Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, March 8, 2014 | 6 p.m.
Updated Saturday, March 8, 2014 | 9:12 p.m.
UNR 76, UNLV 72
Cole Huff scored the go-ahead points on an offensive putback and UNR completed a 17-point comeback for a 76-72 victory against UNLV tonight at the Lawlor Events Center. On his senior night, Deonte Burton scored 24 points with 11 assists and eight rebounds, while Huff finished with 22 points.
The loss drops the Rebels into a tie for third place with the Wolf Pack, who own the tiebreaker because they swept the Rebels this season. UNR will be the 3 seed in next week’s Mountain West tournament while UNLV will be the 4 seed and play against most likely Boise State on Thursday afternoon.
Khem Birch finished with 15 points and a career-high 22 rebounds, but as is often the case he’ll probably remember this game more for a missed free throw. He scored on a nice move to tie the game at 72 and then missed his and-one shot that oculd have given UNLV a one-point lead.
UNR came back with a driving shot that missed, but Huff grabbed the rebound and stuck it back. The Rebels, who didn’t have any timeouts, came up empty on their next possession. Jelan Kendrick, who had a really good game overall, missed a shot, and then Christian Wood grabbed the rebound but failed to get his shot to even touch the rim.
UNLV had to foul and UNR made both to ice the game.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels’ defeat.
Today is UNLV’s second straight Senior Night game. The last one didn’t go too well for the home team, and the Rebels would like to duplicate that by spoiling UNR’s sendoff for Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans.
Today’s game tips off at 7 p.m. and will stream on ESPN3.com.
The Rebels’ own version of Senior Night ended with a San Diego State victory and some chaos that resulted in a suspension for leading scorer Bryce Dejean-Jones. While it’s not exactly clear what the punishment is for — “conduct detrimental to the team” is purposefully vague — the result is Dejean-Jones is back in Las Vegas. So too is junior forward Roscoe Smith, who expects to return to practice Monday after suffering a concussion a week ago at Air Force.
In their place will be junior Jelan Kendrick and most likely Christian Wood. This could end up being addition by subtraction at least in the case of Dejean-Jones, who often over-dribbles and takes ill-advised shots. Still, the extra freedom for other players in his absence also comes with responsibilities they may or may not be ready for.
Kendrick is on a nice three-game stretch but hasn’t done much offensively this season, and Wood looked very much like a freshman in a career-high 30 minutes against the Aztecs. Both will be counted on to step up today, as will guards Kendall Smith and Daquan Cook.
The winner today gets third place in the league, and the loser will likely play in the 4-5 game in next week’s Mountain West tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center. There’s actually a chance UNR could fall to the 6 seed with a loss, meaning the Wolf Pack are playing to ensure themselves a bye.
The benefit of the No. 3 seed is that you get to play a team coming off a game late Wednesday night. More importantly for UNLV, winning would help get this nasty taste out of its mouth.
It’s too late for any type of real momentum. That went out the window in the last three minutes against SDSU. Still, the outside factors — such as whom they’ll play next week — will take care of themselves, and the Rebels will just try to handle their own business.
They don’t want to get swept by UNR, which won at the Mack in January, and they don’t want to limp across the finish line in a tie for third with everyone leaving them for dead. Today is a chance to show at least a little life.
Bern’s prediction: My gut says UNLV plays better in Dejean-Jones’ absence and pulls out a win. My head says that Burton’s Senior Night and the motivation of avoiding a Wednesday game will be enough for UNR. I’m going with my head. UNR 72, UNLV 67
Season: ATS 17-13, O/U 21-7-2