Fans of the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels shouldn’t race to pound their fists on the panic button after the close call in a Wednesday night exhibition game against the Dixie State Red Storm.
Yes, it took a 3-pointer by Katin Reinhardt in the closing seconds of regulation just to get the game into overtime and yes it took a clutch layup by Carlos Lopez-Sosa in the final seconds of OT to secure an 81-80 win over a Division II opponent at the Thomas & Mack Center.
But UNLV still won, and I’ve got news for anyone who doesn’t have a clue about D-II basketball. The teams at that level can play. I have covered D-II hoops for 10 years and I know just how high the quality of basketball is at that level.
So for UNLV fans or media to worry about the Runnin’ Rebels and their hopes of being one of the better teams in the country, hold off on those fears.
The Runnin’ Rebels did have a 17-point lead at halftime and probably should have cruised to a victory, but Dixie State wasn’t going to go down without a fight. The Red Storm fought back and perhaps part of that had to do with the fact that UNLV thought the game was over at halftime.
The thing is, D-II teams tend to compete hard in exhibition games. I’ve seen the Ohio State Buckeyes lose to a D-II opponent and I’ve watched the Dayton Flyers and Xavier Musketeers come dangerously close to getting knocked off.
UNLV, despite its less than stellar effort, still won the game and you better believe the players will learn from the near-death experience.
The Runnin’ Rebels shot just 25.8 percent from the floor in the second half after nearly knocking down 50 percent of their shots in the first half.
Four players finished in double figures, including 20 by Reinhardt, and that kind of balance will win UNLV a lot of games this season.
I’m not going to put too much stock into a close call against Dixie State. And as long as UNLV learns from its shortcomings in the exhibition game, it’s going to be fine the long run.
Brian Lester is a featured Big Ten columnist and college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.