Runnin’ Rebels hold off No. 15 Oregon, 80-69

LAS VEGAS – Senior guard Ike Nwamu scored 19 points, including 5-of-7 3-pointers, to lead UNLV to a 80-69 upset of No. 15 Oregon on Friday night in the MGM Grand Showcase at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

HOW IT HAPPENED: Nwamu, a 6-foot-5 graduate transfer from Mercer, had 14 points in the first half, including 4-of-5 3-pointers, as UNLV bolted to a 47-33 halftime lead. The Runnin’ Rebels, who led by as many as 16 points before intermission, shot 48.6 percent from the floor but were even better beyond the arc, connecting on 8-of-16 3-pointers.

UNLV opened the second half with a 8-2 run highlighted by a 3-pointer by senior point guard Jerome Seagears, who finished with 16 points and six rebounds, to boost its lead to 20, 55-35, with 16:15 to go. But the Rebels went over 10 minutes without a field goal after that and Oregon, which hit 6-of-9 3-pointers during one span, got as close as four points, 73-69, on a 3-pointer by former Findlay Prep star Dillon Brooks with 3:30 to go. UNLV closed the game out with a 7-0 run capped by Nwamu’s final 3-pointer of the night.

WHO STOOD OUT: Nwamu looked like an NBA shooting guard, sinking 5-of-7 3-pointers and hitting the dagger 3-pointer to clinch it. Sophomore guard Patrick McCaw added 14 points and freshman forward Stephen Zimmerman Jr., despite playing on a sprained ankle he said was really hurting afterward, had his fourth double-double of the season, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds to go along with four blocks.

THE SKINNY: The Runnin’ Rebels (7-1) beat their second top-15 ranked team in the span of 10 days – they also knocked off then-No. 13 ranked Indiana, 72-69, in he fifth place game of Maui Jim Maui Invitational – and are starting to put together a pretty impressive NCAA Tournament resume. The win over the Ducks, who were minus starting point guard Dylan Ennis (foot) and starting forward Jordan Bell (foot) and played without freshman star Tyler Dorsey (knee) for a key portion of the second half – will look even more impressive come March. When healthy, the Ducks (6-1) are good enough to win a wide-open Pac-12 Conference.

QUOTES TO NOTE:
UNLV guard Ike Nwamu
On sinking his final 3-pointer with 1:22 remaining – his fifth in seven attempts — to seal the win, sending Rebel fans into a frenzy.

“It felt really good. It’s the kind of thing you dream of when you’re playing college basketball.

UNLV forward Ben Carter, an Oregon transfer who finished 10 points and six rebounds, on beating his old team.
“Our team responded today. The win is special for me but also special for this team.”

On the Runnin’ Rebels overcoming a 10-minute stretch without a field goal when Oregon cut a 20-point deficit down to five points
“Stretches like that happen during a game. Obviously, not 10 minutes long. … Luckily enough we were able to get some stops when we needed them, and that’s what it came down to, and that’s what good teams do – they get stops and they get buckets when you need them, and it led to a win for us.”

UP NEXT: The Runnin’ Rebels play Wichita State (2-4) on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. PT at Charles Koch Arena in Wichita. The game will be televised by ESPN2. The Shockers, who take a three-game losing streak into a Saturday game against Saint Louis, were tabbed by some as a potential Final Four team in the preseason and were ranked No. 10 in the initial Associated Press Top 25 poll. But All-American point guard Fred VanVleet, who could be back Wednesday, has been sidelined with a strained hamstring since a Nov. 17 loss to Tulsa and has played just 33 minutes this season.

NOTABLE: UNLV never trailed in the game. … Freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr., who entered the game second on the team in scoring (13.0), went scoreless and had just one rebound in seven minutes of action. … The Rebels tied their season low with four steals. … National League MVP Bryce Harper was courtside for the contest. See his tweet below. … Zimmerman’s four blocks were a career high. … UNLV improved to 60-56 all-time against schools that currently make up the Pac-12 Conference.

IKE NWAMU PHOTO BY JOSH HOLMBERG

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