Blog: UNLV comes alive to take down Eastern Washington 91-76

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas News Bureau

UNLV Rebels forward Anthony Smith (2) gets set to drive to the basket against the Eastern Washington Eagles during their game Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 91-76.

Updated Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 | 9:05 p.m.

UNLV was lethargic early, and lights-out late.

That was enough to bury Eastern Washington in a 91-76 victory to improve to 3-0 on the season. The Rebels pulled away from the Eagles in the second half, using their athletic advantage to take advantage of transition opportunities and stifle their opponents on defense.

UNLV shot 54 percent in the second half to Eastern Washington’s 29 percent. Offensively, freshman Brandon McCoy led the way once again with junior Kris Clyburn chipping in arguably the best game of his career.

McCoy had 17 points, but fell just short of his third straight double-double with only eight rebounds. The Rebels went to McCoy often during a decisive 12-3 run early in the second half.

Clyburn, who finished with a career-high 19 points, had a dunk during the same stretch to add to a breakout night. UNLV was energized going into the locker room by freshman Amauri Hardy hitting a long three-pointer at the first-half buzzer.

Hardy followed it up with a jumper early in the second half as part of a 7-point night. McCoy may not have extended his double-double streak, but junior Shakur Juiston did.

Juiston was like a magnet on loose balls all night, grabbing 18 rebounds with the assertiveness carrying him until his offense came around to the tune of 13 points.

UNLV came out slow, and trailed Eastern Washington for much of the first half. But the Rebels never let the Eagles’ lead extend to more than six points, and found success once they got back to attacking the basket.

Jordan Johnson dished six assists, while five of Jovan Mooring’s 15 points came on free throws during the first half when UNLV rode his aggressiveness. The Rebels recaptured a lead with four minutes to go in the first half, and never faded from there.

Check back to the Sun later for more coverage of UNLV’s win over Eastern Washington.

UNLV pulls ahead by 14 points nearly midway through the second half

UNLV is rolling now.

The Rebels came alive to shake off a slow start right before halftime, and have carried the energy into the second half. They’ve got a game-high 14-point lead at 62-48 with 12:30 remaining.

Eastern Washington has now answer for freshman forward Brandon McCoy, who’s added three more easy baskets in the second half. McCoy is up to 14 points and six rebounds.

Kris Clyburn still leads the Rebels with 15 points, having added another layup and an assit in the second half.

Most importantly, UNLV has shored up some of its defense. Eastern Washington has gone 2-for-11 from the field in the second half.

UNLV goes to the locker room with six-point lead

UNLV went on an 11-2 run shortly before halftime to take control against Eastern Washington.

The Rebels lead 45-39 at the end of the first half. Kris Clyburn broke out of a slow offensive start of the season to lead UNLV with 13 points, including a 3-pointer during the run that put Rebels in the lead for the first time since early in the game.

Jovan Mooring also sparked the run. Despite missing all four of his field-goal attempts, Mooring has attacked the basket and gotten fouled to go to the free-throw line three times.

He’s gone 5-for-6 on his free throws. Brandon McCoy and Jordan Johnson kept UNLV afloat while Eastern Washington pieced together efficient possesions.

Johnson has seven points and five assists, while McCoy sits with eight assists and five rebounds. For the Eagles, Benas Griciunas has eight points and five rebounds.

Eastern Washington builds small lead with six minutes left in first half

The crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center is small, but loud tonight. UNLV and Eastern Washington have given the fans much to cheer about in a fast-paced game so far.

UNLV has started to push in transition but it hasn't helped cut into Eastern Washington's lead as the Eagles hold a 31-26 advantage, having now been ahead for the last six minutes. The Eagles are more content to work their sets in the half-court, and they've excelled in getting high-percentage looks so far.

Eastern Washington has hit two of four three-pointers, while UNLV has missed all four of its attempts. Freshman Brandon McCoy has once again carried the Rebels with eight points and four rebounds early. Jordan Johnson has four points and four rebounds.

Eastern Washington takes early lead at second media timeout

UNLV has gotten a handful of easy shots on offense. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they've also given up their share of good looks to the Eagles.

Eastern Washington leads UNLV 17-16 through eight minutes at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Eagles are attacking holes in the Rebels' still-developing defense with Benas Griciunas and Luka Vulikic taking the most advantage so far with four points apiece.

The Eagles went up 6-2 early before the Rebels roared back with a pair of dunks by Brandon McCoy. Kris Clyburn took over from there, and currently leads the team with seven points coming on three layups and one succesful conversion on an and-one free throw.

UNLV was expected to have a clear path to start the basketball season with at least four straight wins because of a schedule lacking any challenges.

The road might be ever so slightly rougher than anticipated, if only because of tonight’s opponent at the Thomas & Mack Center. Eastern Washington has eclipsed expectations early in the season, knocking off Stanford 67-61 on Tuesday after hanging with Washington before falling 79-69 on Sunday.

The Eagles will still be at a major talent disadvantage at the Rebels, but they might be able to hang closer than Prairie View A&M and Florida A&M, which UNLV beat by a combined 75 points in its first two games.

Not much negative can be said about the way the Rebels have started the season, as their ballyhooed recruiting class has so far proven worth the excitement. Five-star freshman Brandon McCoy and blue-chip junior college transfer Shakur Juiston are both 2-for-2 in thrilling the home crowd, with both averaging a double-double.

McCoy has scored 20 points per game to go with an average of 14.5 rebounds, while Juiston has put up 16 points per game and pulled down 11 rebounds per game.

Fellow junior-college recruiting coup Anthony Smith got in on the box score-stuffing fun against Prairie View A&M, recording 17 points and seven rebounds.

A couple of local products have helped Eastern Washington’s fast start in former Clark High standout Sir Washington and former UNLV walk-on Austin Starr. They’ll have extra motivation in trying to give the Rebels their first test of the season.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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