You could say Utah went from worse to bad in losing 70-57 to UNLV Saturday afternoon at the Huntsman Center. After all, the Utes lost by only half as many points as they did in their defeat at Air Force three days earlier.
Whatever you want to call it, there wasn't much positive emanating from Saturday's defeat, the Utes' sixth at home this year.
The Utes dropped to 9-16 on the season and 4-8 in Mountain West Conference play in losing to the Rebels (22-6, 9-4), a team they took to double-overtime a month ago in Las Vegas.
The Utes' problems Saturday were no different than what they've experienced all season.
Their defense was poor, as they allowed the Rebels to shoot 64.7 percent from 3-point range. Their offense was so poor they went on scoring droughts of eight minutes in the first half and five minutes in the second half, allowing UNLV to go on scoring runs of 18-0 and 16-0, which were the difference in the game.
Ute coach Ray Giacoletti reeled off a list of things his team didn't do right Saturday and concluded with, "That's something I have not been able to get through to the team."
The Utes actually got off to a quick start for the second game in a row, this time leading by as many as nine points at 15-6. They led 19-12 midway through the first half before going through a drought that lasted eight-and-a-half minutes, while UNLV scored 11 straight points.
A quick start in the second half pulled the Utes within three at 33-30, but, you guessed it, the Utes couldn't score for nearly five minutes, during which time the Rebels scored 16 straight to put the game away at 49-30 with 13:47 left.
It wasn't long after that fans were streaming up the aisles, making comments like "I can't stand it any longer," and "I'm going home and count socks."
The Utes were led by Luke Nevill with 15 points, Johnnie Bryant with 14 and Shaun Green with 12. But Nevill could only make 5 of 12 shots from the field and 5 of 8 from the free-throw line, while Green had four turnovers for the second straight game and Bryant didn't score in the second half until the Utes were down 18.
UNLV was led by Wink Adams, a 6-foot guard, who not only scored a game-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, but also managed to pull down a game-high 10 rebounds. The only other Rebel in double figures was the coach's son, Kevin Kruger, who scored 11 points and had four assists and four rebounds. Riverton High product Joe Darger added nine points with 3-of-4 3-point shooting.
The Rebels won easily despite leading scorer and rebounder Wendell White having his poorest game of the year, finishing with two points on 1-of-12 shooting and three rebounds.
After the game, Nevill said the Ute players were going to hold a players-only meeting to see if they can solve some of their problems and get the Utes ready for the Mountain West Conference tournament in two weeks — the Utes' last chance to make something out of their season.
"We have some huge problems we need to fix," Nevill said.
"We're a good team and we're not this bad on defense. We just need to work harder."
When asked if he approved, Giacoletti said, "Yeah, do it for the group. Exclude whoever you want, have some pride in the group.
"Whatever it's going to take for us to be able to take another step, because right now we're taking steps backward."
The Utes will play at Wyoming Wednesday before returning home for a pair of home games against New Mexico Saturday and San Diego State Feb. 27.