UNLV guard David Jenkins Jr. had 22 points in his last three games combined, he scored 26 points in the team’s latest outing to secure a sweep over a conference foe.
The Runnin’ Rebels defeated the Air Force Falcons, 69-64 Monday, Feb. 8 from the Thomas & Mack Center in a Mountain West contest.
“My mentality every game is to be aggressive,” he said. “I’ve been a little inconsistent this year as far as just me being in my own head and overthinking things.”
The win secures a season sweep for the program and runs UNLV’s all-time home record to 30-2 against the Air Force Academy. The last time the Falcons beat the Rebels on their home court was 2014.
This year’s Rebels are now 8-9 overall and 5-5 in the Mountain West conference after losing three straight.
In addition, they are 7-2 at home this season.
UNLV will now head out on the road for a two-game series with the Boise State Broncos, who have the third-best conference record at 10-3.
“It’s really essential, especially when you’re talking about momentum,” Jenkins Jr. said. “During COVID, with no fans, it takes a toll on your mental. But when you get some wins going on, create streaks for each other, it kind of brings up the energy and it creates momentum for your team.”
The Rebels have another two-game road series following the Boise State matchup, this time against the San Jose Spartans.
Jenkins Jr. played a team-low 17 minutes in the team’s first win over Air Force on Saturday.
“I wasn’t holding myself accountable at being a leader of a team,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I’m the oldest guy on the team so I just don’t think I was doing a good job at leading some of the young guys.”
Otzelberger said, “My job isn’t to necessarily evaluate how someone is going to respond. My job is to do the right thing at all times. To make the right decision for the team and right decision for the program and you hope as a coach that most cases are, as much as it can, are in alignment with the individual.
“Fortunately [Jenkins Jr.] responded, especially tonight because we needed it. And we’ll continue to make decisions in the best interest of the long-term of the program.”
Jenkins took over late when UNLV needed it most, scoring 20 of his 26 points in the second half.
“Overall, it was good to see [Jenkins Jr] step up for us and have that aggressiveness offensively,” Otzelberger said. “That’s the guy we need him to be out there every night. When he’s playing with that level of tenacity and competitive spirit, he can be great for us.”
He didn’t make it to double-figures until the 10:06-mark of the second half before going off for 14 points in the last 6:11.
“A lot of that is from just having confidence from my teammates,” Jenkins Jr. said. “When time was expiring and [Hamilton] was out, they were telling me to ‘be aggressive.’ To me, that’s important for me to have teammates like that and coaches like that.”
In addition, Jenkins Jr. added six of the Rebels nine made three-pointers.
Junior guard Bryce Hamilton had a good start to the game before picking up his fourth foul with 13:25 left in regulation.
“At first when we lost him [to injury], there was a psychological factor of ‘We don’t have our guy out there,’” Otzelberger said. “We didn’t handle it very well that first time. I think it has been valuable to have those moments in games where we’ve had to play without him and that we know how to do that.”
The team has been used to playing lineups without Hamilton on the floor after he missed both games this year against in-state rival, UNR, due to a bad ankle.
To that point, Hamilton tallied 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting to go along with four assists.
Defending the three has been a talking point all season long for this year’s UNLV team and after the Air Force made four of its first five, the Rebels appeared to be heading for a long night.
The Falcons went 5-of-16 from deep the rest of the way, for a 43 percent clip.
On the other hand, UNLV made 56 percent of it’s three-point attempts, going 9-for-16.
Jenkins Jr. made a three-pointer four minutes and 10 seconds into the game one night after the Rebels missed their first 12 attempts from beyond the arc.
The three extended UNLV’s NCAA-record for most consecutive games with a made three-pointer.
The Rebels have made a three-pointer in 1,119 games since the NCAA adopted the three-point line in 1986.