On a night when the Miners were expected by most to be blown out of the water, they came out and showed just how good they truly can be. After trailing by 9 at the half, and by as many as 15 early in the 2nd, the Miners clawed their way back to give the Rebels all they could handle.
With 2:00 left on the clock, and the Miners trailing 62-56, senior point guard Jacques Streeter found a path to the bucket, and finished at the rim, pulling the Miners to within four with 1:37 remaining. UNLV's Anthony Marshall missed a jumper on the ensuing possession, and once again, Streeter created, getting the Miners to within two at 62-60 with only 41 seconds to play.
The Miners chose not to foul, but as the Rebels struggled to maintain possession near the half court line, Julian Washburn tightened up the defense, and was called for a bit of a ticky tack foul. With 16 seconds on the clock, UNLV sophomore guard Bryce Dejean-Jones stepped to the line, and missed two free throws to give the Miners an opportunity for the win.
After securing the rebound, the Miners raced into the front court, but were unable to find an open look as the Rebels knocked the ball out of bounds with only four second to play. After a timeout, coach Tim Floyd drew up a beautiful inbound play that gave guard Konner Tucker a great look for the win. Unfortunately for the Miners, it banked off the rim, and the Rebels escaped with the 62-60 victory.
Coach Tim Floyd:
"They had a small lineup and we felt like they were going to switch everything inside. The other issue that we have is Konner Tucker hasn't been practicing with us. And so our inbounds plays that we run -- and I think we've really executed our inbounds plays well -- we couldn't execute tonight. We just had guys in there in Konner Tucker and McKenzie Moore who had no clue about what we were doing in those things. We just drew up something that we knew we could get a look regardless [at the end of the game]. And I like the look that we got."
The Miners were led by sophomore guard/forward Julian Washburn who finished the night with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Konner Tucker was the only other Miner to finish in double digits, putting up 12 points on 4-8 shooting in only 22 minutes of action. Junior center John Bohannon finished with 9 points, and Cedrick Lang and Jacques Streeter finished with 7 points apiece.
The Rebels were paced by Bryce Dejean-Jones who finished with 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists. Senior guard Anthony Marshall had 11 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, and freshmen Anthony Bennett and Katin Reinhardt finished with 10 points each.
Coach Floyd also had this to say following the game:
""I felt like the game was lost in the first half. We just played really foolish offensively. We turned the ball over. We started isoing [John] Bohannon from the three-point line and from the wing. I don’t know where that came from. I’ve never seen that in practice. As a result we started standing."
The Miners did seem a bit out of whack in the first half. They came out sharp, knocking down their first two shots to take a 5-0 lead, but those two came in transition. Once the two teams settled in, the Miners could get little done in their half court set. And, once UNLV knocked one shot down, they were on their way. After opening in a five point hole, the Rebels went on a 15-2 run to make it a 15-7 game.
But, regardless of what happened in the first half, and regardless of the outcome, this young Miners team showed a lot of heart and fight down the stretch. They did an amazing job guarding a player in Bennett who is considered one of the best in the country, and they did a great job holding a team that averaged 80 points a game to only 62 tonight.
The result may not have gone our way, but in the end, we had a shot for the win. Against a top 20 team, and with so much youth, that's all you can ask for. Sooner or later, and likely sooner, the wins will start coming for this team in huge numbers.
The Miners will be back in action on Wednesday, against an Oregon team who beat UNLV on their home floor. While the Ducks may not be nationally ranked, they will certainly be just as tough of a test. We'll see if the Miners, once again, are up to that challenge.