Published Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Updated Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018 | 9:04 p.m.
It wasn't a glamorous 40 minutes, but UNLV did what it needed to do in a 72-51 win over UC Riverside.
The Rebels shot 46.0 percent from the field in a slow-paced game, but a breakout performance from freshman Bryce Hamilton — and strong team defense — was enough to earn UNLV its first win of the season.
Hamilton looked every bit of a 4-star prospect, scoring a team-high 16 in 23 minutes off the bench. He went 3-of-3 from 3-point range and 5-of-5 from the field.
Sophomore forward Tervell Beck chipped in 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, and senior guard Kris Clyburn scored nine.
UNLV is now 1-1 on the season. The Rebels will be in action again on Friday, when they host Oakland at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Rebels running away from Riverside, 56-38
It looks like UNLV is going to cruise to its first win of the season, as the Rebels have built a 56-38lead over UC Riverside with 6:43 to play.
Bryce Hamilton has done the heavy lifting on the offensive end, breaking out with a team-high 16 points off the bench. On the defensive end, it's been a team effort for the Rebes, who have held Riverside to 14 field goals while forcing 18 turnovers so far.
Barring a disastrous final six minutes, UNLV will be 1-1 on the season.
UNLV leads Riverside by double digits in second half
Bryce Hamilton's hot shooting has carried over into the second half, as he just splashed another 3-pointer to give UNLV a double-digit lead. After a Shakur Juiston free throw, UNLV's lead is now up to 46-33 with 13:30 remaining.
Hamilton now has a team-high 11 points on 4-of-4 shooting, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
UNLV leads Riverside at half, 35-25
Behind a strong first half from freshman guard Bryce Hamilton, UNLV has a 35-25 lead over UC Riverside at halftime.
Hamilton played 10 minutes off the bench and made the most of his time, knocking in back-to-back 3-pointers and scoring a team-high eight points. Sophomore forward Tervell Beck also added seven points on 3-of-3 shooting.
Riverside briefly took a 23-22 lead, and 6-of-13 shooting from 3-point range has kept the Highlanders within striking distance. Aside from Hamilton's 3-pointers, UNLV made just 1-of-8 from long distance over the first 20 minutes.
UNLV basketball up early over Riverside
Through the first eight minutes, UNLV's offense is operating better it did in the season opener, as the Rebels have made six of their last eight field goals to take an early 17-9 lead over UC Riverside.
Tervell Beck made UNLV's first 3-pointer of the night, then followed it up with a nice driving layup. A moment later, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua converted a fast-break alley-oop, spurring Riverside to call timeout.
Trey Woodbury active for UNLV basketball
Freshman guard Trey Woodbury has been cleared to play and could make his UNLV debut tonight against UC Riverside.
Woodbury has been hindered by a minor knee injury in recent weeks and missed the Rebels' exhibition game and season opener against Loyola Marymount. The 6-foot-4 sharpshooter is in uniform and was going through pregame warmups about 20 minutes before tipoff.
Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. UC Riverside
The 2018-19 season did not get off to a good start for the Runnin’ Rebels, as the offense died in a 61-50 loss to Loyola on Saturday. That’s the bad news. The good news is, the Rebs don’t have to sit on it long, as they’ll get a chance for redemption tonight when UC Riverside comes to town.
UNLV may not have been expecting to play a big game this early in the campaign, but here it is. A convincing win would go a long way toward quelling the rising sense of panic among the fan base, but on the flip side, another loss would make things exponentially worse. So, how can UNLV avoid its first 0-2 start of this century?
Three keys to watch as UNLV takes on Riverside at the Thomas & Mack Center (7 p.m., streaming on Mountain West Network):
Can UNLV solve its shooting problem?
It may have only been one game, but UNLV’s 2-of-16 performance from 3-point range against Loyola has taken what was expected to be a weakness coming into the season and turned it into a full-fledged reason to freak out.
The Rebels aren’t built to win from beyond the arc. Noah Robotham is the only player on the roster with a track record as a good outside shooter, and it’s not something Marvin Menzies emphasizes in his offensive system, anyway. So most opponents are going to outscore UNLV from the 3-point line. But just two 3-point field goals in a 40-minute game? That’s not going to cut it in 2018.
Robotham was the biggest issue, as he struggled with a 1-of-7 showing from deep, but he is a solid shooter and will bounce back. It’s the rest of the roster that will have to contribute in order to beat Riverside. Players like Kris Clyburn (1-of-4 3FGs against Loyola), Amauri Hardy (0-of-1), Bryce Hamilton (0-of-1) and Tervell Beck (0-of-1) will have to do better than a combined 1-of-7 from deep.
Is Ben Coupet in the rotation?
Sophomore forward Ben Coupet was not expected to be a significant contributor this season — he was a late addition to Menzies’ first recruiting class in 2016, and he redshirted last year, so it’s been a case of out-of-sight, out-of-mind. But when the Rebels found themselves in a close game down the stretch against Loyola, Menzies turned to Coupet in the biggest moment.
The results were not good. Coupet subbed in (for the first time all game) with 8:33 to play and UNLV trailing, 39-36. Over the next six minutes, Loyola went on a 17-6 run to surge ahead for good. Coupet ended up playing the final 8:33 and posted a plus/minus mark of minus-8.
Putting Coupet into a late-game situation showed confidence in the player, and early-season games are generally used for sorting out rotations, but UNLV might not be able to afford such experimentations. Menzies may have to trim the rotation against Riverside and stick to his go-to guys, especially if the score is tight.
Will Shakur Juiston step up as a scorer?
Speaking of go-to guys, Shakur Juiston’s first game as the Rebels’ main man was underwhelming. The senior forward took just 11 shots and finished with 12 points in 33 minutes. He was UNLV’s high scorer, but this offensively challenged team needs more production from its best player.
Juiston is not normally the type to take over offensively, and forcing shots goes against his DNA as a player, but the Rebels might be better served if he were more selfish. There just aren’t a lot of experienced, proven scorers on the roster, so when things start going bad — as they did in the second half against Loyola — they are going to look to Juiston to lead the way.
It’s true that Loyola double-teamed Juiston frequently, and that’s a new experience for the senior forward. But Riverside will likely employ a similar strategy, as will just about every team on the schedule. Juiston will have to learn how to assert himself offensively, attack the defense and assume the responsibility that comes with being the go-to guy. If that doesn’t happen, UNLV’s scoring struggles will continue.