For UNLV, Curtains Close in Kentucky
UNLV's failed season could be summed up in just a few words: rebounding, three pointers, turnovers, and free throws. Unfortunately, these words are also the primary terms for succeeding in basketball; hence a NIT berth and furthermore, UNLV's loss to Kentucky in the first round. In UNLV's defense, the team did have to play in Kentucky's historic Memorial Coliseum in front of a packed crowd (quite unlike the typical first round NIT atmosphere). However, there are no excuses that are sufficient for last night's near embarrassment, and there is nothing that can be said that can ease the pain of a bitter season.
Last night was emblematic of the entire wacky Rebel season. Up by a few in the first minutes, with 15 minutes to go in the 2nd half and down by 20 points, the Rebs fringed on public shame. Only their second appearance on ESPN this year (the first at Louisville), the Rebels proved to everyone why they did not belong in the NCAA tournament this year. It is a hard pill to swallow for Rebel fans around the country who saw their team picked 1st to win the Mountain West and dreamed of a deeper run in the NCAAs than in the past successful 3 years. Now, fans and team look back to the season with "what-ifs?"
The Rebels could have claimed a victory last night, but as with so many other times in the season, they could not close out the game. Currently, reports say that the team blames themselves for "never being able to turn the corner." It is all too true. Even in victory, many games were decided by just a few points-this year's Rebels appeared lucky to win some of the games they did rather than deserving to win.
Last night was a fitting way to end this season, but it was not the way most imagined a fitting conclusion should be. The Rebels end their season with a record of 21-11. For the five seniors, 3 of whom experienced tremendous success in 07-08, and 06-07, this season cannot be anything but a great letdown. And for the red shirts and underclassmen bench players, next season could not come soon enough.