Rebels basketball:

Bryce Dejean-Jones leads charge as UNLV pulls away for 89-76 victory

Dejean-Jones fills up box score with 18 points and eight rebounds while freshman Savon Goodman scores 17

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

After stripping the ball, UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones keeps University of Ottawa guards Mehdi Tihani, left, and Caleb Agada at bay during the Rebels’ victory in Ottawa, Ontario, on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012.

UNLV vs. University of Ottawa

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez steals the shoe of teammate Khem Birch before the Rebels game against the University of Ottawa at Montpetit Hall in Ottawa, Ontario Sunday, August 19, 2012. Birch, a Montreal native, was unable to play in the game because of transfer rules. Launch slideshow »

OTTAWA — The missed shots around the basket were adding up, a pile of points unscored left for Bryce Dejean-Jones to rummage through and pull out for momentum-changing baskets.

UNLV trailed Ottawa by three at halftime Sunday in the second game of its four-game Canadian exhibition tour. The first one, a 74-70 victory against Carleton on Saturday, was supposed to be close considering Carleton’s stature as the country’s elite program. But as the second half wore on in Montpetit Hall against the Gee-Gees in front of about 300 fans, UNLV was missing the spark that would allow it to pull away for good.

Enter Dejean-Jones, the only nonfreshman making his debut on this trip and the leading scorer with 18 points in UNLV’s 89-76 victory against Ottawa.

In addition to his points, Dejean-Jones finished with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals in 26 minutes of action.

“He always plays hard, so you never have to coach effort,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “That’s a huge start for giving him an opportunity to have a good career at UNLV.”

Dejean-Jones, a sophomore transfer from USC, has been practicing with the team for the past year, a frustrating form of exile for the super-competitive Los Angeles native. He was so close to the games, taking a seat on the bench next to fellow transfer Khem Birch for most of the season, but there was nothing he could do but watch. Now he’s done his time, and if the Rebels aren’t playing up to his expectations he can actually do something about it.

With about 12 minutes left in the second half and UNLV holding onto a slim lead, Dejean-Jones flashed open under the basket but didn’t get the pass. His anger showed, and he responded on the same possession by crashing to the rim and putting back a missed shot by junior Mike Moser. On the next trip down the court, junior Carlos Lopez missed a layup, but Dejean-Jones was right behind him to clean it up and put UNLV ahead 61-53.

That was one of many mini-runs that nearly put the game away, but Ottawa quickly cut its deficit to 65-61. The Gee-Gees’ Johnny Berhanemeskel led all scorers with 22 points, but all of his came in the first half. Mike L’Africain, who finished with 17, was the man most responsible for keeping Ottawa within striking distance for much of the final 20 minutes.

However, that was as close as the Gee-Gees would get for the rest of the game. From that point, UNLV went on a 13-1 run that ballooned to 20-4 before it was done. The Rebels shot 63 percent from the floor in the second half, led by 20 with three minutes to go and were able to play without pressure in the game’s final minutes.

On a breakaway in the middle of that run, Dejean-Jones ran in front of pursuing defenders to give Lopez a clear path to the basket for a two-handed dunk. It won’t go down as an assist, but it’s just another example of the well-rounded performance he put together.

“Everybody has their days. I happened to have mine tonight,” Dejean-Jones said. “… I’m just out here feeling my way through.”

The other breakout Rebel on Sunday was freshman Savon Goodman, who finished with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting and six rebounds in just 17 minutes. Goodman did most of his work in the first half, a nice turnaround for the Philadelphia native after a forgettable 11-minute debut against Carleton.

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UNLV's Daquan Cook helps up teammate Savon Goodman during their game against the University of Ottawa at Montpetit Hall in Ottawa, Ontario Sunday, August 19, 2012. UNLV won the game 89-76. The Runnin' Rebels are in the midst of a four-game exhibition tour in Canada.

“I’m getting used to the speed of the game,” Goodman said. “(Saturday) night I got down on myself a little bit because I didn’t play as well as I thought I should have played. So just coming back trying to regain confidence and stay focused.”

He had a pair and-one baskets around the rim early in the game, finishing with made free throws on both.

Rice said he sees a lot of similarities between Goodman and Dejean-Jones.

“(Goodman) plays so hard,” Rice said. “Like every freshman he’s got a lot of things to learn, but he’s coachable and wants to be a good player.”

As for the veterans, senior Justin Hawkins finished with 12 points and five rebounds, and Moser had eight points and eight rebounds.

There was a scary moment in the middle of UNLV’s game-changing run when freshman Katin Reinhardt, the leading scorer against Carleton, went down in a heap after blocking a shot by L’Africain. Reinhardt appeared to fall with most of his weight on his left knee, and he sprawled on the ground for nearly a minute.

Reinhardt was able to walk off under his own power, and he left the arena with a noticeable limp but no assistance. Rice said he would know more Monday and added he would be extremely cautious with the freshman, who shot 2-for-11, including 1-of-6 behind the three-point line, in about 28 minutes before getting hurt.

The push at the end of the game is something UNLV can learn from. Hopefully, Rice said, one of the lessons the Rebels take away is another reminder about the importance of playing defense with intensity early in the game.

“It’s been good that we’ve played two teams that shoot the ball extremely well and they’ve been able to exploit some of our weaknesses,” Rice said. “I’m not as worried right now about our technique from a defensive standpoint; we’ll figure all that out. Just (want) more of a consistent effort.”

Emulating Dejean-Jones would be a good place to start.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. Saw the live feed, and liked what I saw on the offensive end. UNLV was kind of just walking through the paces in the first half I felt, like at 75% or something, especially with the defense. In the 2nd half though, I felt the heat was turned up and everyone was pressuring much better on defense and really disrupting the Gee-Gees.