RIVERSIDE, Calif. – UNLV picked up its first road win of the season Saturday afternoon against UC Riverside, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as the final score might indicate.
The Runnin’ Rebels (8-2), who led by as many as 18 points with 16 minutes to go, saw the lead trimmed to two points before ending the game on a 19-10 run to pull away for a 73-62 victory over the Highlanders (5-4) at SRC Arena.
Sophomore guard Patrick McCaw led the way with 17 points, eight rebounds and seven steals while junior forward Ben Carter added 15 points and five rebounds for UNLV, which won for the fifth time in six games.
HOW IT HAPPENED: Freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr., who scored five points combined in UNLV’s two previous games against Oregon and Wichita State, had 12 in the first half, including four dunks, as the Runnin’ Rebels built a 40-26 halftime lead. UNLV forced 13 turnovers resulting in 15 points and ended the half on a 15-6 run highlighted by a steal and dunk by McCaw to seemingly take control of the game.
UNLV extended its lead to 18 points on three different occasions early in the second half, the final time on a rebound basket by sophomore forward Dwayne Morgan with 16:15 left. But UCR senior forward Taylor Johns, who finished with a game-high 21 points and 13 rebounds, scored 14 points during a 22-6 run as the Highlanders closed to within 54-52 with 7:56 to go.
That was as close as UC Riverside would get, however, as McCaw sandwiched a driving layup and a 3-pointer around a steal to put UNLV back ahead by seven points, 59-52, and the Highlanders never got closer than four points the rest of the way. The Runnin’ Rebels sank seven of eight free throws in the final 54.6 seconds.
WHO STOOD OUT: McCaw bounced back from a forgettable five point, three-turnover performance in Wednesday night’s 56-50 loss at Wichita State to take control down the stretch. After Riverside cut UNLV’s lead to 54-52 on a Johns’ tip-in with 7:58 left, McCaw scored five straight points to go with a steal to give the Rebels some much-needed breathing room.
THE SKINNY: UNLV dominated for about 31 of 40 minutes but a nine-minute stretch midway though the second half during which the Rebels managed just two field goals made things a lot tougher than it needed to be. The good news was that UNLV’s defense came up with 16 steals and forced 22 turnovers, resulting in a 23-10 edge in points off turnovers. The bad news is that the Highlanders hammered the Rebels on the boards, finishing with a surprising 52-36 rebounding edge.
QUOTE TO NOTE:
UNLV coach Dave Rice on the Runnin’ Rebels bouncing back to put the game away with a game-ending 19-10 run.
“I thought out execution was good when we needed it to be at the end. … I was proud of the way we finished the game and made our free throws at the end.”
UP NEXT: With the National Finals Rodeo coming to an end on Saturday night, the Runnin’ Rebels get to return home and host Arizona State (6-3) on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network.
NOTABLE: UNLV shot 40.9 percent from the floor and was just 15-of-26 at the free throw line. … Rebel freshman forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr. picked up three fouls in the first 10 minutes and played just 13 minutes, finishing with seven points and three rebounds. … Freshman point guard Jalen Poyser had four steals in 14 minutes. … UC Riverside finished with 16 offensive rebounds and a 23-8 edge in second chance points. … Carter and Jones helped UNLV finish with a 30-8 advantage in bench points. … Sophomore guard Jordan Cornish, who scored one point and was 0-for-2 from 3-point range, is now just 1-of-24 (4.2 percent) beyond the arc this season after shooting 48.7 percent on 3-pointers as a freshman.