For the first time in coach Lon Kruger’s five seasons, UNLV is off to a 4-0 start. The Rebels needed a second-half rally Saturday night to defeat North Carolina A&T 71-58 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
It’s a good thing for UNLV that its opponent was not North Carolina. There obviously is a big difference between the top-ranked Tar Heels and the North Carolina team with the A&T attached to its name.
The Rebels should have won in a blowout, but they trailed by one point with about 12 minutes remaining.
Kruger called the Aggies (2-2) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference a “really talented, skilled group.” But in North Carolina A&T’s only other road game, it lost by 19 points to Central Florida.
THE INSIDE STORY … THERE IS NONE
The Rebels are wasting no time in testing the new college basketball 3-point line, which was pushed back one foot to 20 feet 9 inches this season.
In four games, UNLV has attempted 109 3-point shots. The Rebels launched 33 long-range jumpers Saturday and made 11.
“I wouldn’t mind if we shoot 50 3s as long as we shoot a better percentage,” said senior forward Joe Darger, who made six 3-pointers in 11 attempts.
UNLV is barely using its big men. Junior forward Darris Santee and freshmen centers Brice Massamba and Beas Hamga combined for nine points and three rebounds. Santee started and played only 10 minutes. Massamba played 16 minutes and Hamga was on the floor for four.
ONE LINEUP CHANGE
Kruger has promised to rotate both of his point guards, sophomore Tre’Von Willis and freshman Oscar Bellfield. Willis made his first start Saturday after Bellfield started the first three games.
Bellfield did not play with his usual energy, and despite speculation that he might be ill, there was nothing like that behind Kruger’s move to bring the freshman off the bench.
“Oscar wasn’t sick or anything,” senior Wink Adams said. “But he has asthma and we tease him about it all the time.”