UNLV was trounced by Nevada. The Rebels never led and trailed by double figures for the entirety of the second half.
The 29-point loss caused T.J. Otzelberger to call out his team’s desire.
“Unacceptable effort and compete. Especially in a rivalry game. That’s not how we practice. That’s not how we prepare. Regardless of what players are available that’s not Runnin’ Rebel basketball. It won’t be tolerated,” Otzelberger said.
More specifically, he challenged his older players.
“The guys who are older that are playing, David (Jenkins), Mbacke (Diong), Caleb (Grill), Moses (Wood), they need to lift our level of play up and hold guys accountable as well.”
“This is inexcusable. It causes me to really evaluate pride point for some of those older guys. How important is it? How much does it matter? How much do they care? That’s what we have to continue to address.”
UNLV was without Bryce Hamilton and Marvin Coleman, two of the leaders of the team. The injuries to the backcourt have hurt UNLV, but the lack of maturity on the roster still falls at the feet of Otzelberger.
His roster construction in the offseason is to blame for the sudden lack of maturity. UNLV’s roster features seven freshman. Even the experienced players don’t have large resumes. Caleb Grill and Moses Wood are sophomores with less than 50 career games. David Jenkins is in his fourth collegiate season, but just his first playing at the Mountain West level.
Even with a fully healthy roster, Mbacke Diong and Bryce Hamilton are the only two players with multiple years of significant playing time in the Mountain West.
UNLV let three players that averaged over 20 minutes per game last season transfer out. Amauri Hardy went to Oregon, Donnie Tillman to New Mexico State and Jonah Antonio to Wake Forest. Even Jay Green, who averaged just 10 minutes per game last season, can be viewed as a loss in experience, as he left for Northern Arizona.
Last year’s team, despite finishing 12-6 in the Mountain West, was still just 17-15 overall. Letting guys like Hardy or Antonio walk aren’t the reason UNLV is looking at another season without a post season appearance.
But if experience and maturity were the reason for UNLV’s blowout loss to Nevada, Otzelberger is the one that built the youthful roster.
Otzelberger doesn’t have control over his players’ effort level on any given night. But he does have control over who is on the roster.