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Kathy Kmonicek / AP

North Carolina guard R.J. Davis (4) leaps to shoot a basket over UNLV guard Bryce Hamilton (13) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the Maui Invitational tournament, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Asheville, N.C.

For one brief stretch at the beginning of Monday’s game against No. 14 North Carolina, head coach T.J. Otzelberger got to see his vision for UNLV basketball come to life.

Bryce Hamilton opened the game with a long 3, then knocked in a mid-range jumper. Caleb Grill and David Jenkins followed with back-to-back 3’s, and when Hamilton threw down a transition dunk, UNLV found itself with a 13-0 lead just minutes into the contest.

That glorious glimpse open-floor offense provided the blueprint for what UNLV wants to be this season. Unfortunately, it was as fleeting as it was impressive.

After UNLV’s initial burst, North Carolina asserted itself through superior size and athleticism in the frontcourt. The Tarheels used nine second-chance points and 19 points in the paint to claw their way out of the early hole and build a 37-30 lead at halftime, and from there they pounded UNLV into submission by a final score of 78-51 in the first round of the Maui Invitational in Asheville, N.C.

In a season that began with high expectations, UNLV is now 0-2, with both losses coming by double digits.

While it was porous defense that doomed UNLV in its season-opening loss to Montana State, it was cold shooting that ultimately doomed them against Carolina. UNLV lost its 3-point touch quickly; after opening the game 3-of-3 from deep, the scarlet and grey made just 2-of-13 to close out the first half. They connected on 2-of-20 in the second half, finishing the game at just 19.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Jenkins struggled again, following up his seven-point debut in the season opener by scoring four points on 1-of-9 shooting. Bryce Hamilton led UNLV with 15 points on 7-of-19 shooting.

Carolina closed the first half on a 15-3 run, then opened the second half with an 18-4 spurt to put UNLV in a 21-point hole. Jenkins and Grilled each missed a pair of 3-pointers during that early second-half run, while Hamilton botched an uncontested layup. UNLV made just two of its first 17 shots after halftime, including 1-of-10 from 3-point range.

North Carolina’s towering frontcourt helped the Heels grab 19 offensive rebounds and convert them into 21 second-chance points.

UNLV will play the loser of the Stanford-Alabama game on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun