As far as rebuilding processes go, this one is off to a good start.
UNLV's newcomers played like stars as the Rebels ran Florida A&M off the court, 108-66. Freshman Brandon McCoy, the most heralded import, led the way with 25 points and 18 rebounds in his college debut. Junior college transfer Shakur Juiston added 19 points and 10 rebounds, and transfer point guard Jordan Johnson finished with 10 points and 10 assists.
Even holdover Jovan Mooring got in on the action, as the senior guard poured in 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting.
For the game, UNLV made 52.6 percent of its field goals while holding an overmatched FAMU squad to 33.3 percent.
The Rebels are now 1-0 on the season, with Prairie View A&M set to visit the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday.
Rebels routing Florida A&M in second half, 80-40
Midway through the second half, UNLV has opened up an 80-40 lead over Florida A&M.
The Rebels opened the second half with a 13-4 run, and Marvin Menzies began subbing out his starters at that point. Jovan Mooring and Brandon McCoy have each scored 19 points, and Shakur Juiston has posted 15 points. Don't expect any of them—or starting point guard Jordan Johnson—to see the floor again tonight.
UNLV races out to 56-27 halftime lead over FAMU
UNLV is leaving nothing to chance on opening night. The Rebels have dominated Florida A&M from the opening tip, and they've taken a commanding 56-27 lead into halftime.
Brandon McCoy started and has put on a dominant display against the overmatched FAMU front line, posting 11 points and 12 rebounds in the first half. Jordan Johnson racked up eight assists (against just one turnover), and Jovan Mooring shot the lights out, scoring 16 points on 5-of-8 from the field (4-of-7 from 3-point range).
Florida A&M is playing for the second day in a row and looks fatigued by the Rebels' fast pace. UNLV totaled 41 possessions in the first half, and FAMU hasn't been able to keep up in the open court, allowing the Rebels to tally nine layups already.
UNLV has also played aggressively on the defensive end, holding FAMU to 30.3 percent from the field while forcing 10 turnovers.
At the halfway point of game No. 1, the new-look Rebels are looking pretty good.
Rebels take big lead over Florida A&M
UNLV has stretched its lead to 28-13 with 7:12 to play in the first half, and it doesn't seem as though things are going to get any better for Florida A&M.
The Rebels have gotten aggressive on defense, forcing seven turnovers which have led to six fast-break points. Jordan Johnson has six points and four assists, while Brandon McCoy has four points and eight rebounds. Jovan Mooring is UNLV's leading scorer with eight points.
Rebels jump to quick lead over Florida A&M
UNLV hasn't shot well in the opening minutes, but the Rebels have shown glimpses of the kind of team they want to be this season. Jordan Johnson has three assists, including a fast-break dime that led to a Jovan Mooring layup to give UNLV an early 9-2 lead over Florida A&M.
Mooring has five points, and big men Shakur Juiston and Brandon McCoy have two apiece.
McCoy started the game and has looked good despite playing on a sore ankle. In addition to his two points, he's also got three rebounds, including two offensive boards.
Three keys for UNLV basketball in season opener
UNLV basketball returns tonight with a brand-new team and big expectations. The rebuilt Rebels are aiming for a Mountain West championship, and after an offseason that saw head coach Marvin Menzies add several high-profile recruits, they just might have the talent to do it.
That quest starts tonight, as UNLV opens the 2017-18 season at home against Florida A&M (7 p.m., Facebook streaming). Three keys to watch:
Freshman Brandon McCoy was the Rebels’ biggest offseason addition, and the 7-foot center is expected to transform UNLV’s frontcourt on both ends of the floor. But the five-star recruit has been slowed by a preseason ankle injury that has already forced him to sit out last week’s exhibition win over Alaska Fairbanks.
Will the young star make his debut tonight? Marvin Menzies said on Thursday that he expects McCoy to be available. That could mean we see McCoy on a minutes restriction, or it could mean that he’s only available in an emergency — like if backup center Cheickna Dembele can’t play (he’s also dealing with a nagging foot injury).
McCoy wants to play, as he lobbied the coaching staff to let him test his ankle against Alaska Fairbanks. We may not have an answer until pregame warmups.
The Rebels’ defense around the arc left something to be desired in the exhibition. Alaska Fairbanks spread the floor and looked for 3-pointers, and UNLV’s loose coverage allowed too many openings, especially in the first half.
Will we see a more aggressive approach tonight? Starting guards Jovan Mooring and Jordan Johnson lack length, but the seniors are savvy enough to get into passing lanes and make good rotations. Look for them to focus on playing tighter defense while generating more deflections that can lead to fast-break opportunities. If Johnson and Mooring can combine for five steals, the Rebels will be in good shape.
Taking care of business
Early-season games can be a minefield, as some other Mountain West teams can already attest. Utah State lost its season opener at Weber State on Friday, while Colorado State struggled against Sacramento State, falling behind in the second half before rallying to win. The lesson is, UNLV can’t afford to take any game for granted, and if the Rebels have a chance to bury Florida A&M early, they’d better do it.
That didn’t happen in last week’s exhibition, which saw UNLV start slowly before turning it on over the final 25 minutes or so. Menzies will have to get his charges ready to play from the opening tip, or a season with high expectations could begin with a very embarrassing result.