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UNLV’s Amauri Hardy thrives as teammates get defenders’ attention

Amauri Hardy was UNLV’s offense early in the season. But with fellow guards Marvin Coleman and Bryce Hamilton emerging over the past month and the return of 3-point specialist Jonah Antonio from a broken thumb, the onus has eased on Hardy.

Since a Dec. 18 loss to Pacific, Hardy’s scoring average has gone from 17.1 points to 14.8, but he has become more efficient.

He was making 39.2 percent of his shots through the Pacific game and 40.3 percent since. Take out two clunkers — a combined 6-of-28 shooting in back-to-back games at Boise State and Wyoming — and his percentage is 47.9.

Since those two games, in fact, the 6-foot-2-inch junior took just a combined 15 shots in victories over San Jose State and New Mexico last week, and he made 10 of them to go with 14 assists.

“I think the great thing is we have more balance on our team,” UNLV coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Guys like Bryce stepping up and Marvin stepping up have made us a tougher team to guard because you don’t focus your scout on one player.”

Even if Hardy is shooting less, he still is being counted on to deliver offensively and has reached double figures in five of his past six games.

“He’s an unbelievable one-on-one player,” Coleman said. “At the beginning of the season, he was carrying us, and not a lot of guys were helping him out. Since a lot of guys have stepped up, he hasn’t had to do as much. That’s probably weighing on him a little bit because everybody wants to score. Amauri’s done a great job handling it. He’s a great team guy, and he’ll come back soon. He’s not gone. He can still go off for 30.”

Coleman’s emergence at point guard is a primary reason not as much is on Hardy. Coleman has scored in double figures the past four games, and in Saturday’s victory over New Mexico, he produced UNLV’s first triple-double in more than 20 years.

Hamilton scored 35 points in that same game, and he is on a seven-game streak of reaching double digits.

Antonio has averaged 14.7 points over the past three games.

The result for Hardy has been facing fewer double teams.

“As soon as I would drive, I would see maybe three or four players guarding (me),” Hardy said of what he faced early in the season. “Now I’m able to get in there and make simple kick-outs or drop-down to (forward) Mbacke (Diong). I’m able to make different plays. When my teammates came around, I’m like, ‘We all came around. We’re all playing good right now.’ It’s fun. It’s enjoyable.”

Hardy would like nothing better than to keep the fun going when UNLV plays its bitter in-state rival.

The Rebels (11-9, 6-1 Mountain West) have won seven of their past eight games and are in second place in the conference entering Wednesday’s 8 p.m. game at UNR (11-8, 4-3).

“It’s always real competitive when we go up there,” Hardy said. “The fans are going to be crazy. It’s going to be a pretty hostile, intense game.”

Contact reporter Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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