Published Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Updated Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 | 9:05 p.m.
UNLV closed the game on a 16-7 run, and it was just enough to edge Northern Colorado, 94-91.
Jovan Mooring and Shakur Juiston were the heroes down the stretch. The duo combined to score the Rebels' final 18 points, including a go-ahead 3-pointer by Mooring with 2:04 to play. Juiston finished with 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting, while Mooring totaled 25 on 7-of-12 shooting.
Northern Colorado probably deserved a better fate. The Bears hustled their way to 21 offensive rebounds and 28 second-chance points, but they scored just two points from the 4:28 mark to the 0:15 mark and that shooting slump cost them the game.
Still, a win is a win, and UNLV is now 11-2 on the season. The Rebels will have a week off before hosting Boise State on Dec. 30.
Mooring eight in a row capped off by 3, followed by Juiston and-1.
UNLV trails Northern Colorado late
Jovan Mooring just scored back-to-back driving baskets, drawing an and-1 foul on the most recent, and UNLV has pulled within 84-82 with 3:08 to play. Mooring will shoot a free throw after the timeout.
UNLV is currently on an 8-0 run, and time is running out. Northern Colorado continues to scrap for offensive rebounds and second-chance points (26 so far).
Northern Colorado leads UNLV, 75-72
UNLV is in serious trouble. Northern Colorado is on a 10-3 run, and with 7:40 to play, the Bears lead 75-72.
The Rebels' interior defense has been nonexistent in the second half; Northern Colorado's last four baskets have all been layups.
If UNLV can't keep Northern Colorado out of the paint over the next eight minutes, there's a chance the Rebels will suffer their first bad loss of the season.
UNLV can't shake Northern Colorado, leads 63-59
UNLV has scored the last six points to take a 63-59 lead with 11:49 to play, but the Rebels just haven't been able to shake Northern Colorado.
The Bears continue to hurt UNLV on the offensive glass. Though the team is undersized, Northern Colorado has hustled its way to 11 offensive rebounds and 14 second-chance points so far.
Shakur Juiston has 18 points for UNLV on 9-of-10 shooting. Brandon McCoy has mostly been quiet due to foul trouble, as he's got eight points (and three fouls) in just 15 minutes.
UNLV takes 46-38 halftime lead behind Mooring's 15
UNLV finished the first half on a 9-2 run, capped off by Jordan Johnson's running 3-pointer at the buzzer, and the Rebels have a 46-38 lead over a pesky Northern Colorado team at the break.
Jovan Mooring and Shakur Juiston have carried the load offensively. Mooring has an efficient 15 points on just five shots (4-of-5 FGs), while Juiston has 12 points on perfect 6-of-6 shooting.
Amauri Hardy has also provided a spark off the bench, scoring nine points in 14 minutes on 3-of-3 shooting. As a team, UNLV shot 65.4 percent in the first half.
The Rebels haven't been able to shut down Northern Colorado on the other end, however. The Bears were able to drive for layups consistently, and they've also managed to grab eight offensive rebounds (leading to 10 second-chance points).
UNLV seems to be able to score at will against undersized Northern Colorado, but unless the Rebels pick it up on the defensive end, they may not be able to pull away tonight.
UNLV leads Northern Colorado, 26-23
Now 13 minutes into this game, UNLV still hasn't figured out what to do with Northern Colorado. The Rebels have been choppy at both ends of the floor, and with 6:38 to play in the half, the Rebels have a slim 26-23 lead.
UNLV has trailed for most of the game, but a 5-0 spurt by Jovan Mooring just gave the team a boost. First, the senior guard pulled up in transition and swished a long 3. Then on the ensuing possession he picked off a cross-court pass and went in for an uncontested breakaway layup.
The Rebels are still struggling to contain Northern Colorado's dribble penetration, but the Bears are just 2-of-10 from 3-point range.
Northern Colorado takes early lead over UNLV
UNLV has gotten off to another slow start, this time on the defensive end, and Northern Colorado has an early 11-7 lead.
The Bears have made five of their first eight shots from the field, including three uncontested layups off of dribble-drives.
On the other end of the court, Shakur Juiston seems primed for a big game. He's already bulled his way to the basket for three scores (3-of-3), and he's got six points and a rebound.
UNLV will have to tighten up its perimeter defense and cut down on Northern Colorado's penetration. So far that's been a challenge for the Rebels.
Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Northern Colorado
UNLV can close out its non-conference schedule with a flourish on Friday, as Northern Colorado visits the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Rebels are 10-2 and looking to head into the holidays on a five-game winning streak. Mountain West play begins on Dec. 30 with a home contest against Boise State.
Three keys to watch:
Take the Bears seriously
The Rebels waltzed through Wednesday’s rout of Mississippi Valley State fully aware that the talent disparity between the two teams guaranteed a win no matter how well (or poorly) they performed. That won’t be the case against Northern Colorado.
The Bears are 9-3 and coming off a road win at Wyoming, so this is a team that has confidence, experience, momentum, and a solid backcourt capable of taking advantage if UNLV wants to commit 17 turnovers again.
Senior guard Andre Spight is a legitimate scorer (17.7 points per game) who is making 38.9 percent of his 3-point shots, while junior guard Jordan Davis (15.6 points) is a tough penetrator who will put pressure on UNLV’s perimeter defense. And when Northern Colorado adds sixth man Anthony Johnson (12.5 points) to the mix, they’ve got three guards that will make life difficult for the Rebels.
Even a five-minute lapse in concentration (like we saw at the beginning of Wednesday’s game) could cost UNLV a chance to wrap up conference play and head into the holidays on a high note.
Head coach Marvin Menzies said his players respect Northern Colorado and that he doesn't expect them to take this game lightly.
"You can always talk to your team about how good the competition is, and you can show them film," Menzies said. "But the fact of the matter is, where are their results? [Northern Colorado has] had a couple of very close losses and they've had a couple really good wins, so I think there's enough out there for our guys to be on full alert."
Work the post
UNLV didn’t lean on the frontcourt combination of Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston against Mississippi Valley State because it wasn’t necessary — seven Rebels scored in double figures and the team shot 63.0 percent for the game — but Northern Colorado may necessitate a different game plan.
Northern Colorado plays good transition defense (0.89 points per possession allowed, 52nd in the nation according to Synergy Sports data), so there may not be a ton of open-court opportunities for UNLV. That means the Rebels will have to run their halfcourt offense, and that playbook works best when the team utilizes its size down low.
Northern Colorado is a small team, with only one player taller than 6-foot-5 in the starting lineup (senior forward Tanner Morgan) and only one other big in the rotation (6-foot-7 forward Roberto Vercellino). And since McCoy and Juiston are both shooting better than 70 percent around the rim, the undersized Northern Colorado front line should present an opportunity for UNLV to throw the ball to McCoy and Juiston in the paint and ride them to 40 or 50 points.
Get to 11
The tangible benefits of winning this game are clear for the Rebels — a victory would help their KenPom and RPI ratings (even if it’s only a slight boost), and it would send them into Mountain West play on a five-game winning streak — but there may be symbolic value as well.
Last year, UNLV’s 11-21 record was the worst in program history. It was a lost season, and judging by the attendance numbers so far this year, the fan base still hasn’t recovered from it. But a win over Northern Colorado would improve UNLV to 11-2, matching the Rebels’ win total from last season before conference play even begins.
What better way to erase the memories of 2016-17 and show the fans that this is a new team in the middle of a remarkably fast turnaround process? And you can bet that returning players like Jovan Mooring and Kris Clyburn would certainly take a lot of pride in how quickly they’ve helped the Rebels rebound.