For UNLV’s men’s basketball team, Saturday night’s regular season opener did not go as planned. Six-point favorites heading into the game, the Runnin’ Rebels lost to not-so-mighty Loyola Marymount, 61-50.

Yes, an 11-point defeat, at home, on opening night, the same day the 24-point underdog football team upset San Diego State on the road. Bizarro world indeed. 

The Rebels lost their season opener for the first time since the miserable 2016-17 season, when they finished the season 11-21. Still, despite the disappointing opening to the 2018-19 campaign, head coach Marvin Menzies was his usual positive self.

“It’s a long season,” he said after the loss. “It’s the first game. We’re optimistic…We have good players. They didn’t show it tonight.”

All of which, to an extent, are true. It is just the first game, and there are some things to be optimistic about. Most notably, in the first half. After getting the game off to a crawl (10-10 score with 9 minutes to go), UNLV was able to take the lead 17-14 thanks to Kris Clyburn’s 3-pointer. Spoiler alert: UNLV didn’t make another shot from deep until there was just over a minute left in the game; that’s how bad things got.

Fans were none too happy with the performance.

Despite the vitriol, the first half was decent, and the Reb’s defense was looking good. The Rebels only gave up 18 first half points but turnovers haunted the offense. The team looked confident and settled headed into halftime with a 25-18 lead after Noah Robotham’s half-court heave just missed to the left of the basket. Things looked good.

Then, the second half happened, and fans would much rather forget it ever did.

After extending their lead to nine early on, UNLV looked all out of sorts when the ball was in their hands from there on out. The struggles from one end of the court might’ve followed them to the other, and their defense began to struggle. UNLV’s ability to protect the rim stood out as a positive. The team finished with 10 blocks on the night.

Of course, the biggest reaction from everyone was UNLV’s (lack-of) offense. The final tally was UNLV turnovers: 24, and UNLV made shots: 21. I don’t care who you are, if you turn the ball over at such a drastic rate, you are going to lose no matter who you are playing. Such a concern may have already reached the mind of Menzies, although because he made a change in the starting lineup after last week’s not-so-good showing against MSU-Billings.

Freshman utility man Joel Ntambwe got the start over Amauri Hardy. Now, there are definitely other reasons I’m sure he got the nod, but one may wonder if ball security played a factor. Other notables from the roster, Bryce Hamilton made his official debut, going 0-3 from the field in just six minutes of action while Ben Coupet Jr — who played nine minutes in the loss — got a surprise bump in the rotation when Menzies seemed to desperately reach for a spark in the second half that his team ultimately got outscored in 43-25.

Looking forward, it seems as if playing time is there for the taking such as I noted in my exhibition game recap. Expect more changes and more combinations when the Runnin’ Rebs take on UC Riverside Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack. Hopefully my predictions for that game turn out a little better than this did because I TOLD YOU JAMES BATEMON WOULD SCORE A LOT.

I’m sorry for yelling…

Hopefully, this is just a blip on the screen and we can expect UNLV to get better and more comfortable with one another as the season goes on. Please, Coach Menzies. Make the Rebs Run Again. 

Menzies will answer to the public Thursday night on the Marvin Menzies Radio Show featuring the voice of the Runnin Rebels, John Sandler, live from Bailiwick inside The Orleans at 6 p.m.