The season is only nine games old but already many UNLV basketball fans are asking the question:
Where would the Runnin’ Rebels be if Cody Doolin hadn’t transferred in from San Francisco?
The answer? Certainly not 7-2 which UNLV improved to after the senior point guard scored the game-winning basket on a driving layup with four-tenths of a second remaining in overtime to give the Rebels a 75-73 victory over Portland on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Doolin, who finished with 15 points, also penetrated and dished to Dwayne Morgan for a layup as time expired in regulation to force overtime.
“He just wouldn’t let us lose,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
Losing was something a number of early-leaving fans apparently thought was a foregone conclusion for the Rebels after Portland guard Alec Winterling, who finished with 24 points and five assists, drove for a layup to put the Pilots up 61-53 with 2:55 left.
But Doolin twice drove for layups in the final two minutes of a regulation-ending 9-1 run and saved his best last when he drove and dished under the basket to Morgan who barely beat the buzzer to send the contest into overtime.
“Dwayne did a great job on that play,” Doolin said. “If he had tried to dunk it I think time would have run out. His awareness was great. He just did that quick little layup and tied the game. Hats off to him.”
The overtime featured four of the game’s 10 ties. Rashad Vaughn, who finished with a game-high 25 points, twice put UNLV in front with jumpers and Morgan made it 73-71 when he connected on a 12-footer from the left side of the key with 25 seconds left.
But Portland (7-3) came back to tie it when 6-foot-11 senior forward Volodymyr Gerun hit both ends of a pressure-packed one-and-one with 10.8 seconds left.
That set the stage for Doolin’s heroics. UNLV, out of timeouts, had to trust their senior leader to take the inbounds pass and make a play. And he did.
“At that point you pretty much have no choice, you just have to go to the basket,” Doolin said. “By any means necessary I was just trying to get to the bucket.”
“Cody is just absolutely a winner,” Rice said.
The Rebels now hit a very challenging stretch of games on their schedule facing three top 14-ranked teams in a 15-day span starting with Saturday night’s 8:30 p.m. contest with 14th-ranked Utah in the MGM Grand Showcase at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Three days later No. 3 ranked Arizona comes calling at the Thomas & Mack. And after a Dec. 27 home game with Southern Utah and a New Year’s Eve contest at Wyoming to open Mountain West play, the Rebels travel to No. 10 Kansas.
So, yes, Wednesday night’s comeback win over the Pilots was a huge one for the Rebels.
“The one thing I think that characterizes our group this year is that we never quit,” Rice said. “We keep playing and we found a way to win a very, very important game.”
PHOTO BY JOSH HOLMBERG