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Blog: Led by aggressive defense, Rebels pound Oakland, 74-61

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Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels forward Joel Ntambwe (24) guards UC Riverside Highlanders guard Dominick Pickett (22) during a game at the Thomas & Mack Center Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018.

Updated Friday, Nov. 16, 2018 | 9:01 p.m.

The Rebels just played their most complete game of the season so far, and they were rewarded with a drama-free 74-61 win over Oakland.

UNLV played aggressive defense for all 40 minutes and held Oakland to 20-of-53 from the field (37.7 percent). On offense, Shakur Juiston had his best outing of the year, finishing with a team-high 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Three other Rebels finished in double figures, including Amauri Hardy, Mbacke Diong (12 points apiece) and Kris Clyburn (10).

UNLV is now 2-1 on the season, with a visit from Pacific next on the schedule for Tuesday.

Rebels lead Oakland late, 72-55

Shakur Juiston has gone on a dunking spree over the last few minutes, and UNLV now has a comfortable, 72-55 lead over Oakland with 3:17 remaining.

Juiston's most recent slam, a one-handed putback over two Oakland defenders, gave him 16 points on the night. That's a season high for the senior forward, who is 7-of-12 from the field.

UNLV is shooting 53.6 percent from the field as a team (30-of-56), and the Rebels have more assists than turnovers (13-11).

UNLV opens 59-40 lead over Oakland

UNLV continues to grind out defensive possessions, and with 10:34 remaining, the Rebels have a 59-40 lead over Oakland.

Oakland is shooting just 31.7 percent on the night, and UNLV is turning that into offense. On the most recent play before the timeout, freshman Bryce Hamilton blocked a jump shot, collected the ball on the wing, and zipped a nice pass ahead to Shakur Juiston for a breakaway dunk.

Juiston has 12 points and is one of three UNLV players in double figures, along with Amauri Hardy (12) and Mbacke Diong (10).

UNLV leads Oakland at half, 42-28

After playing their best 20 minutes of the season, UNLV has built a 42-28 lead over Oakland at halftime.

Amauri Hardy popped in a 3-pointer just before the buzzer — his second of the half — and he's tied for the team scoring lead with 10 points. Forward Shakur Juiston is the other Rebel in double figures after posting 10 points and six rebounds.

The story so far has been UNLV's defense. The Rebels held Oakland to 9-of-27 shooting in the first half while forcing seven turnovers. Aside from power forward Xavier Hill-Mais (14 points on 5-of-7 shooting), Oakland has not been able to generate much offense at all against the Rebels' aggressive D.

Freshman Trey Woodbury made his UNLV debut late in the first half, playing two scoreless minutes before checking out. Marvin Menzies has used 11 different players already.

UNLV suffocating Oakland with defense

After falling behind, 5-0, in the opening minutes, UNLV has used a 24-7 run to build a commanding lead late in the first half against Oakland. With 6:20 remaining before the break, the Rebels are up, 29-12.

UNLV has limited Oakland to just 5-of-18 from the field while forcing six turnovers. On the other end, Shakur Juiston has scored eight points to lead the way for the Rebels, and Amauri Hardy has totaled four points and two assists.

Ten players have gotten into the game for UNLV, and eight of them have scored.

UNLV basketball leads Oakland early, 12-5

UNLV started slow, but an 12-0 run has boosted the Rebels to a 12-5 lead over Oakland with 11:59 left in the first half.

Shakur Juiston has been productive early, with four points and four rebounds in his five minutes, and UNLV's defense has been dominant over the past six minutes, holding Oakland scoreless on 0-of-6 shooting.

Amauri Hardy and Tervell Beck each have three points for the Rebels. Hardy hit a 3-pointer from the top of the circle, while Beck converted a nifty and-1 layup.

Three keys for UNLV basketball against Oakland

The Rebels bounced back from their opening-night loss with a decisive victory over UC Riverside on Tuesday, and head coach Marvin Menzies thinks there is still plenty of room for improvement when UNLV takes on Oakland on Friday at the Thomas & Mack Center (7 p.m., Mountain West Network).

Three keys to watch as the Rebels look to start their first winning streak of the season:

Offensive clarity

UNLV trimmed its turnovers from 24 on opening night to 13 in the win over Riverside, and it was because the players were thinking less.

Menzies said he wants the Rebels to execute with instinct against Oakland, and not by rote.

“We’ve been able to identify things, especially on offense, that can help us be more efficient,” Menzies said. “We’ve got to build on taking care of the ball, which we did a little better. And we want to play better conceptually. I think we were playing too stiff. I want them to play free and take good, high quality shots.”

Freshman Bryce Hamilton is a good example of the benefits of playing loose. In his college debut against Loyola, nerves played a big part in his scoreless performance; against Riverside he pulled the trigger without hesitation and went 5-of-5 from the field for a game-high 16 points.

Juiston's production

Shakur Juiston was expected to be the go-to guy this season, but through two games the senior forward has been an offensive afterthought, averaging 9.0 points on 38.9-percent shooting. Should the team be worried that Juiston is not putting up the kind of stats everyone expected?

Menzies isn’t pushing any panic buttons yet.

“I think everyone else is hung up on the numbers, but I’m more concerned with winning,” Menzies said. “Obviously he’s going to have to be a guy that contributes for us. We need him to play really good basketball, but he has to produce when his chances and opportunities come. It’s about playing a good, balanced game. If he continues to play good defense and rebound, the scoring will come as a result.”

To Menzies’ point, UNLV beat Riverside with Juiston tallying just six points on 2-of-7 shooting. But the Rebels won’t be playing their best basketball until Juiston is scoring at his normal volume on his usual high efficiency. It will be interesting to see if the game plan against Oakland focuses on getting him involved.

Woodbury cleared

As UNLV tries to manufacture enough 3-point shooting to stay competitive, the team could be getting a boost from freshman Trey Woodbury, who has been cleared to return to action after missing the first two games with a knee injury.

Woodbury was actually cleared against Riverside, but Menzies said he wants to ease the 6-foot-4 guard back onto the court.

“He’s getting back in game shape and having live contact,” Menzies said. “He’s able to participate, so his return should be soon.”

It would not be a surprise to see Woodbury make his debut against Oakland.

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

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