SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Zero-for-Four.
UNLV senior guard Justin Hawkins contemplated that statistic for a moment while sitting in a chair in the Rebels locker room at HP Pavilion on Thursday night, a red hoodie covering his head.
That was not Hawkins’ shooting line, nor will you find it anywhere on the stat sheet from fifth-seeded UNLV’s 64-61 lost to 12th-seeded Cal. Rather, it is the NCAA tournament record of Hawkins and fellow Rebels senior Anthony Marshall.
“I can’t believe it,” Hawkins said. “I really thought we would finally win one. It is just … it’s hard.”
In 2010, Hawkins and Marshall’s first season, UNLV lost 69-66 to Northern Iowa on a three-pointer with 4.9 seconds remaining. In 2011, the Rebels went seven minutes without a field goal in the first half against Illinois, fell behind by 22 at halftime, and lost 73-62. Last season, Marshall and Hawkins watched as Colorado built a 20-point lead early in the second half before prevailing 68-64.
In every one of those games, UNLV was the higher seed, as they were Thursday, and yet the Rebels still faltered.
“Three of the four games I felt like we were the more talented team,” said Hawkins. “The exception was Illinois. All the others, I really believed we should have won if we played the way we were capable of playing.”
But they never did and so Hawkins and Marshall will leave UNLV with an inglorious distinction. They were the first players since Stacey Augmon (now a UNLV assistant coach) and Chris Jeter to go to four consecutive NCAA tournaments, and now they are the first ever to loss all four games. “A lot of players don’t even get to play in one NCAA tournament, so maybe somebody I will look back on this and be proud that I helped my team make the tournament every year I was here,” Hawkins said. “But right now, I don’t feel that way. It just hurts.”