Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 | 5:45 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014 | 9:40 p.m.
UNLV 75, Fresno State 73, OT
Khem Birch blocked Cezar Guerrero's shot at the rim and Bryce Dejean-Jones' go-ahead 3-pointer with one minute left was the difference in a 75-73 overtime victory for UNLV against Fresno State tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center.
It was only the third make of the game for Dejean-Jones, who finished 3-for-12 from the field and 3-for-8 at the free-throw line. His 3-pointer put UNLV ahead 73-72 and it was the only field goal the Rebels made in overtime.
The rest came at the free-throw line, where UNLV was 17-for-27 for the game. Overall the Rebels shot 41.9 percent from the field compared to Fresno State's 37.1 percent.
The rebounding battle see-sawed the entire game, with Fresno State dominating the first half and UNLV controlling the glass for most of the second. But the reason the Bulldogs kept the game close down the stretch was that they ended up getting production again on the offensive glass. Fresno State ended up winning rebounds 47-44.
Birch led the Rebels with 19 points and 11 rebounds to along with a few blocks. Deville Smith finished with 17 points and Kevin Olekaibe scored 15 against his former team.
UNLV is now 13-7 overall and 4-3 in league play with a Wednesday trip to San Jose State on tap. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.
Over the course of a season, certain narratives about a team ebb and flow. These often have to do with the current status of said team (injuries, upcoming schedule, etc.) and overarching factors such as coaching and personnel.
We’ve already been through many iterations of this with UNLV, and the one thing that seems clear to me is that the Rebels refuse to be put into a box.
They are inconsistent, which is different than just being bad or even mediocre, and the potential is even more interesting after watching the defensive performance in Wednesday’s 62-42 victory against Utah State. To be sure, the Aggies played a role in that by missing shots. Whereas I think the Arizona game earlier this year was close because the Wildcats missed open shots, the Rebels won this one by 20 because they played great, relentless defense.
That’s something they talk about doing a lot but rarely put together in such spectacular fashion. UNLV will try to do it again tonight at 7 when it hosts Fresno State (8-12, 1-6) at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.
UNLV has had an effectively efficient defense all year. The Rebels rank first in the country in adjusted 3-point field-goal percentage defense, second in free throws attempted per field-goal attempt and sixth in overall effective field-goal percentage defense. The Rebels are also fourth in blocked shots and 12th in total rebounds.
Given all that defense, it’s understandable to be disappointed in UNLV's 12-7 record.
But that’s where UNLV refuses to be easily defined, even as we near February. The Rebels have already lost five games at home, but the schedule — and their potential — are such that they could be at the start of a six-game winning streak, or even better.
The likelihood of that depends on whether you expect UNLV to play closer to the past three games or the two before that. Putting too much faith in either side would probably be unwise based on this season’s results. Still, this has the potential to be another nice winning streak for the Rebels if they stay out of their own way.
Bern’s prediction: The Bulldogs will try hard, but they are just a bad team right now. Letting this stay close would be a bad sign for the Rebels. UNLV 78, Fresno State 62
Season: ATS 14-5, O/U 12-6-1