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UNLV ends season on 2-game losing streak with latest slip at Wyoming

Following its most recent loss, the UNLV men’s basketball team will head into the Mountain West Tournament on a two-game losing streak and losers of three of its last four.

The Runnin’ Rebels were defeated by the Wyoming Cowboys, 80-69, Saturday, March 6 at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.

UNLV was favored by a point coming into the game.

“They had everything going from the start,” head coach TJ Otzelberger said. “They had Grant Ike in the post and started 4-of-5 from three. Felt like we were never able to string together enough stops to give ourselves a chance tonight.”

The loss drops the Rebels to 11-14 on the year and 8-10 in the Mountain West.

That mark lands the program at the No. 7 slot heading into the conference tournament.

Last year’s team finished with 12 wins in the conference, good for a three-way tie for second place.

“We had really good momentum at the end of the season last year,” Otzelberger said. “I think our guys were starting to build the winning, championship-level habits that we needed to have and then that momentum was taken away from us by not having postseason workouts, summer workouts and fall workouts like we normally have.” The 7-10 matchup will feature UNLV and the Air Force Falcons.

“Guarding the three-point line has been a challenge for us all year,” Otzelberger said. “Against the Air Force, instead of off-the-dribble, they’re going to beat you more with cutting and spacing to shoot the three.”

During the regular season, the Rebels swept the two-game series away from the Falcons by a combined 15 points.

“San Diego State is a really good team,” Otzelberger said. “In my opinion, they’ve played well enough to prove that, that’s why they won the championship. I wish certainly that we had played better and certainly tonight we didn’t play great so you have to have a short-term memory.

“I think our guys believe and know that we can compete and beat anybody in the conference tournament. Do I wish we were coming in off a couple wins? Of course, I do.”

As for the regular season finale, outside of fouls and turnovers, UNLV may not be able to play a better game.

The Rebels shot 54 percent on the night but could not keep the Cowboys from posting a field goal percentage one point better.

“We know with how Wyoming spaced the floor offensively that we were going to have to not only guard the dribble one-on-one, guarding the post one-on-one and contesting the three-point line,” Otzelberger said. “We emphasized that the last three days, worked on it and we didn’t do a very good job with it tonight.”

At one point in the first half, UNLV were down 12 points despite shooting 60 percent from the field.

Coming out of halftime, the Rebels made the first basket of the second half but then allowed 11 unanswered points from the Cowboys.

“I feel like when [senior forward Cheikh] Mbacke [Diong] got the dunk out of the half, we had the energy -- we had the momentum,” Otzelberger said. “We talked about how we had to get those stops and string runs together and we weren’t able to do that.”

From beyond the arc, Wyoming held a strong advantage shooting 50 percent from three and holding its opponent to just 23 percent.

As a team, UNLV has the worst three-point defense in the conference allowing 37 percent of shots attempted to fall.

In addition, the team has allowed the most three-point field goals in the conference, both taken and made.

Usually, the Rebels stay in the game by maintaining a dominant presence in the rebounding category.

That was not the case on this night as the Cowboys won that battle, 29-26.

Junior guard Bryce Hamilton was tied for the game-high with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field to go along with four rebounds and a steal.

Junior forward Edoardo Del Cadia had his best game since coming to UNLV posting 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 23 minutes.

He also added three rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Junior guard David Jenkins Jr. was the only other Rebel in double-figures with 10 points on 3-of-10 from the field.

Seven of the eight players that played for UNLV recorded at least 7 points.

However, the team did commit 17 turnovers, three more than Wyoming.

Freshman guard Nick Blake had six.

In addition, the team committed eight more fouls than its opponent.

“It definitely hurt [us],” Otzelberger said. “It’s guys trying to over-dribble the basketball or get going a little fast. We had a couple on dribble handoffs, screen exchanges that are tough and you can’t give up those possessions.”

Both Jenkins and Mbacke fouled out of the game for UNLV.

As a result, the Cowboys shot 12 more free throws than the Rebels.


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