-2 conference record

UNLV looking to ‘right the ship’ following 85-78 loss to Utah State

By Terrel Emerson | January 7, 2018

The Thomas & Mack Center fell silent as the final buzzer sounded and the Utah State Aggies celebrated in victory while the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels headed for the tunnel with their heads down.

 

“We’re going to get everybody’s best shot […] It’s hard to lose but it’s a learning experience,” freshman forward Brandon McCoy said immediately after UNLV’s 85-78 loss to Utah State Saturday, Jan. 6.

 

“I feel like that atmosphere in the locker room isn’t going to change. We just have to buckle down in practice as well as in games. We have tough road game ahead of us and we just have to get back to the drawing board,” McCoy added.

 

UNLV rolled through non-conference play seemingly without much resistance going 11-2 but are currently sitting in eighth place in the Mountain West at 1-2 in conference play.

 

Head coach Marvin Menzies said, “Not winning at home is a painful thing for a coach, the staff and hopefully the players as well. This is not what we planned on and when things don’t go your way you have to figure out a way to right the ship so to speak.”

 

The next chance the team will have to make that correction will be Wednesday, Jan. 10 on the road against Air Force.

 

It truly was a tale of two halves for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels as it headed into halftime down 46-36. The Utah State Aggies leading for a little under 14 minutes of the first half, building their lead up to as much as 15 points.

 

But coming out in the second half, UNLV was a lot more active on the defensive end and played a more closely contested 20 minutes of basketball.

 

Menzies said, “You have to show them, you can tell them but you have to show them. Right now, they’re pretty upset as well they should be and I’m okay with guys being down after losses. But we can’t stay down for long, we have to get back up.”

 

The second half included four lead changes and the game was tied six different times.

 

UNLV would even grab a 78-76 lead with two minutes left during a 8-2 run where senior Jordan Johnson scored half of the team’s points. Johnson finished with 16 points and seven assists with zero turnovers.

 

The next four Rebel shots were from beyond the arc, but none of them resulted in points for UNLV. From that point on, Utah State went on a 9-0 run to seal it’s first road victory of the year.

 

“Just practicing. [We have to] work on those situations in practice and know what to take and when,” Johnson said.

 

Menzies could be seen on the sideline and during the press conference shaking his head multiple times.

 

“I think they want to win, I think they’re all in on winning. Let’s not make any mistake about it,” Menzies said.

 

Utah State used a series of different defensive sets that forced UNLV to beat them from behind the arc rather than let their size control the game.

 

“We talked about it and we showed [the players] what we wanted to do from a rhythm standpoint because [Utah State] does switch their defenses up. We had offenses called that could attack either or, but I still think when they [switched] it got us on our heels a little bit,” Menzies said.

 

McCoy felt the team did a good job of communicating double teams; however, Menzies wanted to see better communication from his Rebels.

 

McCoy finished with 23 points on 9-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds. As a team, UNLV finished with 44 points in the paint compared to just 26 for Utah State.

 

But in terms of shooting, UNLV shot 6-of-23 from the three-point line while Utah State made 10 of their 25 attempts. The Aggies shot 57 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range in the first half.

 

“They’re a really good team, you can’t take that away from them but they did make a lot of shots and we have some pretty good defenders on this team so I think they made some pretty good shots,” McCoy said.

 

Senior guard Jovan Mooring continued to have a rough go at things as he shot 2-of-13 including 1-of-8 from the three-point line, scoring seven points. Overall, Mooring is 5-for-29 with 19 points in the first three games of conference play.

 

Despite his most recent struggles, the people closest to him do not seem to be worried.

 

Menzies said, “I didn’t think he took a lot of bad shots, I mean he hesitated a few times but maybe he’s listening to too many voices or something I don’t know.

 

“He’s a good player, I think we all know that he just had a couple of bad games. I’m not too worried about it for some reason I just see him everyday and I know how good he is. I just have to get him out of his own head.”

 

When asked about what he can do as the team’s starting point guard to get Mooring out of his shooting slump, Senior Jordan Johnson said, “I try to get him an easy one or talk him up, letting him know he can still shoot no matter what. He’s one of the best shooters in the country.”

 

However, freshman guard Amauri Hardy provided a spark off the bench with 10 points, three assists and two rebounds in 22 minutes.

 

“We are all apart of a losing effort tonight so I’m not going to pat anybody on the back tonight, we have work to do,” Menzies said. “We had a couple of guys do some good things tonight [but] at the end of the day we lost so I hate to give individual accolades when it doesn’t equate to a win. When we win we can talk about those guys all day.”



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