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UNLV men struggle, but hold off San Jose State

Updated February 21, 2021 - 3:59 pm

After a road victory over San Jose State Sunday afternoon, UNLV men’s basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger mentioned that “you don’t get style points this time (of the year) in league play.”

Not that the Rebels would have earned any, anyway.

UNLV (10-11, 7-7 Mountain West) had one of its worst offensive performances of the Mountain West season, but managed to escape Provident Credit Union Event Center in San Jose, California, with a 67-64 win. The Rebels struggled to move the ball against the Spartans (5-13, 3-13), who unveiled 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone defenses in addition to their man-to-man.

In turn, UNLV forced some contested shots and flat-out missed some open ones, creating an opportunity for San Jose State to mount a second-half rally. Spartans senior Richard Washington missed an open corner 3-pointer in the final seconds, though, that would have tied the game.

Rebels junior wing Bryce Hamilton led the way with 17 ponts and 12 rebounds.

“We’re lucky and fortunate to come out with the win,” Otzelberger said.

Here are three observations.

Own the glass

Shooting struggles necessitated that the Rebels dominate the glass, and they worked their way to a 59-29 rebounding edge. Zone defenses tend to yield offensive rebounding opportunities, and UNLV secured 29 such boards that led to 20 second-chance points.

Hamilton had seven offensive rebounds. Senior center Mbacke Diong and freshman forward Devin Tillis secured five apiece.

“The coaches emphasized to go to the glass in this series,” said Diong, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds. “Even if you don’t get it, tip it to our guards.”

Scorers struggle

Hamilton, the team’s leading scorer, shot 7 of 25 from the field. Junior guard David Jenkins Jr., the team’s second leading scorer, shot 4 of 15 en route to 13 points.

Diong, who shot 6 of 9, was the only Rebels player to shoot better than 50 percent from the field.

Otzelberger contended that San Jose State’s changing defenses forced the Rebels to take shots from different spots on the floor, perhaps disrupting their rhythm.

“We’re overall a pretty good 3-point shooting team in most cases, and we’ve usually been a reasonable finishing team around the rim,” he said. “Today, that certainly wasn’t the case on either front.”

Slow down the star

UNLV kept San Jose State senior wing Richard Washington in check for the second consecutive game. He’d scored 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting Friday and 10 points via 3-of-11 shooting Sunday.

Washington leads the Mountain West in scoring, averaging 19.7 points per game.

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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