Senior point guard Jerome Seagears scored 12 points, including three 3-pointers in the first four minutes to help propel UNLV to an early 15-2 lead, and the hot-shooting Runnin’ Rebels went on to cruise to an impressive 103-68 victory over South Dakota on Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Freshman guard Jalen Poyser came off the bench to score a game-high 18 points to go along with five assists for the Rebels (9-4), who shot a season-best 58.1 percent from the floor including 18-of-32 3-pointers (56.3 percent).
Senior guard Ike Nwamu scored 16 points, including 4-of-7 3-pointers, freshman forward Derrick Jones Jr. finished with 14 points, six rebounds, three blocks and three steals while junior forward Ben Carter added 13 points and five rebounds. Sophomore forward Dwayne Morgan finished with a season-high 10 points for UNLV, which finished with 47-19 edge in bench points.
HOW IT HAPPENED: UNLV made its first six shots from the floor, including a trio of 3-pointers by Seagears, to bolt to a 15-2 lead. The Runnin’ Rebels shot 62 percent, including 9-of-15 3-pointers, while building a 51-34 halftime lead with Nwamu leading the way with 14 points, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer. South Dakota (7-6) got as close as 13 points, 56-43, on a layup by junior guard Shy McClelland with 16:51 to go, but UNLV pulled away with a 15-3 run over the next four minutes capped by a 3-pointer by McCaw. The Rebels had 11 steals and forced 19 turnovers leading to a 23-11 advantage in points off turnovers.
WHO STOOD OUT: Who didn’t for UNLV? McCaw was the only starter not to score in double figures but he attempted just two shots – both 3-pointers – and hit one en route to five points. However, he also finished with a game-high seven assists to go along with five rebounds and three steals. Not too shabby.Carter was his usual steady self and hit a couple of key early baskets inside. It was a breakout game for Poyser who was 3-of-6 from 3-point range and also had five assists and four rebounds.
THE SKINNY: Coming off back-to-back losses to Arizona State (66-56) and at Arizona (82-70) and with an eight-day break before opening Mountain West play, the Runnin’ Rebels really needed a feel-good, bounce-back performance … and got it. To win in such convincing fashion against a South Dakota squad that won earlier at Minnesota will make the Christmas break all the more enjoyable for Dave Rice’s squad.
QUOTES TO NOTE:
UNLV coach Dave Rice on his team’s mindset coming in after back-to-back losses:
“I knew at shootaround today, I knew in the locker room before the game that we were going to play well. I knew we’d play well together. The energy level, the camaraderie, was as good as it’s been all season long.”
Rebel forward Ben Carter on UNLV making 18 3-pointers in 32 attempts.
“Eighteen threes, that’s a lot of threes. I don’t know the last time that’s been done by a UNLV basketball team, or any team. Eighteen threes is a lot.”
UP NEXT: The Rebels begin Mountain West Conference play on Dec. 30 against Fresno State at the Thomas & Mack at 8 p.m. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
NOTABLE: UNLV played without starting forward and leading rebounder Stephen Zimmerman Jr. (thigh bruise) who is expected to be back for the Mountain West opener against Fresno State. … Sophomore guard Jordan Cornish, who was just 3-of-29 from 3-point range entering the game, connected on 3-of-5 treys en route to nine points. … The Rebels had 27 assists, three more than their previous season high of 24 against New Mexico Highlands. … The 18 made 3-pointers were five more than the previous season high of 13 also accomplished against New Mexico Highlands.