The start was a little slow and UNLV took its time in putting away Alaska Fairbanks, but in the end, Friday’s exhibition basketball game produced the expected one-sided outcome.
UNLV used 16-point runs in the first and second halves to come away with a 97-73 victory.
It was the first chance for the approximately 3,000 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center to see the Rebels in action against another team, but it wasn’t a complete unveiling. Top recruit Brandon McCoy, a 7-foot forward, sat on the bench in street clothes with an ankle injury. He is expected to be ready when UNLV opens its season at home Nov. 11 against Florida A&M.
The players who did play showed promise in making 61.7 percent of their shots, including 53.8 percent from the 3-point arc. UNLV also clamped down defensively after Alaska made 6 of its first 11 3-pointers, forcing the Nanooks into 5-of-23 long-range shooting the rest of the way.
“They came out confident,” Rebels forward Shakur Juiston said. “Coach (Marvin Menzies) said that this was their Super Bowl game, a Division II team playing a Division I team. I applaud them in their shooting. We came out and ran them off the line, a little more pressure and kind of slowed them down.”
Juiston was one of several Rebel standouts, leading the team with 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting. He also grabbed seven rebounds. The others:
— Point guard Jordan Johnson. UNLV didn’t have a true point guard last season, and Johnson showed what the Rebels were missing, smoothly running the show, making pinpoint passes and scoring when needed with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
“And he didn’t even have a great game,” Menzies said. “He played a solid game, but we’ve seen in a two-hour practice, 2½-hour practice and just be really good for all of practice. But I’m sure he had the butterflies going. He’d been sitting for a whole year.”
Johnson missed last season after transferring from Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where two years ago he finished second nationally with 8.1 assists per game. Even if there was room for improvement from this performance, he still showed his value when the game was tight by not panicking and getting his teammates involved.
“I was trying to keep us positive and make sure we still ran the stuff that we worked on,” Johnson said. “They just came out and shot (well), so if we would stick to the plan, we would be good.”
— Guard Jovan Mooring. He played mostly shooting guard but also handled point when Johnson was out of the game. Mooring finished with 16 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
— Forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong. He came off the bench and showed a powerful all-around game in the post, ending with a stat line of nine points, a team-high eight rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals.
“I think that you guys saw a little bit of what’s to come with him,” Menzies said.
UNLV 97, Alaska Fairbanks 73
Key: Shakur Juiston scored 24 points to lead four UNLV players in double figures.
Next: Florida A&M, Thomas & Mack Center, 7 p.m. Nov. 11, unlvrebels.com (online stream), KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)