UNLV Reserves Lift Runnin' Rebels Past Wyoming 71-67
By W.G. Ramirez
LAS VEGAS - In their rare roles as reserves Bryce Dejean-Jones and Roscoe Smith combined for 40 points off the bench to lead fourth-seeded UNLV past No. 5 seed Wyoming, 71-67, in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Thursday.
"It speaks to the resiliency of our group," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "We all committed to each other on Monday that it was a new season. Certainly a lot of good things that happened for us this year. There was a lot of disappointment at various times. That's what March Madness, conference tournaments, are all about."
Dejean-Jones finished with a team-high 22 points in 32 minutes, while Smith registered his 16th double-double of the season, scoring a career-high tying 18 points and grabbing 13 rebounds, also in 32 minutes.
"Coming off the bench, you know, I told Bryce when we come off, let's just be aggressive, lift the team up by any means," Smith said. "Whatever coach needed us to do, let's do it. I felt like we both brought that."
Said Dejean-Jones: "We try to do our best to keep the team lifted and create a spark. Coming off the bench today, that's what we looked to do. I think we did a great job of that. Guys just fed off of us and we just started getting rolling."
After the Rebels fell behind by six early on, 13-7, Dejean-Jones hit consecutive treys to tie the game, en route to scoring 11 of the Rebels' last 21 points of the first half, including a buzzer-beater that them into the locker room with a 28-27 lead.
"I feel very good coming back today," said Dejean-Jones, who rebounded from being suspended for the regular-season finale to connect on a season-high three 3-pointers. "We basically played together and kept getting stops. Things just started happening for us."
Neither team held a lead bigger than seven points until the Rebels made a late-game run and took a 13-point lead with 3:08 left in the game. Trailing 61-48, the Cowboys used a furious 17-5 run to close the gap to one, at 66-65 with 23.1 seconds left in the game. But the Rebels hit all five free throw attempts down the stretch to outscore the Pokes, 5-2, to provide the final margin.
"They play till the end every night," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. "And the best thing about 'em in my world is they don't try to be somebody they're not. They just try to be who they are, play hard every night, home, away, win or lose."
Deville Smith, who added 15 points for UNLV, was the only starter to score in the first half for the Rebels, while Khem Birch, who was 0-for-4 in the first half, finished with 8 points.
Josh Adams, who led Wyoming with 24 points, scored the Cowboys' first 11 points and 18 of their first 22 overall. Adams tied career highs in field goals made (10) and three-pointers made (3). Nathan Sobey and Jerron Granberry each added 18.
The Rebels (20-12) meet top-seeded, and eighth-ranked San Diego State (28-3) in a Friday semifinal. UNLV is 2-5 all-time against San Diego State in MW tournament games.
Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG