Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014 | 10:45 a.m.
The Rebels got the victory against Utah State on Wednesday night but they didn’t get out unscathed. Two players went down at various points, adding to the list of banged-up Rebels as the team prepares for Saturday’s home game at 7 p.m. against Fresno State.
First was Bryce Dejean-Jones, who caught an inadvertent elbow to the back of the head on UNLV’s offensive end while going up for a rebound. Dejean-Jones went down to the floor, holding his bleeding head while play continued at the other end until the ball went out of bounds.
To be clear — because plenty of Rebels fans were clamoring for a call or stoppage — it wasn’t a foul and the refs were correct in letting play continue until a dead ball. Had UNLV grabbed the rebound and started running up court, the play would have been whistled dead to get Dejean-Jones attention. They just had to wait for the initial possession to end.
Dejean-Jones immediately went to the locker room with team trainer Dave Tomchek. The junior guard left the game with about 11 minutes remaining in the first half and returned less than five game minutes later with two staples in the back of his head. Dejean-Jones ended up scoring nine points in 26 minutes and is expected to be fine for Saturday’s game.
The prognosis is less certain for senior Carlos Lopez-Sosa, who was having a nice game before he left because of an elbow injury with about 10:30 remaining in the game.
Lopez-Sosa, who in eight minutes played physical defense on Utah State’s Jarred Shaw, was injured trying to save a ball underneath his own basket. Lopez-Sosa tossed the ball over his head while falling forward and landed hard on his left arm. He left the Thomas & Mack Center in a sling and was scheduled to get an X-ray this morning, according to UNLV coach Dave Rice.
Depending on Lopez-Sosa's status, the Rebels could be thin in the front court. Freshman Demetris Morant watched Wednesday’s game in street clothes because of an ankle injury he suffered during Monday’s practice. Freshman guard Kendall Smith also tweaked an ankle in that practice, but he was able to play nine minutes against Utah State despite appearing to re-injure the ankle during the game.
Morant and Lopez-Sosa’s status for Saturday is unknown. The Rebels don’t have any other front court options still on the roster, so if those two have to miss the game it would probably mean a much larger role for freshman Christian Wood and probably more small lineups.
Just how good was UNLV’s defense?
On Wednesday, Utah State posted season lows in points (42), field-goal percentage (30.8), 3-point field goal percentage (11.8), field goals made (16) and assists (four). Certainly some of that was the Aggies’ own failures to execute and hit some open shots, but a ton of credit goes to the job UNLV did.
Even when the Rebels have played solid defense earlier this season, it didn’t come close to making a good offense like this virtually non-existent. This was the fewest points Utah State had scored since 1999.
Three-point attempts weren’t falling all night for Utah State, and with them taken away the Aggies crumpled. Credit to UNLV for taking away its opponent's greatest strength while also dominating the rebounding battle to help minimize any second-chance opportunities.
Surviving the offense
It’s a good thing that the defense, rebounding and a couple of Rebels were dialed in, because overall UNLV’s shooting was rather awful.
This was mentioned in the game story, but outside of Roscoe Smith and Deville Smith (combined 11-for-19) the Rebels shot only 27.8 percent from the field (10-for-36). Even with those guys, their shooting percentage (38.2) wasn’t much better than in the Jan. 8 loss to UNR (34.9).
This never came close to affecting the outcome because of the aforementioned defensive performance, a 44-29 rebounding advantage and a 13-for-17 night at the free-throw line. Overall it’s a positive sign that UNLV can hit less than 40 percent of its shots and still win by 20, but it’s worth noting that the season-long offensive concerns aren’t absent even from a lopsided victory.