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February 7, 2013

A Bulldog beatdown

PLAYING WITH A PURPOSE - When you are chasing a conference championship and competing for a quality seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament, losing games like the one UNLV did at Fresno State on Wednesday is inexplicable.

At a point in the year when you expect a team to be gelling, the Runnin' Rebels seem to be going in the opposite direction. There was no cohesion on offense and, worst of all, there seemed to be no purpose as a unit on that end of the floor.

There were many times against the Bulldogs that UNLV just tossed up a shot for the sake of getting an attempt, rather than working together as a unit and beating the defense with teamwork.

This is a very worrisome trait that needs to get better in a hurry. If it snowballs, the Rebels are going to be in for a very rocky second half of Mountain West play.

Looking around the league, nearly every team, except for Wyoming, seems to be improving every time out. It looks like confidence is building in these other clubs but UNLV seems to be losing its mojo.

The swagger that we saw from some of these players a month ago appears to be fading. That swagger has been replaced with doubts and uncertainty.

How UNLV regains that remains to be seen. With their next four games against the top four teams in the league record-wise, the Rebels will either be back in the hunt or hitting rock bottom in the next couple weeks.

PICKING UP THE SLACK - Freshman Anthony Bennett doesn't have very many poor offensive outings like he did at Fresno, but when he does, someone needs to be able to pick up the slack and help the Rebels get over that hurdle.

Leading the way, as far as options go, you would have to think the guard combination of Katin Reinhardt and Bryce Dejean-Jones would be best suited to aid in the scoring department whenever a team is collapsing so hard in the paint.

Those two struggled mightily on Wednesday, going a combined 5-of-20 from the field and 1-of-9 from beyond the arc. The Rebels can't afford for this to happen anymore.

UNLV is going to count on these two to be its half court scorers from the perimeter, whether defenses are playing a zone or man-to-man. Both looked out of sync and befuddled trying to muster up offense for themselves.

BENCH MARKED - It was supposed to be one of the biggest strengths for the Rebels this season but has turned into one of the biggest disappointments, especially considering how much UNLV could've used it last night.

The Rebels' vaunted depth and bench was about as meager and timid as you could possibly imagine last night. It didn't help that a pair of veterans were the biggest culprits, too.

Mike Moser and Justin Hawkins, expected to bring some quality minutes off the bench and a little firepower against opposing team's reserves, went a combined 0-of-7 from the field and had zero points in 37 minutes of action.

In fact, Khem Birch was the lone bench player for UNLV to tally any points, going 3-of-4 in field goals for six points.

It was a sad night for the Rebels extras and they need to bring better efforts in the next two weeks. It's rightful to expect more from a pair of players that have shown throughout their career what they are capable of.

Moser and Hawkins are both energy players that have shown the capability to hit timely shots during their time as Rebels. When UNLV sorely needed them to come through against the Bulldogs, they weren't able to.

The response from the bench when the Rebels host New Mexico on Saturday will be huge in deciding the outcome.

For more in-depth and insider information, be sure to check out Rebel Confidential.



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