Three take­aways

Sec­ond-half im­prove­ment just not enough

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - SPORTS - By Mark Anderson Con­tact Mark Anderson at man­der­[email protected]­viewjour­ Fol­low @markan­der­son65 on Twit­ter.

Turnovers, missed free throws pose big prob­lem for UNLV in loss to Cincin­nati.

Three take­aways from UNLV’s 6561 loss to Cincin­nati on Satur­day at the Thomas & Mack Cen­ter:

1 UNLV needs to build on this ef­fort.

The Rebels trailed all game, but af­ter look­ing as if they were go­ing to get blown out early, they hung around and made Cincin­nati earn its vic­tory.

Most no­tably, UNLV stop­ping


hand­ing the ball over to the Bearcats. Af­ter com­mit­ting eight turnovers in the first 10 min­utes, UNLV gave the ball away six times the rest of the way.

“Their plan is to speed you up,” Rebels guard Amauri Hardy said. “We don’t want to fall into their game plan, so our job was to take care of the ball in the sec­ond half and not do what we did in the first half.”

That was a key rea­son the Rebels al­most came back to win, and it’s some­thing they can take with them to Illi­nois next Satur­day. If UNLV takes care of the ball, the Rebels can win that game. Illi­nois is 2-5, but three losses oc­curred in the loaded Maui In­vi­ta­tional, in­clud­ing by six points to top-ranked Gon­zaga.

So beat­ing the Illini re­mains a dif­fi­cult task, but if the Rebels bring the same en­ergy and de­ter­mi­na­tion they brought against Cincin­nati, they have a chance.

“It’s some­thing we can take with us, but at the end of the day, we know we should’ve won that game,” UNLV guard Kris Cly­burn said. “But it’s def­i­nitely a mo­men­tum builder for go­ing to play a team like Illi­nois.”

2 UNLV’s inside game has to im­prove.

The Rebels need Shakur Juis­ton to score, but he has been turn­ing down open shots to try to thread the ball to team­mates in traf­fic. He has com­mit­ted five turnovers in each of the past three games and missed all three of his shots against the Bearcats, fin­ish­ing with three points.

“Shakur does make some passes that I would pre­fer he take those shots,” UNLV coach Marvin Men­zies said. “But he’s a great team­mate, and he’s try­ing to play within the sys­tem where I need him to be, not self­ish, but I need him to be a lit­tle more ag­gres­sive of­fen­sively at times.”

Mbacke Diong was av­er­ag­ing 10.2 points and 6.8 re­bounds af­ter five games, but in the past two has to­taled four points and four re­bounds.

“Mbacke’s just got to play lower,” Men­zies said. “There’s a song by Kem, ‘It’s a mat­ter of time.’ I can’t speed up the clock. He’s got to get stronger. He’s got to get more phys­i­cal. So we’re go­ing to do some things to help him be­cause he’s ath­letic and he’s quick.”

3 Free throws con­tinue to be a prob­lem.

At some point, the fail­ure to con­vert at the line was go­ing to catch up to the Rebels. It did this time, with UNLV mak­ing 18 of 29 free throws (62.1 per­cent).

Cincin­nati wasn’t much bet­ter at 68.8 per­cent (11 of 16), but to miss 11 free throws in a four-point game kept the Rebels from at least hav­ing a shot to win at the end.

This looks to be a season-long prob­lem. UNLV ranks last in the Moun­tain West, mak­ing 64.7 per­cent of its free throws.

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