Returning from a disappointing outing in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in Brooklyn, UNLV was looking to get back on track with a match-up against Albany Saturday evening at the Thomas and Mack Center, and that's exactly what they did. While it was clear that UNLV was the more talented team going into the game, the Rebels have failed to truly impress this season. With the exception of a win over Temple last week, UNLV came away with two narrow victories at home to start the year before getting throttled by Stanford in Brooklyn.
Another concern was the play of freshman guard Rashad Vaughn. The highly touted recruit struggled mightily against both Stanford and Temple in Brooklyn. He even found himself on the bench for most of the second half against Temple after shooting just 2 of 10. Luckily, Vaughn was able to get it going against Albany. Shooting 11 of 18 from the field and 5 of 11 from three-point range, he finished with 29 points.
Christian Wood was also a major impact player for the Runnin' Rebels. He went 6 of 10 from the field and 1 of 3 from behind the arc to finish with 19 points. He also managed to grab 10 rebounds and made his presence felt defensively, getting 3 blocks. Wood has easily been the Rebels' most consistent player this season. He currently averages just over 12 points and 10 rebounds a game. UNLV needs him to continue to build on his impressive start as they begin to face higher quality opponents.
As a team, the UNLV shot 52.9 percent from the field and made nine 3-pointers. Dwayne Morgan played solid and finished with 10 points, while Cody Doolin dished out six assists to go with 4 points and 5 rebounds. Goodluck Okonoboh was essentially a non-factor for the Rebels however. In 21 minutes he failed to score, going 0 of 3 from the field and grabbing only 3 rebounds.
The Runnin' Rebels got off to a hot start with a 12-4 run ignited by a 3-pointer from senior guard Jelan Kendrick. Christian Wood then executed a three-point play that gave UNLV an early 19-9 lead. Before the first half came to a close, Vaughn added a 3-pointer that sent the Rebels to the locker room with a 37-25 halftime lead.
Albany was able to pull within seven after guard Peter Hooley was able to cash in on a three-point play of his own, but Dwayne Morgan answered with a layup, two free throws and a jumper. It was all but over after Vaughn drained another 3-pointer to make it a 19-point game with 4:25 remaining.
Sam Rowley was a definite bright spot for the Great Danes, the senior forward went 7 of 14 from the field, finishing with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Guard Peter Hooley was also a solid contributor for Albany, putting up 18 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. The Great Danes unfortunately didn't get much help from anyone else on Saturday. And while you can sometimes look past poor offensive outings with good defense, the Rebels were making their shots and if your a team like Albany, you have to get more offensive production if you want to compete.
It's a good win for the Runnin' Rebels and it's great to see a talented player like Rashad Vaughn get back on track. UNLV is surely gonna need him to contribute as much as possible if they look to improve on their 4-1 start. But when the Rebels begin to face tougher opponents it's going to take more than one performance to come away with victories. It will take a collaborative team effort. As this team continues to build chemistry, I expect them to create better opportunities for each other that will in turn, result in better offensive production and hopefully more wins.
The Runnin' Rebels will hit the road once again to face Arizona State (4-2), Wednesday night at 5:00 PM.