Dejean-Jones lifts Las Vegas to win over Air Force
UNLV has a solid duo in Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser, now that he's back from an elbow injury.
But it was reserve Bryce Dejean-Jones who made the big shot Saturday night for the No. 24 Rebels against surprising Air Force.
Dejean-Jones made a go-ahead jumper with 12 seconds remaining in overtime, and UNLV held on to beat Air Force 76-71 in their Mountain West Conference home opener.
"I saw an open area and went to the ball and finished it," said Dejean-Jones, who made a 12-footer along the right baseline. "We needed a basket and took advantage of it. We all get the opportunity and tonight it was my turn. This is a great-team win."
On Air Force's next possession, Dejean-Jones also stopped a potential go-ahead basket by conference scoring leader Michael Lyons, whose jumper just right of the free throw line bounced out with 3 seconds left.
Bennett, the nation's freshman leading scorer, had 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Rebels (14-3, 1-1), who were coming off a loss at No. 25 New Mexico on Wednesday and next play at No. 16 San Diego State on Wednesday.
Dejean-Jones' basket put the Rebels up 72-71. He scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half, including two free throws with 37 seconds left in regulation to tie it 62-all. He had five points in overtime.
Moser had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Rebels. Moser played 14 minutes in the New Mexico loss, but played 40 Saturday. He missed the two previous games.
"Coach (Dave Rice) let me play my game," Moser said. "I felt comfortable from the get-go. Guys gave me the ball and that helped me."
Lyons, who had 19 points and seven rebounds, was forced right by Dejean-Jones in the final seconds of overtime.
"I don't think (that shot) was too soon, it just didn't go in," Lyons said. "If we had won, I would have considered it a steal. We need to rebound better. We need to finish out games."
UNLV's Khem Birch got the rebound, was fouled, and hit two free throws with 1 second left. After the Falcons turned the ball over, Dejean-Jones was fouled and hit two more free throws.
"Do I think we've played our best basketball? No," said UNLV coach Dave Rice, whose team out-rebounded Air Force, 49-32. "I am very proud of the way we played together. Problem was fatigue. It's a new experience with a lot of the guys. We have good character players."
Mike Fitzgerald led the Falcons (9-5, 1-1) with 22 points, and DeLovell Earls added 10.
"We wanted this to be our statement game," said Fitzgerald, whose team defeated Nevada in its conference opener at home Wednesday. "We wanted to come in and beat a team in the top tier of our conference just to prove we can beat anybody."
Fitzgerald also had a chance to win it in regulation with a 3-pointer from the right side, but missed with 3 seconds left.
"We're hurting and this (loss) stings more than any I've been for them," Air Force coach Dave Pilipovich said. "(UNLV) got some second-chance opportunities and were able to capitalize on them into scores."
In overtime, the Falcons took the lead with 3 minutes left and never trailed until Dejean-Jones made his game-winner.
Lyons gave Air Force their last led at 71-70, making 1 of 2 free throws with 39 seconds left.
Air Force has had little success against UNLV in Las Vegas. The Rebels are 19-1 against the Falcons at home, including 17-1 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Air Force's only win in Las Vegas against UNLV came in 2006.
UNLV, which led 38-30 at halftime, shot 50 percent from the field in the first half, but 32 percent in the second half and had a seven-minute stretch with no field goals. The Rebels also were 6 of 25 (24 percent) from 3-point range.
The Rebels also had 23 assists, with Anthony Marshall getting 12.
After UNLV's Justin Hawkins made a 3 with 3:34 left in regulation, Lyons drove in for a layup with 3:06 left for a 60-58 lead. Bennett's basket tied it 60-all with 2:42 left.
The Falcons retook the lead on Tre' Coggins' free throws 10 seconds later.