The thinking on UNLV has seemingly been the same entering every season in Dave Rice’s tenure: They have the talent to be really, but are they going to be able to put it all together for a full season?
On Friday night, we got a glimpse of what these Runnin’ Rebels look like when they’re firing on all cylinders as they knocked off No. 15 Oregon at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, 80-69. That scoreline is somewhat deceiving as well, as the Rebs jumped out to a 16-point lead in the first half that they extended to 20 early in the second half. If it wasn’t for Dwayne Benjamin going bananas in the final 12 minutes, cutting the lead to four at one point, that final score could have been much uglier.
UNLV’s guards were awesome on Friday night. Ike Nwamu led the way with 19 points while Jerome Seagears and Patrick McCaw added a combined 30 points. That’s terrific news for UNLV fans, because the key for this group is going to be their frontline. Stephen Zimmerman and Ben Carter were terrific in tandem on Friday. Zimm finished with 12 points, 12 boards and four blocks while Carter added 10 points and six boards. Zimm can be a facilitator offensively, a guy that UNLV runs their sets through, while Carter’s athleticism and motor are what make him effective.
UNLV is now 7-1 on the season, with the only loss coming to the UCLA team that beat No. 1 Kentucky on Thursday night. They look like they may be the best team in the Mountain West.
As far as Oregon is concerned, there isn’t much to take out of this. It was a road game — technically, it was a neutral court, but UNLV had a student section; it was a road game — in which a talented home team shot the lights out for 24 minutes. It’s tough to win when that happens, and you have to give the Ducks credit for fighting nearly all the way back.
At this point, they just needed to get healthy. Oregon is still waiting on Jordan Bell and Dylan Ennis to return from injury — their rotation is seven deep if you count Casey Benson — and they nearly lost Tyler Dorsey on Friday. He had an ugly, ugly fall in the second half, getting carried off the court before eventually returning to the game.
The Ducks still look a legitimate favorite in the Pac-12.