After a back-and-forth first half, UNLV erupted out of the break and went on to a third straight victory to open the Todd Simon era.
The Rebels used a 21-2 run to open the second half and went on to an 80-68 road win to even their record in conference play at 3-3.
The win was UNLV’s first on the road in Mountain West play after a disastrous road trip earlier this month that saw the team blow consecutive second-half leads and ultimately coast Dave Rice his job.
Several performances stood out on Tuesday night in Logan, Utah.
Patrick McCaw once again failed to assert himself on the offensive end of the floor, taking only five shots in the game and scoring four points. That doesn’t seem to bode well for the long-term success of the team, but the Rebels were just fine on Tuesday. McCaw certainly impacted the game in other ways. He had three rebounds, six assists and four steals. His activity on the defensive end was responsible for forcing even more turnovers. He can just do so many things. Eventually, he’ll need to be a scorer. If he can impact as many plays as he did Tuesday, however, the Rebels will be just fine. Jerome Seagears had 12 points, mostly from the free-throw line, in 30 minutes. He made his only 3-point attempt and had four assists. He played a solid overall game without making many glaring mistakes and finished with a team-best plus-19 ratio.
If there was a better grade available, this group would get it. They were that good. Derrick Jones continued to emerge as far more than just a dunker as he scored 21 points in an array of ways. He scored a reverse layup on the break and made several off-balance short jumpers in the lane. Oh, and he also had a couple of his trademark highlight-reel dunks. The freshman’s confidence continues to grow with each game and he is getting to be more and more of a weapon for the Rebels. Jones finished 10 of 15 from the field and plus-19 in his 27 minutes. Fellow freshman Stephen Zimmerman had a monster night against an undersized Utah State frontline. Zimmerman had 12 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. He also blocked four shots and had a steal. He was still hesitant on his post moves on several occasions, but Zimmerman knew the opportunity was there for a big game and he took advantage. The third frontcourt starter, Dwayne Morgan, looked as confident on offense as he had been in his nearly two seasons at UNLV. He scored on the opening possession and looked for his spots throughout the game. Morgan finished 6 of 7 from the field for 13 points to help the Rebels shoot nearly 54 percent as a team.
Ben Carter was active as always on defense, but failed to make a field goal and had just two points in limited action largely due to foul trouble. He did make a really nice play to free Ike Nwamu for a 3-pointer in the corner during a key stretch in the second half as UNLV pulled away. Nwamu had six points, four rebounds and three assists in 20 efficient minutes. Jordan Cornish was the most effective reserve on Tuesday. He hit 3 of 5 shots, including 2-for-3 on 3-pointers, to finish with 10 points in just 17 minutes. He looked like he was starting to get his touch back and it can only be a good thing if the Rebels can find another shooter to open things up on offense.
Simon has started off 3-0 and UNLV fans couldn’t be more thrilled with the midseason coaching switch at this point. To be fair, UNLV has been favored in all three games and very well could have done the same thing had Rice still been on the sidelines. But all Simon can do is win the games in front of him and the team has looked more loose since the change. Whether that’s something Simon has instilled or the players simply not having the pressure of playing for their coach’s job looming over them remains to be seen. The Rebels have a tough stretch coming up after a trip to UNR this week. That will tell a whole lot more about the state of the program. But for now, everything appears to be headed in the right direction. One detail from the game to note is the amount of outside shots attempted by the Rebels. After hoisting up 25 and 30 attempts respectively from 3-point range in the first two games, UNLV tried just 13 on Tuesday. The Rebels knew they had an advantage inside and they exploited it. UNLV outscored Utah State 46-28 in the paint. The Rebels also took advantage when there were opportunities to run as they had a 23-2 edge in fast-break points. They also had a 39-35 edge on the boards. That’s how you win road games.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at email@example.com or 702-224-5509. Follow him on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj
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