California v UNLV

UC Santa Barbara hands UNLV an 86-65 home loss

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Fans inside the Thomas & Mack Center were loudly booing UNLV with nine minute to go, as UC Santa Barbara extended its lead to 69-47. For those that stayed, the boos reemerged at the end of the Rebels’ embarrassing 86-65 home loss to the Gauchos on Tuesday night.

Alan Williams, one of the top forwards in the Big West, shot 9-of-19 from the field for 21 points, nine bounds and two blocks while Kyle Boswell added 19 points. Dave Rice played 12 players on Tuesday night, as the team shot 37 percent from the floor with none of his starters cracking double figures.

Jamal Aytes put UNLV up 13-11 with more than 12 minutes to go in the first half. The Rebels would hold that lead for 48 seconds before the Gauchos reclaimed the lead off a Taran Brown 3-pointer. From there UC Santa Barbara built a 16-point lead heading into halftime. It didn’t get much better in the second half, as the Gauchos got the lead as high as 26.

Rice has a roster that’s filled with talent, but it’s new talent playing together after seeing Anthony Bennett leave for the NBA, Anthony Marshall graduate and Katin Reinhardt and Mike Moser electing to transfer.

Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones, who combined for 13 points, six rebounds and five assists on Tuesday, return as starters while Roscoe Smith — plagued with first half foul trouble against UC Santa Barbara — is eligible after sitting out last season. Deville Smith and former McDonald’s All-American Jelan Kendrick fill out the roster. So, the talent is there, but first, that talent needs to mesh together on the floor.

The Rebels have not had an ideal month to kick off the season. Remember on Nov. 1, the Rebels lost a 71-70 exhibition game to Division II Dixie State. November can be even more unkind to UNLV when Jahii Carson and Arizona State come to Vegas, followed by a game against Illinois coming up the week after. Before those games against power conference teams, the Rebels host Nebraska-Omaha on Friday.

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Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia sparks come-from-behind win over No. 13 Louisville

Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia (32) goes up for a shot over Boston College’s Idy Diallo (4) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
(AP Photo/Robert Franklin)
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Demetrius Jackson scored 20 of his 25 points in the first half and Steve Vasturia scored 15 of his 20 points in the final 20 minutes as Notre Dame landed a 71-66 win over No. 13 Louisville on Saturday afternoon.

The Fighting Irish trailed by as many as 11 points early in the second half, but Vasturia’s hot shooting combined with Notre Dame holding Louisville to just 15 points in the final 15 minutes made all the difference.

The Fighting Irish are not as good as they were last season, but they are built in a similar mold. Jackson, as we expected, as become one of the nation’s most dynamic point guards, impossible to slow-down in isolation and ball-screen actions. Steve Vasturia emerging as a legitimate secondary option offensively and Zach Auguste is one of the nation’s most underrated big men and one of the most dangerous as the roll-man in ball-screens.

Combine all of that with a handful of shooters creating space and Bonzie Colson’s emergence as a force on the offensive glass, and Mike Brey once again has one of the nation’s most lethal offensive attacks.

Where they struggle is on the defensive end of the floor, which is what makes the end of Saturday’s win so meaningful. The Irish entered the day ranked 232nd in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency metric, which more or less means they’re as good as a bad mid-major program at keeping their opponents from scoring.

But they don’t have to be great to be able to win games.

They have to be good enough and they have to get important stops.

That’s precisely what happened on Saturday.

Whether or not that actually becomes a trend for this group will be something to monitor — it happened for Duke during last year’s NCAA tournament — but the bottom-line is this: Notre Dame does something better than just about anyone else in college basketball, and that’s score the ball.

On the nights they are able to gets some stops, they are going to be able to win some games. In the last eight days, they’ve proven that, beating North Carolina, Clemson on the road and Louisville.

And that makes them dangerous in March.