Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 | 10:11 p.m.
Despite a slow start to the season for senior forward Shakur Juiston — including a 12-point performance in a season-opening loss and just six points in the Rebels’ second game — neither Juiston nor his head coach seemed too concerned about it.
On Friday, we found out why.
Juiston exploded for 18 points and looked like his usual efficient self, making 8-of-13 shots to lead UNLV past Oakland, 74-61, at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Juiston completed his throwback performance by pulling down 10 rebounds, notching his 16th double-double at UNLV.
Marvin Menzies said Juiston’s offensive production had been the least of his concerns over the first two games, and that Friday’s breakthrough was inevitable.
“I knew it was going to happen,” Menzies said. “It was just a matter of time. And he doesn’t care about his numbers. That’s the great thing about the [2016-17] National Junior College Player of the Year. Typically they do. He could care less. He just wants to win.”
Juiston scored 10 points in the first half and helped UNLV pull away in the second half with a pair of spectacular dunks.
According to Juiston, who averaged 14.6 points per game last year, the key to finding his offensive game was patience.
“I just played basketball,” Juiston said. “I didn’t look to score. I guess it just found me. Shaquille O’Neal had one quote that I always live by, it’s, ‘When you stop worrying about your stats, that’s when you start winning.’ So if you just go out there and play basketball, the basketball gods will reward you.”
While Juiston returned to form on the offensive end, UNLV won the game on the defensive end. The Rebels ratcheted up their pressure on the ball and suffocated Oakland’s guards, leading to 20-of-53 shooting (37.7 percent) for the Golden Grizzlies.
The Rebels’ interior defense was just as imposing. Led by Diong’s three blocks, UNLV held Oakland to 28 points in the paint and just 8-of-18 on attempts at the rim.
Juiston said being more aggressive was part of the game plan.
“Coach has been talking a lot about pressuring them,” Juiston said. “We’ve been lackadaisical a lot. Even watching film, we have dead hands and we [haven’t been] disrupting anybody, making them feel uncomfortable.”
Oakland came into the game with two of the hottest-shooting guards in the country, as Karmari Newman and Jaevin Cumberland had combined to average 5.7 made 3-pointers per game on 42.5-percent accuracy. Against UNLV, they went 2-of-10 from long distance.
The Grizzlies’ only offensive success came via power forward Xavier Hill-Mais, who tallied 29 points on 11-of-15 shooting. But a recurring bloody nose kept Hill-Mais out for long stretches of game time and limited him to 22 minutes on the night.
After their best performance of the young season, the Runnin’ Rebels are now 2-1 with a Tuesday home date against Pacific next on the schedule.