UNLV's lack of identity shows up again as Cal continues Pac-12 run

Both UNLV and California had something to prove Thursday night. UNLV is loaded with talent but has been up and down throughout the season -- and California was looking to continue the Pac-12’s impressive performance Thursday.

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Like Arizona and Oregon earlier in the day, California represented the league and pulled off the upset, 64-61. Allen Crabbe led the way with 19 points, eight rebounds and five assists, but the Golden Bears defense was also outstanding. UNLV shot just 31.7 percent from the field and 28.7 percent from 3-point range.

UNLV entered the season as one of the most talented teams in the country, and that never changed. The Runnin’ Rebels were loaded from a personnel perspective, with freshmen Anthony Bennett and Katin Reinhardt and productive transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones joining a team with quality prospects. But they never seemed to get on the same page and there was never the cohesiveness needed to make a big run. Coach Dave Rice was adjusting lineups and substitution patterns, looking for the perfect group.

He was never able to find it, as UNLV’s plethora of outstanding individual players never truly meshed and reached their potential. There was a lack of identity throughout the year -- different go-to-guys, different leaders. It was evident when Cal switched to a zone defense; UNLV simply had no answer.

As for California, the Golden Bears are now the second No. 12 seed to win on Thursday, joining conference brethren Oregon. Meanwhile, fellow Pac-12 member Arizona also won, dominating Belmont. On Sunday, one of the clear headlines was the low seeding of Pac-12 teams -- and three of them made a statement on Thursday.

Cal advances to face No. 4 Syracuse.

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