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UNLV Basketball: Runnin’ Rebels Drop First Game of Bahamas Exhibition Tournament

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels kicked off a three game exhibition tournament in the Bahamas with a 79-80 loss against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Sunday.

NCAA Basketball: Nevada at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will start the BTC Summer of Thunder tournament 0-1 after a 79-80 loss against the University of Toronto on Sunday.

Untimely mistakes cost the Rebels a victory in their first exhibition game. UNLV missed their final five free throws and fouled Toronto’s Devin Johnson with half a second left while up 79-77.

Johnson hit all three free throws to take an 80-79 lead. San Francisco grad transfer Uche Ofoegbu missed a Hail Mary shot at the buzzer granting Toronto the win. Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal commented on the game in which he attended.

The starting five for this game was Tyrell Green, Uche Ofoegbu, Jalen Poyser, Kris Clyburn, and Christian Jones. Jones was easily the best player on the floor for UNLV putting up 16 points and 15 rebounds in his double-double effort. Jones told the Las Vegas Review-Journal what he thought about his double-double performance.

“It’s not really numbers for me, it’s what I have to do for us to win,” Jones said. “If we’re low on bigs down low, I’ve got to fill in that spot. Toughness is something I’ve got to bring to the team as well.”

The Rebels are going to need Jones to be the primary rebounder until 6’11’’ recruit Cheickna Dembele is ruled eligible by the NCAA. Because of Dembele’s absence, the Rebels were forced to run a small lineup at times playing the 6’4’’ Ofoegbu at power forward.

Rebounding was one of the apparent issues on Sunday with Christian Jones accumulating 15 rebounds and Kris Clyburn collecting nine compared to the rest of the team only bringing in 12. UNLV lost the rebounding battle 36-41. New head coach Marvin Menzies spoke to the Review-Journal about the rebounding problem.

“That’s not a healthy balance,” Menzies said. “We’ll persevere. We’ll push through.”

Tyrell Green and Jalen Poyser combined for 17 points, five rebounds, and eight turnovers. Ofoegbu scored 20 points — the most on the team — despite missing a buzzer beater three that would have won the game.

UNLV has two more games in this exhibition tournament. The next is on Tuesday against the CTG Knights (0-3). The third and final game is on Thursday against the Providence Storm (0-2).