unlv basketball:

Live blog: Rebels win Mountain West opener 75-62 at Fresno State on strength of Dejean-Jones, post players

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Gary Kazanjian / AP

UNLV’s Bryce Dejean-Jones passes off against Fresno State’s Paul Watson during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Fresno, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014 | 1:53 p.m.

 

UNLV at Fresno State

Fresno State's Marvelle Harris finds little room to shoot against UNLV's Roscoe Smith (1) in the first half of a NCAA college basketball game in Fresno, Calif., Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014. Launch slideshow »
UNLV 75, Fresno State 62 — Final

FRESNO, Calif. — UNLV’s Bryce Dejean-Jones had a game-high 24 points and Roscoe Smith recorded his nation-leading 10th double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds, helping the Rebels beat host Fresno State 75-62 in the Mountain West opener.

UNLV won its seventh straight game largely because of its play on the inside. Khem Birch finished with 15 points and 15 rebounds, and freshman Chris Wood came off the bench for seven productive points, in what quickly became a physical game. It was so physical, a double-technical was assessed at the 13:24 mark of the second half when Dejean-Jones was whistled for getting into a heated argument — near fight — with Fresno State’s Marvelle Harris. Harris also received a technical.

UNLV struggled on the perimeter, making just 1 of 16 of its 3-pointers and point guards Kendall Smith and Deville Smith combining for two points and six turnovers with three assists. Shooting guard Kevin Olekaibe scored 13 points in his return to Fresno State, but made just 1 of 7 on 3-pointers.

UNLV used a 3-point plays from Dejean-Jones and Birch during a 10-0 scoring run to give UNLV 56-45 lead with 8:29 to play. That essentially put a back-and-forth game out of reach, giving the Rebels a 1-0 mark in Mountain West play and helping them beat a Fresno State team they lost to twice last year.

Check back later for more coverage

UNLV 34, Fresno State 31 — halftime

FRESNO, Calif. — Roscoe Smith has nine points and seven rebounds for the UNLV basketball team, which leads host Fresno State 34-31 at halftime in the Mountain West opener.

The Rebels started the game on a 8-0 scoring run, including a pair of dunks from Khem Birch in transition. Birch has six points and five rebounds. Fresno State briefly led late in the first half, but UNLV scored seven quick points — including a 3-pointer from Kevin Olekaibe — to retake the lead before the break.

Olekaibe’s 3-pointer was the Rebels’ first of the half. They went just 1 of 8 from the outside.

Freshman Kendall Smith returned to the starting lineup at point guard, making 1 of 5 shots for two points. Deville Smith, who suffered a minor hamstring injury last week, returned to the lineup and played eight minutes.

Pregame

The UNLV basketball team should have no troubles beating Fresno State. Well, that’s what most thought last season.

The Rebels open Mountain West play today at Fresno State, facing a team they surprisingly struggled against last season. Fresno State took last in the league and won 11 games, but beat UNLV twice.

Today, the Rebels can’t afford a duplicate performance.

They Rebels enter on a six-game winning streak and playing their best basketball of the season, scoring more than 80 points in five of those games. Still, because of dropping three of their initial five contest to open the season, the Rebels likely need a high finish in the league for NCAA Tournament consideration.

A loss to Fresno State, which is again one of the league’s worst team, would be detrimental in those chances. This is a game the Rebels must have, plain and simple.

I’ll keep everyone posted once the game begins, including the reception UNLV guard Kevin Olekaibe receives from the Fresno State crowd. Olekaibe played the past three seasons at Fresno.

Brewer’s Prediction : It’s impossible to equal my prediction of last week’s win against Cal State Fullerton. I correctly picked the 83-64 final score. ...I like UNLV to continue its winning ways, but not by as big of a margin as last week. UNLV 65, Fresno State 57.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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