Dave Rice met with the media before Thursday’s practice, and the sitdown session turned into a quasi state-of-the-team address, with Rice tackling several hot-button topics in the wake of the Rebels’ 1-3 start to Mountain West play.
The biggest theme running through all of Rice’s comments was the need for more effort. The fourth-year coach said the team watched film of the Boise State loss and that it was clear the intensity level was severely lacking.
“We went right to the film room and watched offensive clips and defensive clips, and just saw how inexcusable our effort was in the first half and in overtime,” Rice said. “We watched all that.”
Chris Wood in particular has taken a beating in the local media after his no-show first half performance against Boise State, and while Rice acknowledged that Wood’s effort has oscillated throughout the season, he also took the opportunity to defend his star player.
“I talked to Chris, and I said ‘It’s a credit to you and a credit to the coaching staff that you’ve developed as you have, but now the responsibility is on you, because you’ve been perceived—and for good reason—as being one of our best players. And to be one of the best players in our league, you have to bring it every single night.’ And so to some degree he’s been the product of his own success, but that’s part of becoming a good player.”
Nevertheless, with the Rebels having lost four of their last five and now scrambling just to get back into the Mountain West picture, Rice said that he’s considering making drastic lineup changes.
“I told the guys yesterday, I’m not married to any particular starting lineup,” Rice said. “We’ll make that decision based on what happens the next two days in practice…Guys who start are going to earn their right to start.”
With all of this swirling around the team, UNLV has to head into the hornet’s nest that is Viejas Arena to take on San Diego State on Saturday. The Rebels were swept in three games against SDSU last year, and if they don’t play with 100-percent intensity for the entirety of the contest, the Aztecs will devour them and make it four in a row.
Put all that together, and the Rebels have a ton of question marks going into the game. A loss could send the season into a free fall, though Rice said he believed in his team’s chemistry and their ability to bounce back from adversity. After Saturday’s game, we’ll have a better idea of whether UNLV is a team that’s willing to fight for its season, or one that is going to let it slip away.
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