If Konner Tucker’s potential game-winning 3-pointer had splashed through at the buzzer, this would have been a huge letdown loss for UNLV. The Rebels led by double digits for most of the game and appeared to be on the verge of running away with an easy victory at several points, but too many mistakes — both physical and mental — let UTEP hang around.
And so they had to wait for Tucker’s shot to bounce off the rim before they could celebrate another road win. The Rebels didn’t play a perfect game, but that does make it perfect for an Ups and Downs column.
Where would the Rebels be this season without Quintrell Thomas? He continues to make good things happen whenever he’s on the court, and while he didn’t produce on the boards the way he usually does (five rebounds, one offensive), he did grab the biggest rebound of the game. His putback off a Katin Reinhardt miss with 2:16 remaining represented the game-winning points, as the Rebels didn’t score again. It’s the second time in three games that Thomas has provided the winning bucket off an offensive rebound.
Reinhardt got off to a fast start, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 10 first-half points. He didn’t score in the second half, but he did find other ways to contribute. Thomas only got a chance to score his bucket because Reinhardt crashed the boards and almost tipped in the rebound off an Anthony Bennett missed 3. Just keeping the ball alive proved to be a critical play. And it appears as though Reinhardt is heating up — over the past two games, he’s 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
Coach Dave Rice certainly didn’t seem happy with Dejean-Jones after he picked up a technical foul midway through the second half, but BDJ responded the right way. He scored seven points after the incident and finished as the team leader in points (12), rebounds (six) and assists (five). Even though he missed two crucial free throws in the final seconds, I’d say that’s still enough production to earn this spot.
The Rebels allowed UTEP to put up 38 points in the second half, and defensive breakdowns in the final minutes almost cost them the game. After UNLV went up, 62-56, on Thomas’ putback, UTEP guard Jacques Streeter was able to drive through the lane twice for uncontested layups on consecutive possessions.
UNLV actually won the rebounding battle, 31-29, but the margin should have been much higher. UTEP entered the game averaging 25.6 rebounds per game, which wasn’t the worst mark in the country — it was second-worst. For a team with big bodies like Anthony Bennett, Quintrell Thomas, Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Khem Birch roaming the paint, the Rebels did not exploit their size advantage enough.
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