Opportunities to run were few and far between, but Deville Smith added an impressive shooting aspect to UNLV’s offense.
It’s no longer a surprise when the junior point guard triggers the Rebels’ 3-point attack, as he did by connecting four times from long range Wednesday night.
And, as usual, junior forward Roscoe Smith handled things from close range.
Deville Smith scored 18 points, and Roscoe Smith recorded 13 points and 14 rebounds to lift UNLV to a 62-42 victory over Utah State at the Thomas &Mack Center.
“I know I can shoot,” said Deville Smith, who shot 6 of 11, including 4 of 7 on 3s. “I can make open jump shots.”
The Rebels (12-7, 3-3) snapped a two-game home losing streak in the Mountain West, and following home losses to UNR and Air Force, the announced crowd of 12,919 seemed to be in subdued mood most of the night. But it was the Aggies who were put to sleep after the half.
UNLV blew it open with a 20-4 run — 10-0 to close the first half and 10-4 to start the second half — and led 44-28 after Deville Smith’s 3-pointer with 14:45 remaining.
“Deville is a big piece of what we’re trying to do,” said Roscoe Smith, the nation’s leading rebounder who registered his 13th double-double.
During a December practice, coach Dave Rice implored Deville Smith to move past his pass-first approach to playing the point.
“Early in the season, I was really trying to observe my teammates and trying to figure out what Coach wanted,” Deville Smith said. “I wasn’t shooting as much.
“Coach said, ‘Why don’t you take those shots in a game?’ I had no answer.”
Deville Smith has been answering lately, scoring 17 points in the Rebels’ victory at New Mexico last week and doing a lot of the same things to Utah State’s defense. He shot over the zone and dribble penetrated to hit mid-range shots and make plays for teammates.
“He came into the game shooting 4 of 23 on 3-pointers,” Utah State coach Stew Morrill said. “We played the percentages on him, and he bucked the percentages.”
UNLV did not put on a shooting clinic, hitting 38.2 percent from the field and 7 of 22 from 3-point range, but Deville Smith picked up the slack.
“Deville gives us another outside shooter and stretches the defense,” Rice said. “The reality of the deal is we probably are not going to win a 3-point shooting contest this year.”
Senior center Jarred Shaw scored 14 points, 12 in the first half, to lead the Aggies (12-6, 2-4). The 6-foot-10-inch Shaw was effective early in the low post against Rebels forward Khem Birch, who eventually gained control.
After a sluggish start, the Rebels were sparked by freshman reserve Chris Wood, who blocked two shots on one possession. The second block led to a fast-break dunk by Birch that put UNLV up 16-15 with 7:44 to go.
“Chris is getting better every game,” Rice said. “He’s a matchup nightmare for most people. He’s got a lot of work to do, but he’s going to be a special player.”
The run the Rebels made by scoring the last 10 points of the first half, including a 3-pointer by Deville Smith with 10 seconds remaining, changed the game.
“It started on the defensive end,” Rice said. “We followed our game plan. We stayed attached to their shooters.”
Spencer Butterfield and Preston Medlin, the Aggies’ high-scoring guards, shot a combined 4-for-15. Utah State hit just 2 of 17 3s.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as you’ve got to make some shots,” Morrill said. “They rushed us and we missed a lot of open shots.”
Roscoe Smith said the Rebels were ready put their home-court woes in the rear-view mirror.
“Every game is important,” he said. “We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves. We just wanted to go out and have fun.”
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.