By Morris Phillips
The Bears visit to the Vegas bright lights, and a meeting with the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, hinged on one aspect: 3-point shooting.
The Runnin Rebels attempted more, made more and that allowed them to get past Cal, 55-52 at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels were 10 of 29 from three, the Bears 4 of 14. That and some critical defensive stops in the game’s final two minutes decided a close game.
On Cal’s final possession, leading scorer Jordan Shepherd, who scored 27 points in Cal’s loss to UCSD was rushed into a lengthy 3-point attempt that drew iron but bounced away. Shepherd had a rough afternoon, missing 14 of his 17 shot attempts, and was held to nine points.
“We had about three actions we thought they might do,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said. “They guarded it absolutely perfectly.”
Shepherd missed a second 3-point attempt, and had his attempted layup blocked with 27 seconds left. All three stops were part of the Rebels big defensive stand that kept Cal scoreless in the final two minutes.
“We had a layup to win the game. I don’t know if there was contact or not,” coach Mark Fox said.
“That’s the final step for us. Learn how to close a game like this. Certainly I thought our defense was much better than it was the other night.”
Grant Anticevich led Cal with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and Andre Kelly had eight points, eight rebounds and Joel Brown started, and saw 29 minutes of floor time, but finished with seven points, four rebounds.
Cal was limited to 36.8 percent shooting from the floor. The Rebels with their constantly changing personnel groupings, which included four transfer players, stuck with man-to-man principles throughout. The Bears were just as good at their end by harassing UNLV into rushed shot attempts. They played zone predominantly and limited the Rebels to 37.5 percent shooting.
Jalen Celestine and Makale Foreman made their season debuts for Cal, but neither got it going offensively. Celestine played 24 minutes, scoring four points and Foreman was scoreless in six minutes, missing both his shot attempts.
UNLV got 12 points, five rebounds from Bryce Hamilton, and Michael Nuga contributed 10 points, six rebounds.
“We were picked, what were we picked, eighth? We wear UNLV on our chest with pride. We’re here to bring it back to what it once was.”
The Bears host the University of San Diego Toreros on Monday night at Haas Pavilion at 6pm.