Image courtesy of The Associated Press
UNLV faced off against the Alabama Crimson Tide last night in the 2nd round of the Camping World Maui Invitational. The Rebels were coming off of a loss to UNC wherein they played well against a tough opponent for long stretches until it eventually got away from them. While the same could be said about last night’s game, one thing is certain… this year’s Rebels squad is legit.
When you take youth and athleticism, combined with an evident dedication to a coaching staff that clearly knows what it’s doing, you’ve got something special. UNLV has something special. A roster almost solely comprised of freshmen with the occasional upperclassmen and a few vets, this team has all of the necessary ingredients to have an above-expecation season, it just needs all cylinders clicking at the same time.
Tied at the end of the first half of play, and a tough contender throughout, the stat that continues to plague the UNLV offense is its lack of free-throw attempts. They wouldn’t take one in the entire first half. The Rebels shot 75% from the charity-stripe, which would be impressive to note had they taken more than 4. Meanwhile the Crimson Tide would shoot 13 of 19 which is a tough pill to swallow in a 12-point loss. The Rebs had 26 points in the paint to the Tide’s 28, and scored 17 points off turnovers to Alabama’s 7. These are important areas of their game to highlight because they speak to ineptitudes that this team doesn’t have. They play hard, smart, structured basketball and simply need to attack the rim more.
We’ll get to Caleb Grill in a moment. Respectfully we’ll first discuss how important and encouraging it was for Rebel fans to see the arrival of Marvin Coleman, easily the heart and soul of this team, to the party. A Las Vegas native and walk-on, he was one of four starters in double digits with eleven points on 5 of 11 shooting. He, along with the ever-consistent Bryce Hamilton and David ‘World Star’ Jenkins Jr., combined for 40 of the Rebs 74 total points while Caleb Grill poured in a career-high 27 points all by himself.
Grill put on a clinic. The 27 points jump out at you, and they should, but it was every part of his game that should excite the UNLV coaches and fans. Live on ESPN2, the young man went 10 of 17 from the field, and shot 7 of 12 from deep while managing to tough out 6 rebounds and 3 steals. That is an incredibly impressive stat-line, and he is still one of several new players with an incredibly high ceiling from which coach Otzelberger and his staff have to choose from every game.
Behind the combination of Coleman, Jenkins and Hamilton to fuel this Rebel offense; Grill, Nicquel Blake, and Moses Wood are three players that have unlimited potential, and this team is going to need them to quickly find their way. There is also additional height and length to be seen on the floor from players like 6’7″ junior Edoardo Del Cadia, a physical big who shoots over 80% from free-throw, along with freshmen Reece Brown (6’9″) and Jhaylon Martinez (6’10”) who both bring an additional scroing wing presence. One can only hope coach Otzelberger is given the time necessary to properly cultivate this talent pool.
The Rebels finish the Maui Invitaitonal today agains Davidson and move on to play the Kansas State Wildcats this Saturday at 5pm PT.