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September 1, 2014

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No Gray area here—98-71

Junior strong in starting role as Rebels roll

For Evric-Gray, it was business as usual.

Same for Greg Anthony. Ditto Larry Johnson.

Forget the fact that Gray was making his first start for UNLV. He may have been playing in the backcourt alongside Anthony, but the way he operated in UNLV’s easy 98-71 win Thursday night over UC Santa Barbara, it was as if Gray was playing small forward, the position he has played the majority of the season.

With Anderson Hunt sitting out the game with a sinus infection he picked up last weekend in Arkansas, Gray took advantage of the opportunity to get some increased playing time. He spent a season-high 26 minutes on the Thomas and Mack floor and at times, he admitted it was tough sledding.

“I got a little tired out there in the second half,” he said. “But I tried to play through it and do what I was supposed to.”

For Anthony, business as usual came in the leadership department. He made sure Gray and the rest of the Rebels didn’t lose sight of the objective for each game, which was to play as hard as you can.

Anthony, who had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds, said Gray did fine.

“He knows what he’s supposed to do,” Anthony said of Gray. “We went over the stuff in practice and as long as he’s paying attention, Evric’s going to be all right.”

Gray, who had 12 points, five rebounds, three assists and no turnovers, had reason to be happy afterward.

“I prepared the way I do for ever game,” he said. “I came ready to play, I thought I did all right. My main concern was not getting beat on defense and making sure I didn’t turn it over.”

Gray came through on both counts. He didn’t get beat often, which permitted the other Rebels to play their men straight up.

Anthony did likewise guarding Gauchos Ray Kelly, who had hurt UNLV in the first meeting at Santa Barbara with his ability to penetrate and dish off to the

UCSB’s big men.

Thursday, Kelly wasn’t that opportunity as Anthony did an excellent job of containment.

“When you’re playing against a quick guy like Kelley, you’re not going to stop him every time,” Anthony said. “My thing was keep him in check so he couldn’t get the ball to their big guys and put us in a help situation.”

UCSB Coach Jerry Pimm said Antony did a good enough job to negate Kelly.

“He was into him pretty good,” Pimm said of Anthony. “I thought he played much better this time around. It was the Greg Anthony I’m used to seeing.”

As for Gray, Pimm said his presence hurt UNLV’s running game a little but at the same time bolstered the Rebels’ rebounding.

He gave us problems with matchups,” Pimm said of Gray. “He’s very good going to the glass and we couldn’t afford to put Lucius (Davis) or one of our big men on him because then we have to put (Michael) Meyer on Johnson or (Stacey) Augmon and then we’re in real trouble.

We thought we matched up as best as we could and we played our hearts out. But this is an exceptional team. They’ve got a complete game, no question about it. They play you end line to end line.

No matter what he Gauchos (10-12 overall, 5-8 Big West) did against Johnson, it wasn’t enough. Johnson started quickly and never slowed down Thursday, scoring inside often and displaying a nice touch from the outside.

He had 16 points at the half as UNLV led 45-34 and finished with a game high 27 as the Rebels (21-0 overall, 12-0 Big West) expanded the 11 point halftime edge to as many as 29 down the stretch. A 19-3 second-half run put the Gauchos away for good after UCSB had managed to stay within 12 earlier in the half.

Yes, for Johnson, Thursday as also business as usual.

“This was a tough game for us to get up for,” UNLV’s Jerry Tarkanian said, “Our kids tried to fight through it as best they could. But we have great senior leadership in Larry, Greg and Stacey, they kept it going out there when we started a little sluggish.”

Tarkanian admitted with Hunt missing from the lineup, the Rebels aren’t going to run as effectively as usual. But for one night, he didn’t mind. Especially with their performance Gray and Anthony gave him in the backcourt.

“Greg did an incredible job,” Tarkanian said of Anthony. “He kept our guys up. He’s always talking to them, keeping them from the game. He’s a great leader for us.”

As for Gray, a sophomore, Tarkanian said, “Here’s a guy who’s in his first year of college basketball and he’s playing three positions for us. Evric did a nice job filling in for Anderson.”

Gray said having played in the backcourt some made the transition easier.

“It definitely helped,” he said. “They didn’t want me releasing so I just concentrated on the boards and watching my man on defense. Actually, the way I was being used, it was more like having two 3’s on the floor.” Which was two too many for the Gauchos.

Rebels notes

Davis’ 16 points led the Gauchos, who shot 47.5 percent from the floor. He fouled out with 8:08 to go and UNLV up 80-55. …Forward Chris Jeter did not dress for Thursday’s game. He was at the hospital with his 3-year old son who had come down with pneumonia earlier in the day. …Referee Frank Bosone temporarily stopped the game for a couple of minutes just after the tip off because the haze from the pregame fireworks show still lingered over the court and made it though to see. …Hunt is expected to practice this afternoon and will be back in the starting lineup Saturday night against New Mexico State.

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