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Rebels go big in long-awaited win over San Diego State


Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels forward Brandon McCoy (44) gets encouragement from teammates after being fouled during a game against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018.

2018 UNLV vs San Diego State

Sparks fly from the gloves of UNLV mascot Hey Reb before a game against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Jan. 27, 2018. Launch slideshow »

Brandon McCoy and Shakur Juiston scored 21 points apiece to lead UNLV to a streak-busting 88-78 win over San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday.

San Diego State came into the contest having won 11 straight against UNLV, a stretch that dated back to 2013 and included three Mountain West tournament victories. But all that history was no match for McCoy and Juiston, as the big men combined to make 19-of-25 shots from the field and pull down 18 rebounds on the night.

McCoy made perhaps the biggest shot of the game. UNLV built a 12-point lead with 6:31 to play in the second half, but San Diego State hit three straight 3-pointers to trim the Rebels' lead to 77-75 with four minutes to play.

After a timeout, McCoy caught a pass at the top of the key and swished a long 2-point jumper to give UNLV some breathing room. The Rebels scored the next five points and closed the game on a 9-3 run to secure their first home victory of the Mountain West season.

UNLV improved to 15-6 overall and 4-4 in MWC play.

Though Juiston, a junior-college transfer, wasn't around for the previous 11 matchups with San Diego State, he understood how important it was for UNLV to win on Saturday.

"This win was tremendous not only for us, but for the program and the fans that came out and supported us today," Juiston said. "Going forward, it's just going to build our confidence knowing that we beat a great team tonight, so we can go out and compete with anybody on any given night."

The chemistry between McCoy and Juiston was reminiscent of their early-season dominance, as they continually found each other under the basket for easy scores. Juiston finished with five assists.

Head coach Marvin Menzies said ball movement was emphasized in practices leading up to the game, including a video session led by assistant Eric Brown that showed how effective the offense could be if the players shared the ball.

"We showed them NBA clips of teams passing the ball and making the extra pass and bouncing for others," Menzies said. "And we showed them our practice [Friday], where they had a stretch in practice where they were really good offensively, and I think that helped."

San Diego State had no answer for UNLV's interior offense. The Aztecs' two starting forwards were senior Malik Pope (generously listed at 220 pounds) and freshman Jalen McDaniels (rightly listed at 195 pounds), both of whom proved too scrawny to battle with the much stronger McCoy and Juiston. The Rebels shot 58.6 percent for the game and outscored San Diego State in the paint, 48-30.

The Aztecs hung around in the first half thanks to a team-wide offensive rebounding effort that led to 12 second-chance points. The two teams were tied at halftime, 38-38, but UNLV's physicality in the offensive post eventually wore down San Diego State's resolve.

And after McCoy's 18-foot jumper snuffed out SDSU's late run, the Rebels closed the door with good execution during the last four minutes, which Menzies refers to as "Winning time." UNLV scored on six of its final seven possessions, with the only blemish being a meaningless turnover by point guard Jordan Johnson with 17 seconds to play.

After struggling down the stretch in several close games, Menzies commended his team for finally playing their best when it mattered most.

"We made shots, we made free throws, we executed," Menzies said. "And we were connected. That was what I liked. I felt like [the players] weren't on an island. We played for each other."

Johnson finished with 14 points and four assists. Jovan Mooring scored 12 points (2-of-4 3FGs) and handed out five assists.

Freshman forward Tervell Beck made his first career start, as Menzies shifted junior Kris Clyburn to the bench. Beck played 29 minutes and chipped in five points and three rebounds.

Junior guard Jeremy Hemsley led San Diego State with 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting, while Pope contributed 14 points and eight rebounds.

UNLV's next game is a home date with San Jose State on Wednesday.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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