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December 10, 2011

Look back at Wisconsin

BLOWN OPP - If you would have told UNLV head coach Dave Rice prior to Saturday's tip that the Runnin' Rebels would hold Jordan Taylor to 0 for 10 from the field, I'm sure he would've felt pretty good about his squad's chances of pulling another top 15 upset.

That's exactly what happened, yet UNLV still lost by double digits against the methodical Badgers. This was a missed opportunity in every sense of the phrase.

Every defensive game plan against UW is to hold Taylor in check and take your chances with the remaining Badger players on the offensive end. The Rebels nailed that aspect. Unfortunately, Ben Brust wasn't held as a higher priority by UNLV defenders.

Brust, a sophomore sharpshooter, was lethal from beyond the arc, connecting on seven treys on as many attempts. It was the second straight road game where the Rebels let a perimeter scorer go off for a career-high and, ultimately, send UNLV home with a defeat.

Last weekend, it was Joe Ragland doing the damage for the Wichita State Shockers. Ragland hadn't scored more than 15 points in any game before dropping 31 on the Rebels.

Brust had only nailed more than one 3-pointer in three games this year before being perfect against UNLV.

Maybe Rice and Co. had the wrong idea about defending the Badgers. Maybe UNLV should've allowed Taylor the freedom to shoot and tried to hold down Brust, who came off the bench to score his 25 points.

Whatever the case, this will be a game that the Rebels will look back on at the end of the season and say, "What if."

A NO MOSE - The hottest member of either roster heading into this match-up was UNLV's Mike Moser. Somehow, it felt as if the Rebel power forward was not included in the offensive strategy that UNLV tried to execute.

It may have been his hurt wrist. It may have been the defense played by Mike Bruesewitz. I'm not sure. What I do know is that the Rebels most irreplaceable member was rendered invisible for the first 35 minutes by the Badgers.

What's worse is that his lack of inclusion on the offensive end seemed to affect his rebounding on the other end. Moser is too good and UNLV is was too desperate for him to be ineffective for so long.

Moser finished the night with 11 rebounds but gathered the majority of that total in the game's final minutes. He and the rest of the Rebel frontcourt failed to show up in the first half whenever Wisconsin was grabbing nine offensive boards and sucking the life out of UNLV.

SOMETHING LACKING - It seemed evident fairly early that the Rebels didn't bring the same type of enthusiasm or energy that had been so prevalent the first weeks of the season.

Part of the problem is understandable. Not being able to grab a defensive board and being stuck on the end of the floor for what felt like the whole first half can wear a team's psyche down quite a bit. But even before that it felt like the Rebels just weren't ready to compete at the level they needed to on the road in a hostile environment.

The question of why begs to be asked.

This wasn't just your run of the mill Saturday afternoon. This was a rare opportunity for the Rebels to put a stamp on the 2011-12 season. They sure didn't treat it with the respect it deserved, though.

The truth of the matter is that Wisconsin was very vulnerable. They were right for the picking if UNLV had come out with intensity it should have.



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