The bench shined brightest in the latest game for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, helping the team get off a two-game skid.
UNLV beat Whittier College, 101-45, Wednesday, Nov. 24 from the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Poets entered the game 4-0 on the year.
“We just wanted to play well as a team,” senior guard Marvin Coleman said. “We had two tough losses this past weekend. So we just wanted to come back, get back in our home [building] and get our rhythm.”
The Rebels are coming off a winless showing in the Roman Main Event from the T-Mobile Arena.
There, the team suffered defeats to Michigan and Wichita State.
“Proud of the guys for fighting back,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “Nice kick to the gut the way the game finished on Sunday night so that was definitely a concern going in because sometimes those hangovers can last longer than you want them to.”
The win improves the team’s record to 4-2 on the season with a Saturday, Nov. 27 matinee game against the UCLA Bruins.
“We have the No. 2 team coming in here this weekend,” Coleman said. “We just wanted to play well as a team and get some momentum for that.”
The TMC will once again be hosting a Top-5 opponent where UNLV will have a chance for a statement win.
“I believe two years ago we played them at UCLA,” Coleman said. “Obviously being in the Thomas & Mack, that’s huge. Hometown advantage and that’s a great rivalry from the past so being able to play ranked teams -- we don’t get the opportunity to a lot -- so just being able to compete against those teams is big.”
Despite hosting a Division-III school from California, the Rebels had a sluggish start to the game.
Which prompted Kruger to sub in an entirely new five-man unit.
“I wouldn’t say it was a message,” he said. “But that’s an older group and they’ve got to know their approach just wasn’t what we were looking for. But no, we didn’t talk to them. It wasn’t one of those ‘If you don’t play hard, this that or the other.’ We’re still going to start the same five Saturday against UCLA.”
Before the end of the first half, all 11 players who logged minutes scored as well.
Guard Josh Baker got it going early, completing an and-one before adding a three-pointer to his credit.
Coleman added six points of his own on a perfect 3-of-3 to start the game.
UNLV’s bench accounted for 10 of the team’s first 19 points.
In addition, the bench helped spark a 28-0 run for the Rebels.
“That second group went out and took advantage of the minutes that they had out there,” Kruger said. “They went out and played hard, played fun and kind of separated the teams there and widen the gap a little bit and never looked back.”
The lead would grow as large as 35 in the first half as Whittier College went nearly 12 minutes without a field goal.
In the second half, the deficit would only grow for the Poets as the Rebels went up by as many as 57 points.
With such a large lead, not much room was made up when UNLV started the second half going 3-of-13 from the field.
Guard Justin Webster came alive in the second half, scoring five straight points during one stretch.
Webster scored a game-high 17 points to go along with eight rebounds and five assists.
Through the first five games of the season, he tallied three points on 1-of-11 shooting.
“It was just catching my rhythm,” he said. “I had a great week of practice in terms of shooting the basketball and finishing at the hoop. So today I just wanted to come in and play with confidence.”
Coleman also added 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 25 minutes of action, his most since the season-opener against Gardner-Webb.
Reserves Trey Hurlburt and Cameron Burist even got in on the action, logging minutes and points in the second half.
“It’s amazing, those guys work hard everyday,” Coleman said. “They’re just as much a part of this team as anybody else. One through 15.”
The explosion from the bench allowed Kruger to rest his starters for the majority of the game.
“I think it’s important every night,” Coleman said. “Those guys are obviously playing about 30 minutes a game so for us to go in and get them rest coming up to a big game speaks volumes. Our roster is so deep we can play anybody.”
No starter logged more than 17 minutes, which was forward Donovan Williams, who also was the lone starter in double-figures with 12 points.