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UNLV loses lead late, falls at Colorado State

Thirty-three days after suspending it’s program, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels resumed play with a conference loss to open the new calendar year.

UNLV lost on the road at Colorado State, 74-71, Thursday, Jan. 7, dropping the team to 0-1 in the Mountain West conference.

“We don’t make excuses but that’s a game we’ve got to find a way to win and we didn’t,” head coach TJ Otzelberger said. “As hard as we played, it’s very disappointing.”

UNLV is now 1-5 on the season, including 1-1 away from the Thomas & Mack Center.

Another game with the Rams is next for the Rebels with 1 p.m. tip-off time set for Saturday, Jan. 9.

“It’s a different challenge, one we obviously haven’t gone through before,” Otzelberger said. “This is our first big game and all I know is we’re going to do everything we can to prepare to win.

“We should be the hungrier team, we should be the team that feels like we let one get away from us and we should be the team to do everything in our power to ensure victory on Saturday.”

After that, UNLV will return home for two games against the New Mexico Lobos.

Otzelberger tested positive for the coronavirus last month, forcing the team to shut down it’s program, losing six games in the process due to cancellation or postponement.

The team is still not 100 percent healthy with guards Marvin Coleman and Trey Hurlburt out due to medical reasons.

Junior forward Edoardo Del Cadia started his first collegiate game.

“He did some good things out there for us,” Otzelberger said. “He rebounded well, he’s got some physicality. I’m proud of him in his first college start, he did some really good things and we’ll need to continue to build off those things as we move forward.”

In addition, guard Isaac Lindsey (season-ending surgery) and forward Devin Tillis (concussion) missed the game.

Guard Bryce Hamilton scored 14 of his team-high 23 points in the second half on 10-of-26 shooting from the field.

He added six rebounds and three steals.

Hamilton scored 10 of the Rebels’ last 12 points in regulation before losing by three points.

UNLV built a lead as large as 13 points in the second half.

Guards Caleb Grill and David Jenkins Jr. took the potential game-winning and game-tying three-pointers.

Grill and Jenkins combined to go 6-of-21 form the field, including going 4-of-12 from beyond the arc.

Hamilton went 2-of-10 from three-point range.

Both players scored 11 points apiece along with senior forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong.

“Mbacke was tremendous -- best game he’s played this year,” Otzelberger said. “Dominated the glass, we’ve got to give him the ball more on some of them rim runs. He did a great job for us in the post, we’ve got to get the ball to him more and that’s something we’ll work on for Saturday.”

The game featured 12 lead changes and three ties with the Rams never building a lead larger than five points.

Colorado State made two comeback efforts in the second half.

First in the form of an 11-0 run to climb back into the game and later the team used an 8-0 run to take a 70-69 lead.

Fatigue could have played a factor in the outcome down the stretch for the Rebels.

“Those guys gave good effort, they did some positive things for sure,” Otzelberger said. “We didn’t come here to get a morale victory and a pat on the back.

“We came here to get a win and now everything that we do from now until Saturday is focused on that endeavor and making sure we get the win on Saturday.”

UNLV often went cold during these runs by its opponent, even going scoreless for more than four and a half minutes toward the end of the first half.

Majority of the damage came from beyond the arc for the Rams, going 12-of-30 from deep.

On the other hand, the Rebels went 7-for-25.

Dominance in the rebounding category and in the paint kept UNLV in the game.

The Rebels scored their first 10 points of the game in the paint but would not score in the paint anymore in the first half.

UNLV outpointed Colorado State, 30-22, in the paint.

In addition, the Rebels won the rebounding battle 45-33 led by 12 rebounds from Mbacke.

Much like the start of the game, UNLV applied immense pressure early forcing Colorado State into four turnovers in the first 5:05 of the game.

The team was unable to keep up that trend, only forcing the Rams into six more turnovers over the rest of the game.

Both games ended the game with 10 turnovers apiece.

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