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UNLV whips New Mexico without injured guard Marvin Coleman

Updated January 16, 2021 - 5:57 pm

UNLV undoubtedly will miss junior point guard Marvin Coleman as the season progresses.

But the Rebels didn’t seem to miss him Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV rolled to its first Mountain West victory, 77-54 over New Mexico. The teams will meet again at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the T&M.

Senior big man Mbacke Diong patrolled the paint and scored a game-high 20 points for the Rebels (3-6, 1-2 Mountain West). Junior wing Bryce Hamilton added 19 points, eight rebounds and a career-high seven assists to help mitigate the loss of Coleman, who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his right leg.

“There’s things as far as leadership, communication, coachability, command, character, there’s so many things that come to mind when I think about Marvin that you don’t replace,” Rebels coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “We came into this game, we talked about other guys stepping up. … We need guys to do little things, selfless things.”

Here are three takeaways from the win:

1. Point Blake

Freshman wing and former Durango High standout Nick Blake was UNLV’s primary ballhandler for most of his 24 minutes and will remain in that role. He made 7 of 13 field goals — including 4 of 8 from 3-point range — for 18 points and used a tight handle and quick first step to penetrate the paint and create scoring opportunities.

Otzelberger praised Blake’s versatility and said he noticed during the recruiting process that he could create for his teammates. Blake knows he’s in line for more responsibility without Coleman.

“I just have to go out there real poised. I have to be able to move the ball, get into the paint, rebound the ball, defend, score for us,” said Blake, who added three rebounds and three assists.

2. Natural off-guard

Junior guard David Jenkins Jr. was tasked at times with ballhandling duties. But he struggled to shake free from his primary defender and draw a secondary help defender. He’s certainly more comfortable playing off the ball and spotting up for catch-and-shoot opportunities, and Otzelberger admitted as much, noting that he’s not a natural point guard.

Jenkins scored eight points on 2-of-8 shooting with five rebounds and three assists.

3. Steady senior

Diong feasted in the dunker’s spot on offense and capitalized on dribble penetration by Hamilton and Blake. Seven of his nine field goals were assisted, and he helped anchor a dominant defensive effort that limited the Lobos (4-7, 0-7) to 33.3 percent shooting.

“When he really started to step up and control the paint on both ends, we separated,” Otzelberger said. “He covers up so many things defensively for us that don’t show up in the stat sheet.”

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

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