Pilots blow chance for upset of stone-cold UNLV

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - UNLV forward Mike Moser, a junior forward from Grant High, watches from the bench with a hip injury Tuesday night as the Runnin' Rebels take on the Portland Pilots at Chiles Center.It was “Mike Moser Night” Tuesday at Chiles Center, only the featured guest showed up in street clothes.

Moser, Nevada-Las Vegas’ star forward out of Portland’s Grant High, watched from the bench with a hip injury as the 21st-ranked Runnin’ Rebels pulled out an ugly 68-60 victory over the University of Portland.

“I filled out a ticket list of about 130 people,” Moser said a bit sheepishly outside the UNLV locker room afterward. “We had a little crowd today, that’s for sure.”

It was more a neutral-site game than a home date for the Pilots as at least a couple of hundred fans wearing Rebel red cheered on the sluggish visitors. Some of them were friends and family members of Moser, who hated the idea of not being able to play in front of them.

“I’m so disappointed,” the 6-8, 210-pound junior said. “It hurts more than anything. I’m just glad we won.”

Moser said the hip began bothering him about a month ago and was aggravated in a 77-63 win over Hawaii on Saturday.

“It’s a little sore,” Moser said. “The trainers, my coaches, they thought it would be best to rest today. We went back and forth arguing about it, and they ended up winning the argument.

“When we get back to Vegas I’ll have a chance to get an MRI to make sure it’s nothing serious, which I don’t think it is. It’s already feeling better just by resting.”

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Mike Moser (left) can only watch as his UNLV teammates beat the Portland Pilots 68-60 Tuesday at Chiles Center. UNLV, ranked 18th, improved to 6-1.Moser was considered a potential first-round pick in the June NBA draft after averaging 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds and shooting .450 from the field and .331 from 3-point range as a sophomore. The former General chose to return to UNLV, in part because the Rebels were ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last March.

“I was pretty close” to coming out for the draft, he said. “I had a good chance of going in the first round or high second round. But coming back and playing with this team was going to be more important for me.”

Moser isn’t sure if he will apply for entry in the 2013 NBA draft.

“We’ll see how this season goes,” he said. “I didn’t like the way last season ended. This team can go deeper. Hopefully that will influence my decision.”

In UNLV’s first six games — the only loss to Oregon 83-79 at home on Nov. 23 in a game in which the Ducks made 3 of 19 3-pointers — Moser’s numbers were behind his 2011-12 pace. He is averaging 12.3 points and 9.2 rebounds while shooting .391 from the field, making only 3 for 17 attempts from beyond the arc.

“It’s early in the season,” he said. “I feel like I’ll be fine down the road.”

I’m not so sure about the Rebels. They were ripe for the pickings Tuesday night. Sure, they were missing Moser, arguably their best player. But I’m doubtful a ranked team has ever come into Chiles and played so poorly.

UNLV shot .242 from the field in the first half, making 1 of 15 3-point attempts, and went into intermission trailing only 28-22. The Rebels were still 1 for 18 from beyond the arc early in the second half when they finally began to find the range, finishing 6 for 25 from long distance.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Kevin Bailey (left) of the University of Portland ties to get inside on UNVL's Justin Hawkins. The Pilots' 68-60 homecourt loss Tuesday dropped them to 3-5.Statistically, the Pilots lost because they committed 21 turnovers — 12 in the second half — and made only 5 of 9 at the foul line to 18 of 29 for the Rebels. UP was called for 23 fouls to 13 for the visitors. The second-half foul disparity was 10-3. Did UP coach Eric Reveno feel his club got hosed?

“You tell me,” he said afterward.

But the Pilots have only themselves to blame for the loss. The way the Rebels played early, the hosts should have been ahead by 15 at the half.

Junior forward Ryan Nicholas was terrific with 19 points, 15 rebounds and six assists, and guard Korey Thieleke (12 points) and center Thomas Van Der Mars (11 points on 5-for-6 shooting, nine rebounds) had their moments. But the Pilots grew tentative with open shots and the game on the line in the second half. No guts, no glory.

The Rebels’ “second-half energy was a different gear,” Reveno said. “We got their attention; they responded well.

“I told our guys at halftime, ‘We’re going to get hit in the second half. How are we going to respond?’ We responded pretty well, but turning the ball over like that and not getting to the line made it too hard.”

I’ve always felt Reveno was a good coach who has his teams prepared, but this didn’t seem one of his better nights.

I couldn’t understand why, on a night when the Pilots were offensively challenged, he didn’t go to streak shooter Tanner Riley for more than five first-half minutes. Especially since the Pilots played zone most of the night, which would help hide any defensive deficiencies of Riley, who had gone 8 for 8 in a 23-point gem against Portland State two weeks ago.

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Portland's Thomas van der Mars (left) swats away a shot by UNLV's Anthony Bennett.“I felt like Oskars (Reinfelds) and Korey were playing well, so Tanner’s minutes got shortened, but I see your point,” Reveno explained.

Reinfelds had four points and four turnovers in 21 minutes and made 2 of 8 shots, missing a layup in the closing minutes with the verdict still undecided.

With 44 seconds left and the Rebels leading 66-60 and in possession, the Pilots let them run down the 24-second clock before turning it over. By the time the Pilots regained the ball, only 18 seconds remained.

“That’s on me,” Reveno said. “I miscommunicated that. I wanted (UP players) to foul without fouling, to pressure the officials with the foul disparity. I didn’t communicate that clearly.”

At that point, though, the Pilots needed to foul WITH fouling. Sure, you could first try for the steal, but then the clock had to be stopped. Period.

“The last two minutes, there were a few things coaching-wise where (the players) thought they knew what we wanted, but we weren’t clear on what it was,” Reveno said.

That can’t happen. Opportunity knocked for the Pilots Tuesday night at Chiles, and they didn’t answer — even with Mike Moser sitting this one TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Guard David Carr of the Portland Pilots looks for a seam in the UNLV defense.

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