The UNLV men’s basketball team finally utilized its speed and athleticism, but not by choice. With Stephen Zimmerman Jr. nursing a thigh injury, the Runnin’ Rebels scrapped the half court offense and pushed the pace.
That kept them within striking distance against No. 12 Arizona on the road. One problem: the Wildcats are just as fast and athletic and they do it better. Arizona defeated UNLV 82-70 on Saturday and extended its home-winning streak to 46 games.
Ike Nwamu had the hot hand for the Rebels in the first half, scoring 14 points and finishing with a team-high 17. Nwamu cooled off in the second half with only three points and going 1-of-6 from the field. Nwamu made three of the Rebels’ four three-pointers.
Jerome Seagears has lost some trust from coach Dave Rice. Seagears didn’t get many opportunities to set up the offense and roamed the perimeter most of the night. He finished with six points, four rebounds and five assists.
Patrick McCaw had another quiet night offensively with eight points. McCaw was the one who pushed the tempo when the Rebels were in transition, which led to many easy baskets in the paint. UNLV had 36 points in the paint.
The guards played solid defense and forced the Arizona guards into tough shots.
Zimmerman is usually a starter, but a bruised thigh kept him on the bench and only saw nine minutes of action. Ben Carter stepped in for Zimmerman and provided sparks at times. Carter scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.
Dwayne Morgan has hit a slump after a solid start to the season. Morgan often leaves his mark on the defensive side and brings energy. Morgan, however, had another quiet night, and he and Carter struggled to defend the Wildcat big men. Morgan did get three steals.
Arizona center Dusan Ristic and forward Ryan Anderson controlled the game with a combined 37 points. The Wildcats outrebounded the Rebels, 38-26.
Derrick Jones Jr. gave the Rebels another rim attacker when the team was pushing the pace. Jones was a big reason why UNLV cut the Arizona lead to three points late in the second half. Jones scored 12 points in 29 minutes. Zimmerman provided six points and Cornish had five points off the bench. UNLV scored 23 bench points compared to Arizona’s four.
Credit to Rice for adjusting the offense due to Zimmerman not being at full strength. UNLV struggled defensively without Zimmerman, but the uptempo offense and depth from the bench caused fits for Arizona. Rice called for a full court press halfway through the second half to put UNLV back in the game. The press also gave the Rebels a head start in transition.
For whatever reason, Rice went away from the press down the stretch and Arizona went up double digits to seal the victory.