LAS VEGAS -- Like Ponce de Leon failed to find the fountain of youth, Florida National couldn't find the bottom of the net for the first 4:10 of the exhibition.
Then Dwayne Morgan made a layup 7:20 into the game to put UNLV up 22-1 on the CONQUISTADORS to seal up any doubts of UNLV losing an exhibition game like they did last year to Dixie State.
But after that UNLV didn’t remain impressive as Dave Rice’s team only outscored the CONQUISTADORS 78-64 over the final 32:40 of the game.
"It’s a matter of sustaining effort over the course of an entire game," Rice said. "We talked at halftime, ‘Let’s have the mindset of the score being zero to zero.’ I had to call a couple timeouts in the second half to motivate our guys to play."
UNLV did win the second half 44-38, but the freshman-heavy rotation did trail 23-20 at one point in the second half.
UNLV dominated inside. The Rebels outscored the CONQUISTADORS 52-14 in the paint and outrebounded them 64-43. The CONQUISTADORS tallest player is listed at 6-foot-6, so UNLV probably should have controlled the glass by a wider margin. The Rebels also swatted nine shots.
Chris Wood led the UNLV dominance inside by scoring 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting and grabbing 14 rebounds along with four blocked shots. Wood got to the free throw line four times; that will likely be below his season average. The sophomore also shot four threes (making one), a shot Rice thinks the offense is better off without.
However Rice said, "I’m not going to micromanage all of his shots."
Rice has mentioned UNLV’s need to have a high assist output this season, and he got it as the Rebels assisted on 19 of 36 made field goals. Cody Doolin had four assists on UNLV’s first six baskets and finished with nine for the game.
Six different Rebels cracked double digits, as freshman Rashad Vaughn scored 16 points on 11 shots. Vaughn and fellow freshman Dwayne Morgan both went 5 of 6 at the free throw line. Morgan had a double-double off the bench with 13 points and 14 rebounds.
Patrick McCaw had 11 points on 3 of 5 shooting from three. McCaw had his first three blocked, then airballed his second – plus he airballed an after-the-whistle-three – but he drained his next three shots from beyond the arc.
Jelan Kendrick only played 18 minutes, the fewest of any starter. But Rice expects to have him back in practice tomorrow.
"JK tweaked his shoulder just a little bit, nothing serious," Rice said. "He actually tweaked yesterday in practice."
As far as lineups, Rice played with either Doolin or Kendall Smith at the point guard position until the final three minutes of the game. McCaw finished the game as the one; Kendrick is also in line to play some point guard this season.
Also, until the 1:50 mark, UNLV had Wood and/or Goodluck Okonoboh on the floor. Those are the only two true post players for UNLV, but Dwayne Morgan is considered a power forward for this team. UNLV did use Jordan Cornish or Vaughn as a stretch four in a small lineup for roughly eight minutes. Given the potential for injuries or foul trouble, Cornish, Vaughn or Kendrick could be forced into major playing time as a power forward.
Doolin, Kendrick, Vaughn, Wood and Okonoboh started.
UNLV did not play any zone defense. After playing some zone in the last open intra-squad scrimmage Rice had said the team was going to play some 1-2-2 zone.
Next up for UNLV is a trip to UCLA for a closed scrimmage that the team isn’t allowed to talk about. The first game of the season is Friday, Nov. 14 as the Runnin’ Rebels host Morehead State.
Dave Rice after the game.
Chris Wood and Cody Doolin