Rebels hold off A&M-Corpus Christi, 67-57

Following an eight-day layoff for final exams, UNLV struggled with its shooting in its opening game of the Duel in the Desert Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center on Sunday night. But the Runnin' Rebels more than made up for it with good ballhandling and strong defense in a 67-57 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

The Rebels (8-2) forced 19 more turnovers and had eight steals to overcome 36.7 percent footing from the field.

Senior point guard Kevin Kruger, plagued by a bad ankle sprain before the break, scored a game-high 23 points, including 4-of-10 3-pointers, and also had four steals and four assists in 33 minutes of action while sophomores Wink Adams and Joe Darger added 11 points apiece.

"The two days off (from practice) helped but (the ankle) still has some room to go," Kevin Kruger said. "I had a little more spring in my step today. Either I'm getting used to it or its getting back."

"I thought he had a little bit of his bounce back," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said of his son. "I think this week (off) has been good for him from the standpoint of getting the ankle closer to healthy. He had a little more activity tonight than he had in the last four or five games for sure."

UNLV had just eight turnovers in the game which helped to offset a 43-29 disadvantage in rebounding.

"I think we're taking real good care of the ball," Lon Kruger said. "The big stat is differential … our turnovers versus our opponents. We had 11 (less) tonight. That's like 11 free possessions."

UNLV took advantage of a pair of Islander technical fouls late in the first half to open up an eight-point (38-30) halftime lead. The Rebels led by as many as 11 points early in the second half before Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (4-3) closed the gap to three points, 60-57, on a pair of free throws by center Chris Daniels with 3:57 remaining.

But UNLV clamped down to stop the Islanders on their next five possessions. Meanwhile, center Gaston Essengue hit a 15-point jumper and Adams sank a big 3-pointer off a nice dish from Kruger to put the game away.

UNLV hosts Norfolk State (1-6), an 87-56 loser to South Florida on Sunday afternoon, tonight at 7:30 p.m. in its second game in the three-day tourney.

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