The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels led in the first half against one of the best teams in the country: the Arizona Wildcats. The Rebels remained close throughout the first half mostly due to Bryce Dejean-Jones’ spark he brought off the bench. He provided 10 points in the first half on 3-of-5 shooting including 2-for-2 from downtown. It was clear that the Rebels wanted to use Dejean-Jones early and often.
His offense provided the Rebels with a 42-39 lead at the half.
Transfer Roscoe Smith has been the best player on the season for the Rebels and his eight points in the first half is nothing to look over; however, it was just Dejean-Jones’ hot start that gave them the momentum they needed against the second-ranked Wildcats.
The fast start cooled off in the second half when the Wildcats wanted to play more defense, especially on Dejean-Jones — who finished with 16 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Scoring only six points in the second half killed the early momentum the Rebels had in the first.
The Rebels had a chance early against the Wildcats, but they fell short in the second half after scoring only 16 points.
On the season, the UNLV squad is 3-4 — including their loss against Arizona — and look to be struggling on offense. However, Dejean-Jones and Smith have found a way to mesh finally and look to be moving forward as the season grows easier.
Along with the Jones and Smith combination came Khem Birch’s double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. This was the best game the Rebels have played thus far in the early season and are finally reaching the softer spot in the rigorous schedule. The losses came against Illinois, University of California at Santa Barbara, Arizona State and now Arizona.
Quality losses will help the young Rebels grow as they lost Anthony Bennett to the NBA and Mike Moser in a graduate transfer to the Oregon Ducks. This next week will show who the real Rebels are and Dejean-Jones will pave the way on the scoring board.
John Lloyd is a PAC-12 Basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JohnHLloydIII