BY STEVE GUIREMAND
Bryce Dejean-Jones has had better shooting nights. But the junior guard hasn’t hit many bigger shots than the 3-pointer he sank with 57 seconds remaining in overtime in UNLV’s 75-73 victory over Fresno State on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Dejean-Jones, who heard a small smattering of boos after bricking a 3-pointer 40 seconds earlier, made the most of his second chance, swishing home a trey from the left side of the key that gave UNLV (13-7, 4-3) the lead for good over the Bulldogs.
“You just live for those moments,” Dejean-Jones said. “You practice them all the time, taking shots like those, and I had just had the confidence to take it again and knock it down.”
Dejean-Jones finished with 10 points on just 3-of-12 shooting but also had a game-high seven assists, no turnovers, four rebounds and two steals in 41 grueling minutes. He also played excellent defense and came down with two key rebounds down the stretch.
Still, after he missed badly on a 3-pointer and also on a drive on back-to-back possessions, some in the crowd of 13,849 voiced their displeasure and frustration with boos.
“I don’t even hear stuff like that,” Dejean-Jones said. “I just keep trying to play. We’re on a mission. Unfortunately the fans aren’t apart of that. We’re going to just keep on playing as hard as we can and get as many wins as we can and try and win this Mountain West conference.”
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“That just takes some guts,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “I think no one felt worse than Bryce for the three or four tough shots he missed prior to that. But we had confidence in him, we found him and we were able to get that.”
Fresno State, which connected on 11-of-28 3-pointers, including four in a row to start the game, had two more chances to try and regain the lead but forward Paul Watson turned it over on the first possession and forward Khem Birch swatted away Cezar Guerrero’s driving layup attempt with eight seconds to go.
Birch finished with a game-high 19 points to go along with 11 rebounds and four blocks. Point guard Deville Smith also had a big game, scoring 17 points, while ex-Bulldog Kevin Olekaibe had 15 points and seven rebounds.
Guerrero led Fresno State with 18 points and six assists but was just 6-of-20 from the floor. Watson, who was 4-of-8 from 3-point range, finished with 17 points and seven rebounds while Tyler Johnson had 14 points and eight rebounds.
UNLV returns to action on Wednesday night at San Jose State.