Monday, Nov. 20, 2017 | 10:10 p.m.
By the time Brandon McCoy scored his fifth basket of the night — a short jumper that made him 5-of-5 from the field and put UNLV ahead, 32-16, midway through the first half — it had become very clear that Rice had no chance of stopping the freshman phenom.
And so UNLV continued to go through the routine of feeding McCoy down low, and he continued producing, and by the end of the night he had scored 23 points and the Rebels had dissected an undersized and helpless Rice team, 95-68, at T-Mobile Arena.
As far as blueprint wins go, this one was right up there. UNLV came into the game with a significant size advantage over the Owls, so the 7-foot McCoy was a big part of the game plan. UNLV gave him more post-up opportunities than he had in any of the first three games, and McCoy responded by carrying the offense in just his fourth college game.
McCoy credited his teammates, especially senior point guard Jordan Johnson, for finding him in the paint again and again.
“I got off to a quick start, but it was because of my team looking for me in the post,” McCoy said. “So hats off to them.”
McCoy finished 7-of-11 from the field, and he also worked his way to the free-throw line consistently (9-of-10). His 10 rebounds gave him his third double-double of the year; for the season, he’s now averaging 20.0 points and 11.8 rebounds per game while shooting 59.3 percent from the floor.
Through four games, the blue-chip recruit has been even better than advertised, but head coach Marvin Menzies isn’t surprised by McCoy’s strong play.
“I see him every day, so I know what he’s capable of,” Menzies said. “He’s a pro. He’s just a big-time talent and a great human being and we’re very blessed to have him as part of the program.”
Menzies admitted that when McCoy is dominating the paint like he did against Rice, it’s hard not to turn into a spectator.
“He’s so good, I expect him to make every shot,” Menzies said. “It’s crazy, you know what I mean? When he’s right there, if he misses it’s like, ‘Aww.’ I’m like a fan when it comes to that.”
McCoy wasn’t the only UNLV big man to have his way against Rice. Junior power forward Shakur Juiston pulled down 19 rebounds and scored eight points on 3-of-6 shooting. He also handed out five assists, including three that led to baskets by McCoy.
With McCoy and Juiston combining for 20 points and 20 rebounds in the first half, the Rebels were able to build a 54-21 lead at the break. UNLV used its size advantage to push the margin as high as 34 points in the second half before letting go of the rope. For the game, the Rebels finished with more than 40 points off layups and dunks.
Johnson contributed some perimeter scoring with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting (4-of-6 from 3-point range), and senior guard Jovan Mooring had another good outing with 14 points and five assists.
UNLV improved to 4-0 with the victory and will advance to face either Ole Miss or Utah on Wednesday in the championship game of the MGM Main Event.