Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 | 10:23 p.m.
The Rebels weren’t perfect on Wednesday. They didn’t execute flawlessly, they didn’t defend up to coach Marvin Menzies’ standards, and they struggled significantly from the free-throw line. In a lot of ways, it was a game that turned ugly for long stretches.
So it’s to their credit that they were still able to post an easy home win over Prairie View A&M, 98-63, despite not playing anything near their best basketball.
UNLV’s physical advantage was simply overwhelming. Freshman center Brandon McCoy and junior forward Shakur Juiston each logged a double-double for the second straight game, as undersized Prairie View had no chance of stopping them under the basket.
The sheer talent disparity between the two teams was best highlighted by UNLV junior Anthony Smith, as the springy forward came off the bench and scored a team-high 17 points in 21 minutes. The 6-foot-4 Smith exerted a ton of energy on both ends and finished above the rim repeatedly, and Prairie View had no matchup answer.
For the game, Smith converted 8-of-10 shots from the field, including a spectacular alley-oop dunk off a lob from senior point guard Jordan Johnson:
Smith’s athleticism and hustle directly impacted the scoreboard, as UNLV outscored Prairie View by 17 points while he was on the floor.
After the game, Smith laid out his job description as he sees it.
“Honestly it’s pretty much just to help the team off the bench,” Smith said. “We might have a fast start, slow start, and you’ve got a high-energy player like myself coming off the bench, it’s very good for a team. I just leave it all out there for us so we can get a ‘W.’”
UNLV opened the game with an 11-0 run, and a Jovan Mooring 3-pointer made it 34-15 with 8:12 to play in the first half. But the Rebels' defense slacked for the remainder of the half, and Prairie View scored 26 points over the final eight minutes to trim the Rebels’ lead to 55-41 at the break.
The Rebels opened the second half strong, using an early 10-0 run (capped off by a Smith dunk) to increase the lead to 69-44 with 14:45 remaining. After a Prairie View basket broke the run, UNLV reeled off another 12 straight points (including the Smith alley-oop) to put the game away.
McCoy followed up his monster debut with another strong showing, tallying 15 points and 11 rebounds. Juiston made 6-of-7 shots and finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds. For the game, UNLV shot 52.1 percent and enjoyed a 60-24 advantage on points in the paint, and the Rebels out-rebounded Prairie View by a 55-40 margin.
Menzies watched last season as his undersized and less-athletic Rebels struggled mightily to convert around the basket, so he was happy with the way his players finished strong against Prairie View.
“I think you should make every layup and you should make every dunk,” Menzies said. “It’s a lot different story than last year. Last year was really tough to watch. It’s always going to be tough to watch a high percentage shot not go in, that’s just coaching. But I feel good about 52 percent for the game. Not too bad.”
After blowing out its second straight opponent to open the season 2-0, UNLV will next take on surprising Eastern Washington on Friday. The 2-1 Eagles knocked off Stanford on Tuesday and played Washington tough on Sunday.