The new year gave UNLV a new opportunity to beat a quality opponent. But the Rebels blew it.
Despite San Diego State playing without two starting guards and scoring 0.91 points per possession, the Aztecs left Las Vegas with a 62-55 win.
“With the best defensive performance we put together of the season we would have loved to end up with a win and had a better flow offensively,” Kevin Kruger said. “But that’s what San Diego State will do to you.”
The Aztecs 0.91 points per possession was their fourth worst offensive game of the season. Only BYU, Michigan and USC (all NCAA Tournament caliber teams) held San Diego State to lower offensive efficiency numbers.
Kruger was right, it was the best defensive game of the season for the Rebels.
But San Diego State lost to BYU, Michigan and USC. They beat UNLV. Plus this was the first time all season UNLV held an opponent under 1 point per possession and lost.
When UNLV had a chance to make a statement to the Mountain West, their offense failed. The Rebels scored 0.81 points per possession, their worst mark of the season.
San Diego State deserves credit. Their defense is in the top 10 of Ken Pom’s efficiency ranks. UNLV was able to get into the paint for the majority of the game, but UNLV could not finish. The Rebels shot 7 of 17 on layups and 33.3 percent on all two pointers.
That is the lowest percentage any opponent has shot on two pointers against San Diego State this season.
Overall the 0.81 points per possession for UNLV’s offense was the third worst by any team against the Aztecs.
And this offensive failure comes on the heels of the best four game stretch of the season. UNLV put up at least 1.1 points per possession in the last four games of the non-conference schedule.
But that was against teams like Seattle and Omaha. The Rebels are bum slayers and could not shake that simplistic label on Saturday.
Now they have to reset, again.
UNLV started the season with three defensive-minded wins over non-top 100 teams. Then a five game losing streak to Division I opponents was capped by an 83-62 loss to San Francisco.
The Rebels committed to attacking the paint after that loss, and it led to the four best offensive games of the season.
But against a good team, UNLV’s offense regressed. There is still an entire (almost) conference schedule for the Rebels to prove they are better than bum slayers.
But for now, they are still seeking that first signature win of the Kevin Kruger era.