An 11 p.m. CT start is late, and it may have required a Saturday afternoon nap to keep you awake for the end of the Illinois and Nevada-Las Vegas game on Sunday morning.
For a majority of the second half, it seemed like the battle to stay up would have been worth it.
That was until late foul trouble for Illinois, a ton of UNLV free throws and an injured Leron Black pushed the Runnin’ Rebels ahead for good in a 89-82 win.
Illinois started slow again, finding itself facing a 14-4 deficit early. Six of these 14 points were easy dunks for the Rebels as they were picking apart the Illini defense early on.
Freshman guard Trent Frazier gave Illinois a nice boost off the bench with five quick points. Despite that, his team was still down 23-13 with 11:43 left in the first half.
Frazier continued his hot stretch, scoring seven straight points to tie the game at 29.
Nichols gave the Illini their first lead with a beautiful reverse layup the following possession.
Thanks to a 14-2 run, the Rebels jumped back out front, 43-33, with 1:56 remaining in the half.
A three-point shot from freshman Da’Monte Williams helped end this run, but a layup from freshman Brandon McCoy closed out the scoring for the half and gave UNLV a 45-36 lead at the break.
For McCoy, those two-points capped off a dominant half as his 15-points and five rebounds controlled the pace of the first half.
Jovan Mooring was not far behind with 14 points.
The Rebels in general were controlling the game by maintaining control of the glass. They were outrebounding the Illini 21-16 and hauling in eight offensive rebounds.
Illinois was not helping itself out either by committing 12 first-half turnovers.
Frazier was one of the only bright spots of the half, leading the Illini in scoring with 12 points.
Illinois opened the second half on a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to only two points. During this stretch, freshman Mark Smith shot the ball well from deep, sinking two three-pointers.
Jordan captured a 50-49 lead lead for his team, getting his second triple of the game and giving the Illini the momentum.
The Illini got themselves into foul trouble toward the later stages of the game. Finke, Jordan, Lucas and Nichols were all forced to remain on the bench during crucial second-half stretches.
But, the mixed lineup of Lucas or Frazier, Alstork, Williams, Smith and Eboigbodin kept Illinois in the game and trailing 71-68 with 3:42 to go.
The Rebels pulled away late thanks to Mooring pouring clutch shots from downtown. He hit back-to-back threes to aid in giving UNLV a 85-75 lead with 44.4 seconds.
The teams traded points the remainder of the way and the Rebels claimed the 89-82 home victory.
Mooring finished with 27-points to lead all scorers. He attempted 18 free throws and sank 14 of them. From the field, he shot 5-of-10 and 3-of-6 from the three-point line.
McCoy finished the game strong as well, collecting 22-points (9-of-11 shooting) and 10 rebounds.
The biggest issue for Illinois was easily the foul differential. UNLV got to the charity stripe 48 times and hit 33 of them. The Illini on the, other hand, only attempted 15 shots from the line, converting on 11 of them.
The freshman guard combination of Smith and Frazier led the way. Smith finished with 17-points and hit several threes down the stretch to try and keep them in the game. Frazier tallied up 16-points off the bench.
The Illini now fall to 7-4 on the season and will be looking to bounce back against the Longwood Lancers on Dec. 13th back in Champaign.