How Did Freshmen Fare in First Exhibition?

Jalen Poyser

Marvin Menzies picked up his first win as UNLV’s head coach on Wednesday, but he probably didn’t get to savor it on the sideline. The Rebels built up a 15-point lead over UC Riverside in the second half, only to watch it slip away during a panic-inducing seven-minute offensive drought that saw UCR surge ahead with 7:58 to play. But a late rally spurred by big shots from guards Jalen Poyser and Jovan Mooring moved the game safely back into the “W” column for Menzies and the Rebels, 74-62.

Poyser led the way with a game-high 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting, while Mooring chipped in nine points and a team-high six assists.

The game’s key sequence came after an Alex Larsson layup pulled UC Riverside within 58-54 with 4:47 to play. On the ensuing possession, UNLV bled the shot clock before Mooring pulled up from well beyond the 3-point arc and beat the buzzer. After a defensive stop, Poyser all but closed the door with a catch-and-shoot 3 from the right wing to push the Rebels’ lead to 10 with 3:10 remaining:

A few quick thoughts on the win:

Offense slips
UNLV played an efficient first half, making 42.5 percent of its shots from the field and posting 1.057 points per possession en route to a 37-26 halftime lead. At that point, it looked like the Rebels were going to rack up an easy win. But after a Poyser layup made it 47-34 with 14:41 left to play, UNLV went 7:09 without making another bucket.

That drought allowed Riverside to crawl back into the game and almost cost UNLV the win. After the game, Menzies blamed the lack of offense on poor communication and cohesion among the players. They weren’t on the same page when it came to attacking Riverside’s 1-2-2 zone defense, and the result was 0-for-7 shooting with six turnovers during the disastrous seven-minute stretch.

As they did on opening night, the Rebels struggled shooting the ball for most of the game, making just 6-of-22 from 3-point range. Kris Clyburn and Uche Ofoegbu combined to shoot 4-of-15 from the field, and Riverside did a good job of slowing the pace, holding UNLV to just 70 possessions and four fast-break points. Luckily, Poyser and Mooring came through with well-timed bombs to bail out the offense, but the Rebels are going to have to play better consistently on that end of the court if they want to get Menzies his second win anytime soon.

Morgan, Dembele suit up
The Rebels received a boost in the frontcourt, as injured forwards Dwayne Morgan and Cheickna Dembele both suited up for the first time this season. Morgan came off the bench and played 14 minutes, while Dembele saw seven minutes of action (all in the first half).

Both players showed encouraging signs. Morgan was rusty in some areas (3-of-11 FGs), but he looked quick and his energy was noticeable, which is usually is. And Dembele made his limited minutes count, scoring four points (2-of-3 FGs) to go along with three rebounds and his first career block:

After the game, Menzies said both players reported soreness, but not in any way that was unexpected. Barring any setbacks, look for Morgan and Dembele to both see increased roles as the season goes on, as they could fill tangible needs in the Rebels’ frontcourt.

Coupet shines
Freshman Ben Coupet didn’t play at all in the season opener against South Alabama, so it was something of a surprise when Menzies tapped him to sub in with 5:50 remaining in the second half and UNLV clinging to a 56-52 lead. But it turned out to be the right move, as Coupet played well down the stretch and stayed on the floor until the final buzzer.

Menzies said Coupet had impressed in practice over the past few days, and the 6-foot-7 swingman was able to carry it over to Wednesday’s game. He stoked Menzies’ confidence in him by posting four points and three rebounds in seven first-half minutes, and he proved to be a key in helping to break UC Riverside’s full-court press late in the game.

Coupet finished with eight points, seven rebounds (three offensive) and two assists in 17 minutes, and he was the Rebels’ top performer in terms of plus/minus, registering a +13 on the night. He wasn’t flashy against Riverside, and he probably won’t be flashy going forward, but Coupet did a lot of little things that helped the Rebels win. And for now, it seems like Menzies trusts him in pressure situations.

Vegas Seven

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