CEDAR CITY, Utah — Three takeaways from the UNLV basketball team’s 89-81 victory over Southern Utah on Wednesday at Centrum Arena:
1. The Rebels have been here.
UNLV has faced some tight moments at various points in this early season, and the Rebels generally have responded well.
They made the key plays against UC Riverside, Cal State Fullerton and Western Kentucky, all one-possession games late that the Rebels turned into victories. UNLV hasn’t always come through, losing to South Alabama and Texas Christian, but the Rebels are playing with more confidence in clutch situations.
“It helped us a lot tonight,” Rebels forward Dwayne Morgan said. “Playing against a team like Southern Utah, a big credit to them, we hit some big shots, some tough shots.”
Southern Utah made repeated charges at the Rebels but never caught them. UNLV answered each Thunderbirds surge with one of their own, finally all but putting them away on a 3-pointer and a driving layup by Jovan Mooring in the final minutes.
“It’s breathtaking that we pulled this out,” Mooring said. “We could’ve easily been upset on the road, but we did a good job of finishing.”
2. UNLV doesn’t have one go-to player.
Until this game, Jalen Poyser had taken that upon himself, averaging a team-best 18.2 points before Wednesday. Limited to 24 minutes against Southern Utah because of foul trouble, he scored 11.
It was a team effort to beat Southern Utah, with Morgan leading six players in double figures with 19 points and 14 rebounds, his first double-double of the season and third of his career.
Not far behind were Mooring (16 points), Kris Clyburn (15), Tyrell Green (12) and Troy Baxter Jr. (11) as well as Poyser.
UNLV shot 59.6 percent.
3. Oh, that dribble penetration.
If there is one thing that should keep UNLV coach Marvin Menzies and his assistants up late from this game, it was the difficulty to defend Southern Utah on the ball.
After the Thunderbirds kept burning UNLV on drives to the basket in the second half, the Rebels went to a zone, which helped change the complexion of the game.
“We just couldn’t keep anybody in front of us,” Menzies said. “They were spreading the floor. That was one of those chess moves that I thought (Thunderbirds coach) Todd (Simon) did a good job of. They had three or four shooters out there at a time, and it was hard to guard one guy one-on-one at the top of the key. They’ve got crafty little players.”
But it probably did little to ease nerves thinking ahead to when the Rebels try to defend Duke or Kansas on dribble penetration.
Contact Mark Anderson at email@example.com or 702-387-2914. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.