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UNLV wins at Kansas State

Scott Weaver, Kansas State

UNLV’s Marvin Coleman attempts to score over Kansas State’s Mike McGuirl in a road game Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, in Manhattan, Kansas. UNLV won its first game of the season, 68-58.

For the first time this season, UNLV basketball looked like what it’s supposed to look like, as the team’s three primary scorers combined for 55 points in leading the scarlet and gray to their first victory, 68-58 at Kansas State.

David Jenkins led the way with 25 points, while Bryce Hamilton scored 18 and Caleb Grill tallied 12.

UNLV is now 1-4 on the season.

Coach T.J. Otzelberger said it was important for his players to be rewarded for their effort after dropping the first four games.

“I’m happy for our guys,” Otzelberger said. “We’ve got a younger bunch and they hang their hat on the gratification of outcome. I know we’re in this to win, I’m highly competitive, I want to win every game. I also know there’s a process and you can’t cheat that process. For us, it gives our guys confidence and validation of what we’re doing every day.”

UNLV struggled to create quality scoring opportunities in the first half, but hot shooting by Hamilton kept them in the lead. Hamilton nailed 6-of-8 from the field and 2-of-3 from 3-point range, scoring 14 points before the break to help UNLV take a 31-30 advantage into the locker room.

Consecutive 3-pointers by Grill, Jenkins and Jenkins again pushed the lead to 40-32 in the opening minutes of the second half. Hamilton lobbed up a pass and Caleb Grill finished the alley-oop with a two-handed slam to make it 49-39, prompting Kansas State to call timeout as Grill, a Kansas native, vamped for the limited crowd inside the Bramlage Coliseum.

UNLV may have discovered something of an identity at KSU. Instead of trying to force an inside presence on offense, Otzelberger and his crew focused on driving and dishing. Shooters like Jenkins and Grill were the beneficiaries, as they combined to hit 9-of-18 from deep. For the game, UNLV scored just 18 points in the paint while connecting on 12-of-27 from 3-point range. The scarlet and gray shot 52.0 percent from the field as a team, the first time UNLV has broken 50 percent in a game this season.

When Kansas State made a mini-run, scoring five straight points to cut the lead to six midway through the second half, Hamilton went back into his bag of tricks and nailed a mid-range jumper off the dribble to make it 54-46 with eight minutes remaining.

A pair of free throws by guard Mike McGuirl brought Kansas State within 56-53 with five minutes left, but Hamilton found Jenkins alone at the top of the key and the junior guard buried the triple to make it a six-point margin. After a defensive stop, Hamilton drove left and kicked out to Jenkins in the opposite corner; Jenkins drilled it as the shot clock expired to make it 62-53 with 3:30 to play.

That was the dagger, and it was a long time coming for Jenkins, who struggled out of the gate this season and entered Saturday’s contest having made just 10-of-31 from 3-point range (32.3).

Jenkins said he told Hamilton to look for him in the corner on the drive, and that Hamilton’s pass reflected the belief UNLV still has in his shooting ability despite the slow start.

“Obviously the first few games I didn’t knock down the shot, but he had confidence in me,” Jenkins said. “When your teammates have confidence in you, when your coaches have confidence in you, it gives you the ultimate confidence overall. So he knew I was going to knock down the shot and I knew I was, too.”

Following Jenkins’ seventh and final 3-pointer, Kansas State missed an interior shot on the ensuing possession, and Grill corralled the rebound and passed it ahead to Hamilton for a breakaway layup to extend UNLV’s lead to 11 points.

Jenkins, Hamilton and Grill made all the plays down the stretch, which is exactly how UNLV is supposed to win games this season. For the first time, it worked on Saturday.

“Those guys all can score the basketball,” Otzelberger said. “To have three guys out there that all are double-figure scorers and shooting over 50 percent from the field, that’s going to give you a really good chance offensively.”

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun