Call it “rodeo hangover.” Playing at the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time in 25 days, cold-shooting UNLV fell to UC Santa Barbara 68-62 on Wednesday night. The 22nd-ranked Rebels(9-2) were 15 1/2-point favorites against the Gauchos (5-3), who were champions of the Big West a year ago. But UNLV shot just 18-for-62 (29%) from the floor, including 6-of-29 from three-point range. The Rebels also missed 14 free throws, finishing 20-of-34 from the line. Chace Stanback led UNLV with 16 points, followed by Tre’Von Willis with 14, but the duo combined to shoot just 9-of-28. Willis was in the starting lineup for the first time this season. He opened the season with a three-game suspension for an offseason arrest and had been coming off the bench since returning.
The Gauchos were sloppy, finishing with 25 turnovers, but made up for it by shooting 50% (22-of-44) from the field and 9-of-19 from three-point range. James Nunnally led UC Santa Barbara with a game-high 23 points along with seven rebounds. This was UNLV’s first game at the Thomas & Mack since a 68-65 win over Wisconsin back on November 20th, as the arena hosted the National Finals Rodeo. The 22nd-ranked Rebels have now dropped two straight after opening the season with nine consecutive wins. They’ll be back home on Saturday to face Southern Utah. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.