Six days ago the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels put forth one of their poorer performances of the season, losing at home to rival Nevada with the Wolf Pack meeting little resistance on the offensive end of the floor. With a lengthy (by in-season standards) layoff ahead of road games at New Mexico and No. 10 San Diego State, head coach Dave Rice’s team had a rather simple decision to make. That decision: perform with greater effort, or fold.
On Wednesday night the Runnin’ Rebels did anything but fold, shooting 50% from the field and 53.8% from three as they knocked off New Mexico 76-73 in Albuquerque. UNLV came out ready to compete from the start, something that was not the case against Nevada. And if there were any play that illustrated this, it would likely be the breakaway dunk thrown down by Bryce Dejean-Jones to give UNLV a 21-12 lead (post free throw) with 12:16 remaining. New Mexico may not defend at the level they did a season ago, but UNLV deserves credit for the way in which it attacked the Lobo defense.
The Runnin’ Rebels made good use of dribble penetration to create opportunities on the offensive end, including the use of ball screens involving New Mexico center Alex Kirk as the help defender (especially late in the shot clock). Those scoring chances helped lead to four UNLV players finishing the game in double figures.
Dejean-Jones (23 points) and Deville Smith (17) led the way scoring-wise, but this was a group effort for a team that scored 1.15 points per possession on Wednesday night. Offensively this was arguably their best performance since beating Cal-State Fullerton on December 28, and given the schedule that was a much-needed development.
Cameron Bairstow led four Lobos in double figures with 27 points and as a team New Mexico assisted on 20 of its 24 made baskets. But they shot just 6-for-22 from three on a night were improved accuracy likely would have meant a different outcome. Ultimately it was UNLV who made the decisive plays (including two defensive stops late) needed to pick up a much-needed win, a result that gives the Runnin’ Rebels some much-needed confidence heading into Saturday’s game at San Diego State.
Is UNLV back to being the team many expected to contend for the Mountain West title? We’ll learn more about that on Saturday. But for a team that looked as if its season were practically over just six days ago, UNLV displayed improved fight at The Pit and was rewarded with its best win of the season.
Five-star point guard Trevon Duval is the most electrifying lead guard in the Class of 2017. The native of Delaware dominated the Under Armour circuit this spring and is currently regarded by many as a top-five player in the class by most recruiting services.
Now he’s down to 10 schools as his recruiting is starting to become more of a focus. The 6-foot-2 Duval is down to Arizona, Cal, Kansas, Maryland, Oregon, St. John’s, Seton Hall, UCLA, USC and Villanova.
Things are still early in the process for Duval and it will be interesting to see if he schedules any official visits soon.
Ohio State has lost quite a few transfers and hasn’t had a lot go their way with regards to recent recruiting, but things could be changing after a good weekend.
The Class of 2018 is starting to look really good for the Buckeyes as they landed commitments from wings Darius Bazley and Justin Ahrens this weekend. The two in-state products are grassroots teammates together on King James and they give Ohio State three commitments in that class.
Bazley is considered a four-star prospect on Rivals while Ahrens checks in as a three-star. They join another Ohio native, guard Dane Goodwin, in the class as this could be the group that helps bring Ohio State back in regular Big Ten contention.
Butler picked up an important commitment on Monday as four-star forward Kyle Young committed to the Bulldogs.
A Class of 2017 stretch forward who can hit jumpers and has an improving skill set, the 6-foot-7 Young comes from Massillon, Ohio and he’s regarded as the No. 109 overall prospect.
Young was impressive in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer with King James as he averaged 15.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game as he shot 48 percent from the field and 36 percent from 3-point range.
This is a nice grab for Butler as Young is the type of versatile perimeter shooter that they like to utilize and he should be able to help a bit on the glass as well.
Young joins a class that includes guards Cooper Neese and Jerald Butler.
Earlier this summer, we told you the story of Collin Sexton, how the 6-foot-2 Georgia native went from being a mid-major recruit to a five-star prospect being courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona, North Carolina and Villanova.
It’s because he’s a bucket-getter.
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He averaged 31 points in the Nike EYBL circuit, nine points better than Michael Porter, who finished second in the league in scoring. No one puts points on the board like he does, so it’s only fitting that he was the guy that made a shot from the balcony during ‘The Trip’, Nike’s effort to keep kids associated with their brand from Elite 24:
UCLA capped their three-game trip to Australia on Sunday night with a 94-91 win over the Brisbane Bullets, a game in which sophomore point guard Aaron Holiday finished with a team-high 17 points. Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton both added 16 points and freshman Ike Anigbogu finished with 13 points and 10 boards.
This win came just two days after the Bruins lost to Melbourne United, 89-84, when Hamilton — 18 points and five assists — and Holiday — 16 points — were both once again impressive. Alford also added 18 points in Friday’s loss.
It’s not surprising that the Bruins had some up and down performances abroad. Everyone does. It’s what happens when a team of college kids, with three freshmen playing key roles, heads to the other side of the world to square off against teams made up of professionals. Don’t go hanging the ‘Fire Steve Alford’ banners on anymore airplanes just yet.
There are, however, two interesting things to consider from this trip:
– Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star freshman, was, at best, their fourth-best perimeter player. Seniors Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford and sophomore Aaron Holiday all played well and posted impressive numbers on the three-game trip. Ball? He didn’t shoot well. At all. In UCLA’s 47-point opening win, he was 3-for-9 from the floor and 1-for-3 from three, putting together was was by far his best shooting performance of the trip. In the three games, he shot a total of 25 percent (9-36) from the field and 19 percent (4-21) from three. He did average 5.0 assists and, in one game, notched 13 boards, but Ball’s ability to shoot will be something to keep an eye on.
– And then there’s this, from Bryce Alford:
UCLA needs to travel with more towels.