UNLV’s fast start hit a stiff roadblock on Sunday

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Starting 8-0 and beating the No. 1 team ensured UNLV opened its season with a splash.

It also painted a big fat target on their backs.

Just days after escaping with a double-overtime win at Santa Barabara, the Rebels were dusted by Wichita State on Sunday afternoon, 89-70. Not that UNLV coach Dave Rice will miss out on a teaching point with his team.

“It’s really important for us to learn that part of the responsibility that goes with starting out 8-0 and being ranked is that we’re going to get everyone’s best shot,” Rice told the Las Vegas Sun. “And we certainly got that today.”

No joke. Shockers guard Joe Ragland torched UNLV’s defense, hitting eight 3-pointers and scoring a career-high 31 points. The Rebels’ offense wasn’t much better at times, going nearly eight minutes without a made basket. By halftime, the game was a rout.

“Our guys were beating them (off the dribble), and they had to help,” Ragland said. “That kept leaving me wide open.”

The result? Wichita State scored nearly 1.5 points a possession, by far the worst of UNLV’s season and a number not seen since TCU scored 1.49 PPP in 2008. (Yes, TCU. Yes, I also was surprised.)

Not that UNLV’s defense will be its calling card this season. This team’s about running, scoring and scoring some more. The offense eventually clicked vs. WSU and produced at its normal output for the season. Super rebounder Mike Moser didn’t put up eye-popping numbers, but he grabbed boards at close to the same rate. (The problem was the Shockers didn’t miss.)

But that defense? That tempo? Neither worked Sunday. That’s bad news for the Rebels, too. A trip to slow-it-down specialist Wisconsin is Saturday.

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