Brandon McCoy didn’t dominate against Oral Roberts on Tuesday night, but it didn’t matter. The fact that UNLV rolled to a 92-66 win anyway, despite a solid-but-unspectacular showing from the freshman star, was a positive development that the team needed after dropping two straight overtime contests.
McCoy came into the game as UNLV’s leading scorer at 20.4 points per game, but foul trouble limited the 7-footer to just 22 minutes. In his absence, the Rebels received boosts from an assortment of role players as they pulled away in front of a scattered crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Sophomore center Cheickna Dembele played his best game of the season in relief of McCoy, contributing four points and five rebounds in 13 minutes. While Dembele was on the floor, UNLV outscored Oral Roberts by 21 points.
Freshman guard Amauri Hardy also made his presence felt, canning three 3-pointers in a three-minute span in the second half to spur a 21-8 run that put the game away for good.
Marvin Menzies said the contributions of the reserves took some pressure off the rest of the team, which started slowly against Oral Roberts’ quirky zone defense.
“It was really good to get to the bench and get Amauri and Cheickna,” Menzies said. “Everybody that came off the bench I thought gave quality minutes.”
In the first half, it was junior power forward Shakur Juiston who kept the Rebels afloat. While his teammates struggled to decipher Oral Roberts’ 2-3 zone, Juiston was able to find the creases and put up 17 points on 8-of-10 shooting.
Juiston credited point guard Jordan Johnson for assisting him on several buckets.
“I just felt like the game came to me,” Juiston said. “I didn’t try to force anything. Big credit to our point guard, Jordy. He’s tremendous at finding people and he found me a lot. It wasn’t like I had to take over the game, it was just right time, right place, and I got the ball at the right time.”
During one stretch midway through the first half, Juiston scored eight straight points for the Rebels, but Oral Roberts still held a 21-20 lead. Then Dembele hit a pair of free throws, UNLV went on a 9-0 run, and the Rebels’ issues with the zone were finished.
UNLV finished the half shooting 53.6 percent, good enough for a 41-28 lead.
In the second half, it was Hardy who burst the dam with his 3-point barrage. Before he caught fire, UNLV led, 51-39. By the time his third triple scorched through the net, the Rebels were up 63-45 with 11:03 to play and the game was all but decided.
Hardy finished 3-of-5 from the field (3-of-4 3FGs) and cracked double figures for the first time in his college career.
“Really I was just taking what the defense gave me,” Hardy said. “They did play a zone, and that leaves a lot of opportunity to shoot threes. So really I just took what was there.”
McCoy checked back in with eight minutes to play and scored 11 points with the game out of reach, bringing his total to 17 points and six rebounds.
Jovan Mooring, who had been in a shooting slump for the past three games, broke out with 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting (3-of-7 3FGs). Johnson racked up 11 assists and seven points. Juiston finished with a team-high 19 points, seven rebounds and three steals.
UNLV is now 7-2, with a game against Illinois at the MGM Grand set for Saturday.