Published Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013 | 8:56 p.m.
UNLV 81, Radford 62
Jelan Kendrick scored 18 points, Khem Birch added 16 and UNLV used a solid overall performance to overwhelm Radford in an 81-62 victory tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center.
This was Kendrick's best overall game of his UNLV career, and you may be able to say that about Christian Wood, too. Wood scored 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting with five rebounds and an assist.
Birch and Roscoe Smith each finished with double-doubles. Birch had 16 and 10 while Roscoe Smith finished with 13 points and 12 assists. The bigs carried UNLV the whole way while the guards struggled and took a lesser role.
Overall the team shot 52.5 percent from the field and won the rebounding battle by seven. Both interiors played really well tonight, but the Rebels were simply better.
Daquan Cook didn't play, giving Deville Smith an even larger lead in the backcourt battle for minutes. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.
Although the competition isn’t great, there’s a lot to learn about UNLV in the upcoming week as it plays four games in a six-day span. That starts tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center at 7 p.m. when the Rebels (4-4) take on Radford (6-3).
After this it’s Sacred Heart at the Mack on Friday, then back-to-back games at the Orleans Arena on Sunday and Monday. The Sunday game is against Santa Clara, and on Monday it will be either Mississippi State or South Florida. All four games are part of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.
UNLV should be favored in all four games, so the expectation is a 4-0 stretch. Of course, that’s easier said than done, and completing that task would build a lot of confidence within UNLV heading into conference play.
First of all, playing that many games in a short amount of time is going to lead to fatigue and possibly some minor injuries. It will test coach Dave Rice’s rotations, and at least one game could turn into an opportunity for an end-of-the-bench guy like Demetris Morant. What Morant does with that opportunity moving forward is up to him, but when Rice tried to give Morant minutes last week at Southern Utah, the freshman forward responded with three fouls in six minutes.
These games could also go a long way in deciding the battle at backup point guard, too. Rice said on Tuesday that Deville Smith would get most of those minutes tonight while sophomore Daquan Cook could get some time at the wing.
As I wrote today, that seems like something that could continue to change, but tonight offers both guys another opportunity to stake their claim to more minutes on the court.
Bern’s prediction: The Highlanders are young and actually have the pieces to be pretty good with another year of experience, but their six wins are against inferior teams, and any even remotely legit competition has crushed them. UNLV 73, Radford 56
Season: ATS 5-3, O/U 6-2