UNLV downs Minnesota in SoCal Challenge final

UNLV downs Minnesota in SoCal Challenge final

Four UNLV players scored in double figures Wednesday night as the Rebels remained unbeaten with a 71-62 defeat of Minnesota in the championship game of the SoCal Challenge in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Keshon Gilbert scored 17 points for the Rebels (6-0), while EJ Harkless netted 16. Luis Rodriguez added 15 points and nine rebounds, and reserve Jackie Johnson III tallied 13 points.

UNLV led by as many as 22 points with just over seven minutes left, giving it more than enough cushion to survive a sloppy finish that saw it leak missed free throws and turnovers.

Jamison Battle scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds for the Golden Gophers (4-2), who sank 36.8 percent of their field-goal tries and were only 9 of 31 (29 percent) on 3-point attempts. Dawson Garcia and reserve Braeden Carrington each added 15 points.

The Rebels’ defense forced just 17 turnovers, almost seven under their per-game average, but affected Minnesota throughout the night. UNLV also battled the taller Gophers to a 44-44 tie on the boards, grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and turning them into 16 points.

The Rebels led for all but 2:09 of the game.

The first half was close for about 12 minutes as the teams each made big runs. UNLV opened the game with a 10-3 spurt, using its quickness and length to disrupt Minnesota’s halfcourt offense.

The Gophers made their one push over the next eight minutes. They slowed the pace, started working the ball inside and grabbed their one lead of the game at 20-19 when Battle converted a three-point play at the 7:47 mark.

The rest of the half was all Rebels, beginning with Gilbert hitting a foul shot and then a 3-pointer to kick off an 11-0 burst. The margin reached 16 late in the half on a Johnson 3-pointer before UNLV settled for a 38-24 advantage at intermission.

The Rebels, who entered the game hitting 27.5 percent of their 3-point tries, were 7 of 15 from long range in the first half. They finished 10 of 27 (37 percent) and made 36.9 percent from the floor overall.