Rebels Grind Out 73-61 Win Over Fresno State

Chris Wood

As long as you focus on the end result of UNLV’s 73-61 win over Fresno State on Tuesday, the better off we’ll all be.

The less said about the action on the court, the better. This was not a fun game to watch, cover, coach, or play. It moved at a snail’s pace. Both teams shot below 40 percent. And when the players weren’t missing shots, the refs were blowing whistles—the two teams combined for 45 fouls and 57 free throws.

Give credit to UNLV for grinding this one out the hard way. Though they made just 39.3 percent of their shots (starting the game 1-of-11 from the field didn’t help), the Rebels pounded the ball down low to Chris Wood as often as they needed to, and Wood produced one of his finest games of the season: 27 points, 19 rebounds and seven blocks in 36 minutes.

The Rebels supplemented Wood’s scoring with solid 3-point shooting (8-of-18) to build a 10-point halftime lead, and their defense held off Fresno State in the second half. Fresno made just one shot in the final 7:31 (a meaningless 3-pointer just before the buzzer) and never got closer than eight points after the break.

Rashad Vaughn followed up his 30-point explosion against Colorado State with an efficient 18 on 5-of-11 shooting. Patrick McCaw continued his strong play with seven points, seven rebounds, five assists and zero turnovers. And Jordan Cornish showed no lingering effects from missing the potential game-winner against CSU, as he nailed both of his 3-point attempts and finished with seven points off the bench.

Wood goes off
It’s hard to be more dominant than Wood was on Tuesday. He didn’t just put up sparkling numbers—he did it in a way that must have broken Fresno State’s spirit. He drove to the rim time and time again and nearly fouled out FSU’s entire frontcourt in the process (Alex Davis did foul out, and three other forwards finished with four fouls). Wood earned 17 free throws, made 11 and completely dictated the flow of the game.

It was the latest in a string of excellent performances from Wood. After a mid-season dip in production that saw him take a lot of criticism for his effort level and intensity, he’s bounced back in a big way. Over the last six games, Wood is averaging 17.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks while shooting 47.7 percent from the floor.

Doolin makes his case
On Monday, I made a case for Patrick McCaw seeing more minutes as the Rebels’ point guard. On Tuesday, Doolin made a case for keeping his job by playing his best game in a month.

The senior was aggressive early, and his two first-half 3-pointers helped swing momentum to the Rebels at a time when they were having trouble making shots. Doolin didn’t do any more scoring after draining those triples and finished with six points, but he did a good job of pushing the ball and making plays (four assists, one turnover). In his 25 minutes, UNLV outscored Fresno State by 16 points.

After the game, Dave Rice praised Doolin’s leadership on and off the court. Judging by the way Doolin played and Rice’s comments after the game, it seems like Doolin’s job is indeed safe for now.

Finish strong
After the Rebels let an 18-point lead evaporate instantly at Colorado State on Saturday, Rice said he stressed to his team the importance of maintaining intensity and extending leads. That message appeared to get through, as the Rebels built another double-digit lead on Tuesday and then kept Fresno State at bay for the entire second half.

Putting teams away is difficult, especially in a game as choppy as Tuesday night’s. Wood was instrumental in pushing UNLV forward, as he scored 22 of his 27 points after the break and made several hustle plays to keep the Rebels’ energy up despite the constant barrage of whistles conspiring to sap all momentum. It was a good sign for Wood and for the team as a whole.

Related content:
Is It Time to Hand the Reins to Patrick McCaw?
Podcast: Colorado State Loss, Final Play Breakdown and Team Defense
Rebels’ Final Play Fails in 83-82 Loss at Colorado State
Five Keys to Beating Colorado State
Shooting Star: An Oral History of Dantley Walker

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