Out of the five freshmen, only three played, as center Cheickna Dembele sat out with a heel injury and forward Ben Coupet stayed on the bench for the duration. The three that saw the court—Troy Baxter, Zion Morgan and Djordjije Sljivancanin—did not make huge impacts.
Let’s take a quick look at how the group fared:
The Rebels’ most hyped prospect didn’t make any game-changing plays, but he appeared comfortable on the offensive end, posting five points (2-of-6 FGs) with a pair of assists in 18 minutes. Baxter is known for his dunking, but he showed a feathery touch in the first half by swishing a face-up jumper from the right baseline. He missed all three of his 3-point attempts, but they came within the rhythm of the offense and he can make that shot, so his inaccuracy on Tuesday shouldn’t be a concern. He also chipped in four rebounds while manning several different positions. With UNLV still thin in the frontcourt, look for Baxter to play all along the front line again in Friday’s exhibition against New Mexico Highlands.
Morgan got 12 minutes off the bench and posted four points on 2-of-4 shooting, which probably isn’t going to be enough to supplant Jovan Mooring as the No. 2 point guard. Morgan got a chance to pilot the offense with some of the starters on the floor and appeared a bit passive, but that’s to be expected for a true freshman playing his first college game. Morgan should be more settled in on Friday, which should give us a more accurate picture of what he can contribute this year.
UNLV needs big men, so it says something that Sljivancanin received just two minutes of playing time. He didn’t attempt a shot, but he did make the most of his minutes on the defensive end by grabbing three rebounds. For now, Sljivancanin looks like deep depth.
Watching the undersized Dakota Wesleyan guards penetrate and slice through the lane for layups highlighted the Rebels’ need for a legit rim protector, so Dembele should have a clear path to playing time once he’s healthy enough to get on the court. UNLV allowed 42 points in the paint; it’s hard to imagine Dembele not immediately improving that number, even being as raw as he is.
Unless Coupet has an undisclosed injury that kept him out of the game, he was the only healthy eligible player not to check in on Tuesday. But given the show that Kris Clyburn put on from the small forward spot (Coupet’s natural position), there may not be much of a need for the 6-foot-7 Chicago native this season.