LAS VEGAS (AP)EJ Harkless scored 24 points to help rally UNLV from a 12-point deficit to beat No. 21 Dayton 60-52 on Tuesday night.
This was UNLV’s first nonconference victory over a ranked opponent at home since defeating No. 3 Arizona 71-67 on Dec. 23, 2014.
”I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Rebels coach Kevin Kruger said. ”The two days of prep, they were locked in and ready.”
The Rebels (3-0) trailed 37-25 about four minutes into the second half before going on an 11-point run. They took the lead for good on Keshon Gilbert’s 3-pointer with 7:30 left, and Harkless added another 3 with 7:03 remaining for a 50-44 advantage.
Those two were the only Rebels in double figures. Gilbert scored 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting, Harkless made 9 of 19 shots.
UNLV also did the job defensively, forcing 24 turnovers and holding the Flyers (2-1) without a field goal over the final 6:45.
”These guys in the halfcourt can really guard,” Kruger said. ”They get after it. Forcing 24 turnovers, I don’t think we could’ve dreamed to do that, but the guys went out and did it and again hung their hat on the defensive end. I’m excited about how good they can get as they continue to get reps together.”
The Rebels were especially effective in defending Dayton post player DaRon Holmes. He was coming off a 20-point, seven-rebound, five-block performance against SMU. But the Flyers had trouble getting him the ball, and Holmes finished with two points on five shots to go with six rebounds.
”It’s not like we weren’t looking for him,” Dayton point guard Kobe Elvis said. ”I know guys are double teaming him. It’s hard, especially when teams are physical. That’s part of what he’s going to have to face being as good as he is right now.”
Elvis led the Flyers with 16 points, and Mike Sharavjamts scored 14.
Dayton again without point guard Malachi Smith. He has missed the first three games with an ankle injury, and his return is uncertain.
Another player, Toumani Camara, had ice on his left knee. He averaged 14.5 points through the first two games, and had four points and six rebounds in the first half against UNLV.
Dayton: This loss damages the Flyers’ NCAA Tournament resume. Dayton has not appeared in the tournament in six years, and has a veteran team built to make it to March. The trip to the Bahamas next week will be telling.
UNLV: The rebuild continues for the Rebels, who haven’t appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2013, but this victory is a big step forward for Kruger, who is in his second season. He still has a lot of work to do to put UNLV in position for the postseason, but this is a good start.
Dayton coach Anthony Grant remains three victories away from 300 career wins, which would make him the 12th active Black coach to reach that figure. The earliest Grant, who graduated from Dayton, would reach that number would be Nov. 24 against Kansas or North Caroline State in the Battle 4 Atlantis. His record is 297-163.
Dayton: The Flyers return home to play Robert Morris on Saturday before heading off to the Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas.
UNLV: Hosts High Point on Friday.
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