UNLV won its first game under head coach Marvin Menzies 74-62 over the Highlanders from UC Riverside on Wednesday night. The Rebels took control in the first half surging to a 37-26 lead and it looked as though they were on their way to an easy night. The visitors from Riverside had other ideas though. They put the clamps down on UNLV defensively using a lot of press and zone looks to stifle the Rebel offense and was able to take the lead briefly late in the game. The Rebels responded by hitting their free throws (16-17 for the game) and they were able to pull away for good.
Jalen Poyser starred for UNLV. The scintillating sophomore was on fire from deep, going 4-7. He scored 20 points overall and pulled down 7 big rebounds. He only had 2 assists for the game, but he took care of the ball, only giving it away once.
Chris Jones continues to be the anchor for this Rebel team early. Jones shot a blistering 6-8 from the field, totaling 13 points while also hauling in 5 boards. The senior continued to show he is unstoppable in the midrange game, doing the majority of his damage from around fifteen feet.
No other Rebels were in double figures, but the unsung hero of the contest was freshman forward Ben Coupet. The Chicago product out of powerhouse Simeon High School came off the bench and provided a massive spark for Menzies. Coupet scored 8 points and gobbled up 7 rebounds, but his presence was felt all over the court. He played great defense and was a factor on the offensive glass as well.
Making their season debuts were junior forward Dwayne Morgan (6'8) and freshman Cheickna Dembele (6'11). Both players bolstered the UNLV frontcourt and they both made an impact on the game in their own ways. Morgan might have been a little trigger happy, but he had 6 points and 3 rebounds in limited action. Conversely, Dembele only played in the first half, but he was solid as a shot blocking presence and rim protector. He blocked 2 shots and changed half a dozen more at the rim, while going for 4 points and 3 rebounds.
After losing a double-digit lead, the Runnin' Rebels showed poise and moxy down the stretch to hold on for their first win of the season. The Riverside defense made things a little close for comfort, but all in all this is a game that Menies and his staff can build off of. UNLV has a chance for win number two of the season as Fullerton invades the Mack on Saturday night.