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UNLV basketball hopes to build off 2-game road sweep

UNLV basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger didn’t think his team played its best last weekend at San Jose State.

But the fact that the Rebels won both games to get their first two Mountain West road victories was a sign of progress.

“We’ve been in spots where we played well and didn’t find ways to win,” Otzelberger said. “There were a lot of different situations we could have managed better late in the game, but it helps our guys’ confidence when you’re in those spots and win those games to make you believe you can.”

Otzelberger said the momentum of those wins could be felt from the energy the Rebels brought to practice Monday, and he hopes it continues through this week. UNLV will host Fresno State on Wednesday and Friday, with both games tipping off at 8 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV (10-11, 7-7 MW) is 5-1 in conference home games and needs one win to clinch a finish in the top half of the Mountain West.

The conference announced Tuesday that the Rebels will make up two of the four games postponed because of COVID-19. UNLV will host San Diego State on March 3 and play at Wyoming on March 6. The Mountain West tournament begins March 10 at the Thomas & Mack.

Otzelberger said young players such as sophomore guard Caleb Grill and freshman forward Devin Tillis have begun to show leadership traits. That has helped fill the leadership void left when point guard Marvin Coleman was lost for the season with a stress fracture in his right leg.

Tillis was a force last weekend and showed he can affect the game in different ways, with 14 points on 6-for-8 shooting in Friday’s 76-60 win and 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals in Sunday’s 67-64 win.

“Devin’s habits every day are what continue to give us confidence in him and why he’s continued to improve and develop on a daily basis,” Otzelberger said. “Devin had such a good game (Friday) they had to make some changes in the scouting report. But it wasn’t just scoring. He also got David Jenkins a couple kick-out 3s and made some really nice plays.”

Otzelberger said Fresno State (9-9, 7-9) is a defensive-minded team that likes to pressure full court. He said 7-foot center Orlando Robinson, the Bulldogs’ leading scorer (15 ppg) and rebounder (9.3), is a tough matchup because of his ability to score inside and out.

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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