UNLV shooters start to warm up, but fade down the stretch
For the second night in a row, a hot start for UNLV was followed by a letdown.
ALABAMA 86, UNLV 74
- Grill gets hot, scores career-high 27; Tide pulls away late
- UNLV Scoring Leaders — Grill 27; Hamilton 17
- UNLV Rebounding Leaders — Diong 9; Wood 8; Hamilton 7
- UNLV Assists Leaders — Coleman 5; Hamilton 4
- Full box score and game stats
ASHEVILLE, N.C. — UNLV finally felt a hot hand for an extended period of time, but like in every other game so far this season, the Rebels couldn’t put together a full forty minutes of basketball, falling to Alabama in the second round of the Maui Invitational, 86-74.
Career night for former Maize Eagle Caleb Grill.
— Braxton Jones (@KWCHBraxton) December 2, 2020
Caleb Grill had a game- and career-high 27 points for UNLV (0-3, 0-0 MW) in the loss, hitting seven three-pointers, pulling down six rebounds, and notching three steals. It was Grill’s third consecutive double-digit scoring performance, and the sophomore transfer from Iowa State has quickly established himself as a reliable offensive option for TJ Otzelberger. Grill had served a secondary role behind Bryce Hamilton during the team’s first two games, but he shone tonight.
Hamilton had a respectable game in his own right, racking up 17 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. The junior guard was relatively quiet in the first half, scoring only six points while Grill stole the show. David Jenkins Jr. finally found some semblance of comfort in the UNLV offense and finished with 12 points. Marvin Coleman added 11 points and five assists.
For Alabama, John Petty led the scoring charge with 22 points, including a 6-for-10 performance from beyond the arc. Jahvon Quinerly dropped in 19 points and four assists, while Herbert Jones finished with 16 points. Jaden Shackelford and Joshua Primo were also in double figures with 13 and 11 points, respectively.
Spirits were high for the Rebels going into the half, as they sat tied 38-all with a tournament-caliber SEC opponent in Alabama. They were giving as well as they were taking, with Grill and Petty trading three-pointers throughout the first half. At the break, the teams were each shooting 50%, with UNLV knocking down six three-pointers to the Crimson Tide’s seven.
The hot hands had mostly cooled off after the under-eight media timeout in the first half, but Alabama (2-1, 0-0 SEC) was able to regain their footing down the stretch while UNLV crumbled. During a crucial stretch in the second half, the Tide broke out of a 53-53 tie and built a 14-point lead over the course of eight minutes. The game was all but decided at that point, with the teams essentially trading baskets until the final buzzer.
While UNLV will of course be disappointed to see their winless streak extended, this performance was more encouraging than either of their previous two games. The engine is starting to warm up for David Jenkins, and a clear third offensive option has emerged in Caleb Grill. Marvin Coleman and Cheikh Mbacke Diong continue to perform exactly to expectations in their respective roles — not spectacular, but not problematic.
It is a good time to restate that the Rebels’ opponent is a good candidate to get an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. The previous two losses were bad, but this was just a case of running into a better team that was more well-equipped to break away in the final minutes.
The shooting needs to continue its upward trend, and it would be fantastic for UNLV if more offense could be generated in the low post, but they should take this game as a step in the right direction.
wednesday, dec. 2, 6:30 P.M. PT — UNLV vs. DAVIDSON
In the final round of the Maui Invitational, UNLV will square off with Davidson (1-2, 0-0 A-10) for seventh place in the event. The Wildcats fell to Providence on Tuesday in heartbreaking fashion, as multiple potential game-winners simply wouldn’t fall in a 63-62 loss. The Davidson offense is led by Kellan Grady, Hyunjung Lee, and Sam Mennenga, and they will be yet another difficult opponent in the early season for the Rebels.
Check back tomorrow morning for a full primer for Day 3 of the Maui Invitational and more detailed preview of the UNLV-Davidson matchup.
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.