MONTREAL – UNLV saved its worst performance of its four-game Canadian exhibition tour for last. Still, that was good enough for another victory.
The Runnin’ Rebels, obviously feeling the affects of playing four games in four days, overcame poor shooting (3 of 19 3-pointers, 15.8 percent) and sloppy ball-handling (18 turnovers) to defeat McGill University, 74-59, on Tuesday night at Love Competition Hall.
“Certainly we weren’t at our best today,” UNLV head coach Dave Rice said.
Still, Rice felt the trip, which saw the Rebels finish 4-0 and garner invaluable practice time while blending a handful of newcomers with a strong group of returnees, went beyond wins and losses for his program.
“It was a great experience for us,” Rice said. “Ten days for practice, and four games in four days. It gave us an opportunity to play a lot of different guys, a lot of different combinations. It will greatly benefit us as we go back home and start preseason conditioning.”
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Senior Anthony Marshall, adjusting to his new role as starting point guard, scored 17 points and had three steals, senior guard Justin Hawkins added 12 points and three steals and freshman swingman Savon Goodman added 11 points and five rebounds to lead the Rebels in Tuesday night’s victory.
UNLV, which had just nine assists in the contest, started slowly and led by just eight points, 39-31, at halftime. But the Runnin’ Rebels opened the second half with a 12-2 run that included a 3-pointer by Marshall to stretch their lead to 18 points, 51-33, and cruised home from there.
UNLV suited up just nine players for the game as star freshman guard Katin Reinhardt sat out his second straight game with a left knee injury. Three other key newcomers – freshman forward Anthony Bennett of Findlay Prep who starts school next week, Pitt 6-foot-9 transfer Khem Birch, who becomes eligible in December, and UConn transfer Roscoe Smith, whose status with the NCAA is in limbo – were ineligible to compete.
Still, the trip enabled four incoming freshmen – Reinhardt, Goodman, point guard Daquan Cook and Bishop Gorman center Demetris Morant – along with USC sophomore guard transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones to get a valuable head start playing and practicing with veterans like Marshall, Hawkins, Mike Moser, Quintrell Thomas and Carlos Lopez.
“The best thing that came out of this is they got to learn how to play with us and we got to learn how to play with them,” Thomas said.
Rice said the players also learned how important off-season conditioning is going to be for playing at the up-tempo pace he wants his team to play at come November.
“Priority No. 1 is just getting in better shape,” Rice said.
“Right now we’re not in game shape,” Marshall, who led the team in scoring (13.8 ppg) and tied Dejean-Jones (6.0 rpg) in rebounding on the trip, added. “It’s a starting point for us.”
And an eye-opener.
“We got better without any question,” Rice said. “We have a chance to be a very good team but we have a long way to go.”
— MyLVsports.com staff report