Maui Invitational 2020: Tar Heels stomp out Rebels' hot start en route to 78-51 win

Maui Invitational 2020: Tar Heels stomp out Rebels' hot start en route to 78-51 win

Maui Invitational

Maui Invitational 2020: Tar Heels stomp out Rebels' hot start en route to 78-51 win

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UNLV jumps out to 13-0 lead before No. 16 Tar Heels find footing


UNLV’s hot start quickly goes ice cold; Tar Heels race past Runnin’ Rebels

GAME SUMMARY

  • No. 16 North Carolina 78, UNLV 51

  • Rebels fall to 0-2 as shooting woes persist in Asheville 
  • UNLV Scoring Leaders — Hamilton 15; Grill 10
  • UNLV Rebounding Leaders — Wood 6; Diong 5
  • UNLV Assists Leaders — Coleman 3; Hamilton 2

GAME RECAP

ASHEVILLE, N.C. —The Runnin’ Rebels dropped their second game in as many tries to open the 2020-21 campaign, as No.16 North Carolina (2-0, 0-0 ACC) recovered from a slow start and pushed past UNLV on its way to a 78-51 win in the opening round of the Camping World Maui Invitational event.

Bryce Hamilton led the Rebels in scoring with 15 points, also adding four rebounds, two assists and a steal. It was the second consecutive game that Hamilton paced the team’s scoring efforts, though Monday’s effort didn’t match his 27-point outburst in a loss to Montana State last week. Caleb Grill added ten points, four rebounds, and four steals for UNLV. RJ Davis had a game-high 16 points for the Tar Heels, and Garrison Brooks finished with 14.

The Rebels (0-2, 0-0 MW) jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the game, capped off by an impressive Bryce Hamilton dunk through contact by a Tar Heel defender. The UNLV guard had seven points during the opening run, but missed the ensuing free-throw. That started a period of more than six minutes in which the Rebels only scored three points, allowing UNC slowly back into the game.

With 6:26 left to play in the first half, Brooks converted a three-point play for UNC that tied the game at 22, and the teams traded five-point runs after that. An RJ Davis layup gave the Heels their first lead of the game at 29-27 with 3:22 remaining in the period.

North Carolina never looked back.

The Tar Heels took a 37-30 lead into the locker room at halftime and started the second stanza with a 13-1 run to extend their lead to 19. During this extended drought for UNLV, shot after shot clanked off the iron, belying the hot start that had given hope to the Rebel faithful watching at home.

Just to be sure that there would be no further upset bid from UNLV, the Heels emphatically slammed the door with another 17-3 late in the second half. The result was another stomach-turning loss for TJ Otzelberger’s squad. There are a lot of new faces learning to play on the court together against live competition, but that justification may have limited mileage during a global pandemic that has rocked seemingly every corner of college basketball.

SHOOTING WOES CONTINUE

Hamilton has continued to earn his keep in the scorer’s column, and he can be forgiven for a dip in efficiency as he’s relied upon to try to dig the team out of deep holes. So, while Hamilton has suffered from some projectile dysfunction of his own he went 1-for-6 from three-point territory the affliction has hit his teammates worse.

Hey, it happens to everyone at some point. Right now for UNLV, it’s happening for everyone at once.

Grill knocked down three triples on nine attempts, while Marvin Coleman and Nick Blake at least showed some restraint from deep, each going a respectable 1-for-3. The most glaring issue, though, is with David Jenkins Jr., who went 1-for-8 (.125) from beyond the arc and is now 2-for-13 (.154) on the young season.

Jenkins made a name for himself at South Dakota as a missile launcher, equal parts prolific and accurate. That sharpshooter label is quickly starting to peel off, though, as the redshirt junior struggles to find his shooting stroke while wearing the scarlet and gray. All of the physical tools are there for Jenkins, so now he just needs to overcome any mental blocks that might keep him from feeling comfortable doing what he does best. (Easier said than done, of course.)

North Carolina dominated on the offensive glass, but that should not be too surprising, as the Rebels’ roster is very scant on big men. For that reason, players like Moses Wood and Devin Tillis saw much more time (37 minutes combined) than they will see on typical nights. UNLV also committed 17 turnovers, which is actually a slight improvement from Game 1 against Montana State. Turnovers were a massive problem for this team last year, too, and it was a big reason the time limped out to a 4-8 record.

There have been flashes of brilliance from this team, but they have yet to demonstrate any ability to consistently shoot the basketball. For an offense predicated on small-ball lineups full of shooters, a collective cold spell like the one they are experience is a recipe for disaster. Unfortunately for Rebel fans, that disaster has manifested in its full form both times the team has played.

This will be a long few days for UNLV if they can’t find their touch.

NEXT UP: UNLV vs. alabama — 6:30 p.m. pT (espn2)

The Rebels will look to get the cylinders firing in sync on Tuesday as they play their first contest in the consolation bracket of the Maui Invitational. They will face an Alabama team coming off a rough loss of their own, as Stanford clobbered them, 82-64, in Monday’s nightcap.

Are the shots going to finally start falling for the Rebels on Tuesday? Connect with us on Twitter at @MWCwire and @andrewdieckhoff, and let us know your predictions for the Rebels’ matchup with Alabama!

Andrew Dieckhoff is a USBWA member writing about college basketball for Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and The DPI Gradebook presented by Heat Check CBB. Andy is a returned Peace Corps Volunteer and a graduate of Portland State University. He currently resides in Portland, Oregon. 

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