You knew there were going to be growing pains in T.J. Otzelberger’s first year as UNLV’s basketball coach.
Wednesday, there was another tough lesson learned at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels got caught in a snail’s pace game and Texas State escaped the Thomas & Mack Center with a 64-57 win.
“If we get stops, we can run out. If we don’t, we have to play half-court,” said Amauri Hardy, who led UNLV with 18 points. “We don’t like to play that way.”
The Bobcats (4-2) were in no rush offensively. They erased a 10-point first-half deficit to lead late in the half before the game was tied at intermission, 28-28.
But UNLV was never able to get rolling offensively. it became a grind-it-out affair and that played to Texas State’s advantage. They were deliberate offensively, taking time off the clock and running a simple, but effective offense as the Bobcats were able to shorten the game.
“We knew Texas State would come in here highly competitive,” Otzelberger said. “As the game wore on, whether it was fouls or whatever, we seemed to be playing on our heels at both ends in the second half.
“You’ve got to keep your foot on the glass. They had that run and we needed to get stops so we can play with pace. They did a better job of having the tempo they wanted. We’ve got to maintain our toughness, our focus and our competitive spirit to platy at the tempo we want.”
The Rebels, a 4-point favorite, were without Jonah Antonio, who is one of their better perimeter shooters. Antonio missed Wednesday’s game with a left hand injury.
“Jonah plays heavy minutes and we missed him,” Otzelberger said of Antonio, who is listed as day-to-day and may be available for Saturday’s home game against SMU. “We had to make some decisions with our bench. We need to keep guys out of foul trouble and keep our guys on the floor.”
Texas State led by as many as nine late in the second half and with UNLV unable to get any kind of offensive flow going, it spelled doom for the Rebels, who dropped to 2-4.
“We have to learn from this,” said Hardy. “We can’t foul as much and we can’t let teams dictate how we play.”