Warrior Insider

The Inside Source for Hawaii Men's Basketball

UPDATED: UNLV corrals Warriors in Vegas suburb, 77-62

HENDERSON, Nev. — Helped in large part by a recent island transplant in a Las Vegas suburb where there are many, UNLV corralled visiting Hawai’i, 77-62, Wednesday night in entertaining non-conference men’s basketball action.

A vocal and appreciative crowd of 4,207 at the Dollar Loan Center watched Luis Rodriguez score a game-high 18 points and former UH guard Justin Webster add 13 points and four rebounds off the bench as the Rebels — who are eight spots out of the AP Top 25 — stayed perfect at 9-0. Kamaka Hepa scored 15 points and reserve wing Beon Riley added 12 points for the Warriors, who fell to 5-3 with their second straight loss.

With their home arena, the iconic and spacious Thomas & Mack Center, being occupied by an indoor rodeo this week, UNLV appeared just as comfortable in this new, smaller neutral site about nine miles to the southeast. The Rebels held UH to 27.9 percent shooting (8 for 29), including just 14.3 percent (2 for 14) from 3-point range, in racing out to a 41-22 halftime lead. The Warriors closed it to 54-46 with nine minutes remaining, but UNLV quickly answered with a 6-2 surge to extend the gap to 60-48 and Hawai’i could not get closer than nine the rest of the way.

“They’re a great defensive team, and we thought there were some shots that we could get,” UH coach Eran Ganot said. “To be honest, I thought we got some good looks that we wanted. We didn’t make them, and I think that compounded in other areas, which is a place that we gotta grow. In the second half, we missed some, made a little more, but we played very spirited on both ends. I thought our guys were ready to go, I think this game will really help us. Two great defensive teams. We had our chances, and I appreciate the response cutting it to eight.

“I think it’s a good experience for us that we will learn and grow from, and that’s why you want to play that kind of team in a road environment where the fans are great, the venue is great.”  

The highly athletic Rebels used tight on-ball defense and effective dribble-drive penetration to spark a 15-4 early run that put them ahead, 20-8, with 11:35 left in the first half. Bernardo da Silva closed it to 21-16 four minutes later on a layup, but UNLV again turned to tight ball pressure and several rim attacks for an 18-4 surge that made it 39-20 with under a minute remaining.

The Rebels also won big at the free throw line, sinking 12 of 13 (92.3 percent), compared to just 4 of 9 (44.4 percent) for the Warriors.

UNLV extended the lead to 46-26 after Webster’s 3-pointer four minutes into the second half, but that’s when UH started to chip away. Freshman reserve Harry Rouhliadeff swished a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut it to 53-41 with 11:12 left, and Riley scored a layup to slice it to 54-43 about 90 seconds later. Rouhliadeff then swished another 3-pointer from the same spot to make it 54-46 with nine minutes remaining, forcing Rebels coach Kevin Kruger to burn a timeout.

“We just turned up the energy a little bit, we got after it a little bit more,” said Warriors starting guard Noel Coleman, their leading scorer who was held to six points. “Our bench did great. They came with a lot of energy, they weren’t scared. I think they did a real good job. This was good preparation for us, for sure.”

Coleman, who missed last March’s Big West Tournament at the Dollar Loan Center, was making his first appearance there and struggled from the field, going 2 for 10 including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. But he did not use unfamiliarity as an excuse.

“It’s really nice, actually, I was very surprised,” Coleman said. “It was a little cold earlier, but as more people came in, it was pretty nice. It’s a nice gym, great rims … just couldn’t fall today. “

Ganot said the contributions off the bench were definitely a highlight.

“Those are some young guys who got better,” Ganot said. “I thought (sophomore guard) Justus (Jackson) came in and gave us a lift in that stretch, and (freshman center) Mor (Seck) has been practicing really well and deserved to get in there. Harry’s been pretty consistent, and he’s got a good confidence about him. Playing well as freshmen, those two gave us glimpses this early in their career, especially on the road against a good team … and Beon gave us a lift.

“So back to work we go, give (UNLV) credit, you saw some things we can build off of, and things we gotta clean up. If we handle it right, we’re gonna continue to move this journey along and make some jumps.”

After the game, both in the handshake line and outside the arena before boarding the team bus, Webster shared warm embraces and short visits with his former Warriors teammates.

“It’s great to see them — I love those guys, I love Coach Ganot,” said Webster, who played two productive seasons at UH before transferring to UNLV in 2021. “He gave me the opportunity to play at the collegiate level, so there’s always love with them. I’m just happy we were able to pull out the win.”

The Warriors are scheduled to return to Honolulu on Thursday. Up next on the schedule is a home game against Saint Francis (PA) on Sunday. The game is scheduled to start at 5:00 p.m., following a 2:00 p.m. game featuring the Hawai’i women’s team against UNLV.

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