FIRST HALF DISASTER - You couldn't have scripted it any worse for the UNLV Runnin' Rebels.
In a national showcase game against the North Carolina Tar Heels on ESPN2, UNLV came out and played about as uninspired looking as it has all season long. There was a lack of offensive execution. A lack of energy. A lack of hustle.
You name it, and the Rebels were probably lacking in the category.
UNLV has had bad halves throughout the season but none have come at such a critical juncture. This was a UNC team that had fallen behind early to quality opponents this year and coming out sharp and crisp would've sent a message to the young Tar Heels.
Instead, UNC got momentum on its side and was sizzling on both ends of the floor by midway through the half, developing a significant lead heading into the break.
MOSER CHECKS-IN - The brightest news in a tough defeat is the fact that Mike Moser returned early from a gruesome elbow injury suffered less than a month ago.
There were thoughts that Moser would miss the first part of the conference schedule, which Includes key road games at New Mexico, San Diego State and Colorado State. Those fears were erased the moment Moser went to the scorer's table.
Moser wasn't that effective in his role of backing up star Anthony Bennett. He finished with three points and one rebound before fouling out in only 12 minutes of action.
The reality of the situation, though, is that just getting Moser back on the floor was a huge bonus for the Rebels. Now, he gets two games this upcoming week to get acclimated into the rotation once again.
If there was a Rebel fan out there that didn't smile when Moser walked onto the floor in the first half, they don't realize just how serious that injury was.
FRONT ENDED - When you are playing tight games away from your home turf you have to capitalize whenever given opportunities. That especially goes for when you are playing a team the caliber of North Carolina.
Missing free throws is part of those opportunities you can't pass up. It got worse for the Rebels late in the second half whenever Justin Hawkins and Bryce Dejean-Jones were errant on the front ends of 1-and-1 attempts. You expect those two to step up and bury free throws in clutch situations, but that just didn't happen.
There weren't the lone culprits, though. Katin Reinhardt and Anthony Bennett both missed critical free throws while UNLV was a couple possessions behind, too.
Free throw shooting can become a team bugaboo if allowed. The Rebels had been pretty solid in this area for much of the year but today's 11-of-21 effort was disappointing.
LEARNING LESSON - The rule of thumb is that there are no bad losses as long as something is gained from them.
We will find out soon enough whether this was an apparition or the start of a bad trend.
I tend to think that this team will bounce back quickly. The Rebels played much better in the second half, especially when they were shrinking the Carolina lead.
The good news is that when this team gets "it" there won't be a team on UNLV's schedule that it shouldn't beat. There are weapons all over the floor and at every position. The tricky part is finding a way to utilize all those weapons in the correct way.
The Rebels will get two tune-ups this week before the fun starts. Class dismissed.
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