The opening stanza was a tight half throughout the first 15 plus minutes, but UNLV ended the half on a 14-2 run covering the final 4:21 of the half to stretch their lead out to 10 as the buzzer sounded.
Illinois tried to attack the basket time and again, but were turned away repeatedly by the blocked shot. UNLV has already registered 7 blocks on the game, and Khem Birch is leading the way in that department with 3.
Illinois has been all over the offensive glass tonight, pulling in 11 offensive rebounds so far, and that’s the only reason they are currently +1 in the rebounding battle (23-22). If they want to have any chance of getting back into this game they are going to have to continue to rebound like they did in the first half.
UNLV has gotten far too many easy baskets underneath despite Illinois playing a 2-3 zone for much of the half. The young Illini subs need to make sure they close out on the Runnin’ Rebels that decide to head inside, but it’s no coincidence that most of these interior points came with Nnanna Egwu saddled with 2 fouls sitting on the bench. Egwu needs to tighten up his defense and stay out of foul trouble in the second half so that the Illini D can stay strong inside.
When UNLV wasn’t doing work inside, they were knocking down 40% of their shots from 3 and 100% of their foul shots. So far this season, UNLV hasn’t been very good from the charity stripe, but tonight has been a different story.
Thankfully, Rayvonte Rice came to play in the first half or it could be much worse for the Illini than a 10 point deficit they currently face. Rice leads all scorers with 12 points. He also has 5 rebounds and 3 steals. It’s been a good night for Rice, and Maverick Morgan had a sneaky good first half as well posting a line of 4 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block.
The second half is about to get underway. Join us in the Live Thread for discussion throughout the second half.