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UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons

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Jonah Antonio and Mbacke Diong both scored 17 points leading the way for the Runnin’ Rebels in their 86-71 win over Purdue Fort Wayne. A mere 7,728 attended the game to witness head coach TJ Otzelberger‘s victory in his debut inside the Thomas & Mack CenterDiong brought the energy on both sides of the floor for UNLV. The junior forward put up a stat line of 17 points, a game-high 17 rebounds, and a game-high four blocks.

Antonio showed why he is the team’s best three-point shooter going 5-9 from the three to get to his team-high 17 points. After the game, he expressed his confidence in himself and his teammates. “I’m putting our starting five up against any starting five in the country,” Antonio said. Diong then talked about how great of a shooter Antonio is, stating that he shoots “lights out”.

Reigning Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year Donnie Tillman added 16 points, along with 3 assists. UNLV‘s returning leading scorer Amauri Hardy contributed as well with 15 points, 5 rebounds, and a game-high 6 assists.

 

Photo by Isaiah Torres

Otzelberger‘s high-pressure defense set the tone for how we should expect the Runnin’ Rebels to look this season. They forced the Mastodons into bad shots, going 29% from the field in the first half. At the half, UNLV led 39-23. They, however, started the second half a bit sluggish and sloppy, allowing Purdue Fort Wayne to chip their lead all the way down to nine with 10:39 left in the game.

 

After regrouping, the Runnin’ Rebels were able to turn things back around to go up and lead 82-61 with 3:55 left. The Mastodons got a few more points in garbage time to bring the deficit down to 15 points, as UNLV got the victory 86-71. Jarred Godfrey led Purdue Fort Wayne with a game-high 24 points.

 

Photo by Isaiah Torres

It was not the prettiest of victories, but a win is a win. At the end of the day, that is what matters most to Otzelberger in his UNLV debut. After the game, he stated that he was pleased with how the guys performed in the season opener.

“There’s still always going to be the nerves on opening night, regardless of how many times we had dress rehearsals,” said Otzelberger. “Once it’s for real, it’s for real.” He also expressed how satisfied he is with Antonio’s shooting ability. “If he gets a look, you feel like he’s going to make every single shot that he takes,” Otzelberger said.

As far as the attendance and how many people showed up for the game, Otzelberger said that he appreciated those who did attend and had a message for those who did not. “They are going to be a team of guys that you fall in love with,” said Otzelberger. “I would encourage you to get on the bandwagon sooner rather than later.”

 

After getting that first win as coach out of the way, he will now have to shift his focus on Kansas State. The Wildcats will be a huge early test for the Runnin’ Rebels as the defending Big 12 Conference Champions come into the Thomas & Mack Center this Saturday.

The big game will take place at 1 pm and can be seen on ESPN3.

 

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Isaiah Torres

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UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne     UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne     UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne  

UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne     UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne     UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne

UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne     UNLV vs Purdue Fort Wayne