AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — Three takeaways from the UNLV basketball team’s 81-76 victory over Air Force on Wednesday at Clune Arena:
1. The importance of senior leadership showed.
Having two backcourt seniors is especially important in close games, and Jordan Johnson and Jovan Mooring made the big plays in this one.
Mooring’s 3-pointer with 18.6 seconds left gave the Rebels a five-point lead that all but put away the game.
It was Johnson who put the Rebels in position so that Mooring could come through. Johnson’s 3-pointer with 4:24 left put the Rebels in front for good, at 71-68. He then made a floater, stole the ball, delivered a pass for Kris Clyburn for a layup and sank two free throws.
“I saw opportunities, and I took it,” Johnson said. “That’s what my team needed, so with me being a leader, it was just stepping up and making a big play.”
2. Chances were at a premium.
Air Force’s zone defense forced UNLV to make a high percentage of shots because the Rebels weren’t getting many second looks. The Rebels came through in shooting 63 percent — 9 of 18 from the 3-point line — but had only two second-chance points and five offensive rebounds.
“The rebounding is kind of a skewed number because of the efficiency that we had offensively,” UNLV coach Marvin Menzies said. “Now the one I’m disappointed with is the defensive rebounding when you give up 16 offensive rebounds. They got a lot of second-chance points.”
Air Force had 19 second-chance points.
3. A touch of the Golden Knights was needed at altitude.
Playing at more than 7,200 feet, the Rebels ran players in and out almost like a hockey team.
Ten players got into the game, including Jay Green, who saw his first action since Dec. 20 against Mississippi Valley State. Eight players got in for at least 14 minutes.
“If you had told me Shakur (Juiston) and Brandon (McCoy) would (have 11 combined points), I would’ve said, ‘That might be a long night. I don’t know if we’re going to pull that one out,’ ” Menzies said. “It was great to see everybody involved. You know the thing I liked the most? When the game was over, no one was pouting about the minutes or the stat line.
“They have an understanding now of how difficult conference is and how they’ve got to show up for every game, but they brought the energy and they got the ‘W.’
The one player who didn’t get his name called was Anthony Smith. Menzies said he didn’t want to aggravate Smith’s nagging ankle injury.