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Offense abandons UNLV late again in loss to Fresno State

Updated February 25, 2021 - 12:03 am

UNLV has shown a penchant for bogging down on offense late in games, and that tendency hurt it again Wednesday night.

The Rebels led by one with 1:44 left after Bryce Hamilton went on a personal 7-0 run, but Fresno State answered with a 6-0 run en route to a 67-64 win at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The teams will meet again at 8 p.m. Friday at the Thomas and Mack.

Deon Stroud scored on a midrange jumper with 1:22 left to put the Bulldogs ahead for good in a game in which neither team led by more than seven points.

Isaiah Hill led Fresno State (10-9, 8-9 Mountain West) with 19 points and seven assists, and Stroud scored 18. Anthony Holland and Orlando Robinson added 12 points apiece for the Bulldogs, who won despite shooting 36.4 percent from the field.

Hamilton led all scorers with 27 points. Mbacke Diong had 16 points and eight rebounds, but was scoreless in the final 14:43.

“Bryce made some big plays to get us going and then we stalled out,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We’ve got to do a great job of getting movement, cutting and screening, creating action. We spent too much time standing. You can’t have that offensively late.”

UNLV (10-12, 7-8) had a chance late after David Jenkins made all three free throws after a foul with five seconds left and trailed by three after a Hill free throw. The Rebels needed to go the length of the floor in the final four seconds but never got a shot, as a pass to Jenkins sailed out of bounds at the buzzer.

“We thought they would (foul),” Otzelberger said. “We were trying to get a pass up the sideline, then trying to get it Jenkins in the middle of the floor on the cut because it’s tough to foul a guy who’s in motion. We felt that was our best chance to be successful. But the ball pressure on (Caleb) Grill made it hard for him. As a result, we didn’t get what we were looking for.”

Here are three takeaways from the loss:

1. Free throws spur Fresno State

UNLV led by as many as seven points in the second half, and it was a 48-42 advantage when the Bulldogs started getting to the free-throw line.

They were 9 of 12 in a stretch in which they outscored UNLV 18-6 to turn their six-point deficit into a six-point lead. To make matters worse for the Rebels, they shot only two free throws during that span and missed front ends of one-and-ones both times.

“I thought their press wore us down, and we had a lot of unnecessary fouls that put them at the foul line late,” Otzelberger said. “They had some key offensive reb0unds they scored on late. We knew that was the identity of what they do, and we have to be more sound and fundamental in doing the thing we work on every day.”

Fresno State finished 17 of 23 from the line, and UNLV was 9 of 13.

2. 3-point defense hurts UNLV

Neither team scored consecutive baskets until Diong had a three-point play and a dunk off a steal to spark an 11-3 run that gave UNLV a 28-25 lead with 3:28 left in the first half.

But Fresno State built as much as a five-point lead before that because of draining seven 3-pointers. The Bulldogs went 10 of 27 from 3-point range, the sixth time UNLV has allowed at least 10 to an opponent in conference play.

3. Rest of the Rebels struggle

While Hamilton and Diong combined to shoot 18 of 33, the rest of the Rebels were 8 of 25.

Jenkins had nine points, but was 3 of 11 overall and 0 of 4 from 3-point range. UNLV was 3 of 15 on 3s.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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