket of the game 6:56 into the contest.

He would later find his flow, scoring five straight points to cut the deficit to three with under 10 to play before halftime.

Hamilton finished with 15 points on 6-of-15 from the field.


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