Rebels basketball:

Blog: Illinois ends game on 10-2 run for 61-59 victory against UNLV

The Illini’s Rayvonte Rice finished with 25 points and scored the decisive basket to send UNLV to 2-3 on the season

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Bryce Dejean Jones blocks a shot by Illinois guard Rayvonte Rice during their game Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 | 9:54 p.m.

UNLV vs. Illinois: Nov. 26, 2013

UNLV guard Kendall Smith has the ball stripped by Illinois guard Tracy Abrams during their game Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Illinois won the game 61-59. Launch slideshow »
Illinois 61, UNLV 59 Game over

The Illini went on a 10-2 run to close the game and Rayvonte Rice finished with a 25 points to sink the Rebels in a 61-59 loss. The Rebels (2-3) are now under .500 for the first time since 2005.

Three Rebels scored in double figures and Roscoe Smith grabbed 13 rebounds but for the second consecutive game UNLV didn't make the plays in the final minutes. UNLV led by six with about six minutes to play and scored only two points the rest of the way.

On UNLV's final possession, it started with the ball with 26 seconds left. After running 13 seconds off the clock Dave Rice called another timeout. The Rebels only had two team fouls so they wouldn't be able to send the Illini to the foul line if they missed.

Bryce Dejean-Jones took the inbounds pass and never looked to pass, instead driving to the right. He had been getting stripped several times in the second time and lost the ball again. He was able to flip the loose ball to Kevin Olekaibe in the corner for a 3-point attempt and once that rimmed out the Rebels were effectively finished.

UNLV returns to action Saturday at 4 p.m. against Tennessee-Martin. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' defeat.

 

Tonight is a very important game for UNLV’s future, both in terms of the rest of this season and 2014-15. That’s because the Rebels (2-2) are looking to avoid falling below .500 for the first time since 2005 and top-10 recruit Rashad Vaughn will be in the stands to see if they can do it.

UNLV tips off against Illinois (5-0) at 7:45 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.

Vaughn, a Minnesota native, is playing his senior season at Findlay Prep in Henderson. However, his parents are in town for the visit and a positive rapport with them — not to mention the biggest victory of this young season — could go a long way for the Rebels.

UNLV coach Dave Rice and assistant Todd Simon have visited Vaughn’s parents at home in Minnesota, and Simon, as the former Findlay Prep coach, established a relationship with Vaughn while recruiting him a little bit there. Vaughn also recently took a visit to Iowa State and he plans to schedule a trip to North Carolina. The last two visits will likely go to a couple of the other four finalists: Minnesota, Baylor, Kansas and Arizona.

As for the game tonight, UNLV can win if it plays a similar overall game to last week’s loss to Arizona State. Other than giving up 40 points to Jahii Carson — and that’s admittedly a large asterisk — the Rebels had their best overall performance in the 86-80 loss.

To get close to that performance again, the Rebels will rely on their one-two punch inside of juniors Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith. Those two are combining for 24.6 points, 27.6 rebounds and 6.75 blocks per game. Get production even close to that and UNLV should be in good position because Illinois isn’t as talented on the wings as Arizona State.

Bern’s prediction: The line has moved two points in UNLV’s direction at several local books, swinging the Rebels from plus-3.5 to plus-1.5. Either way, this will be their second straight game as a home underdog, something that hasn’t happened in a very long time. I think this one ends better for UNLV, with the added bonus of winning in front of a coveted recruit. UNLV 72, Illinois 64

Season: ATS 3-1, O/U 3-1

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

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