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Rebels figuring out offensive identity during Canada trip

Last season when UNLV needed a basket, the Rebels could rely on former guard Bryce Hamilton to create and get off a quality shot.

As coach Kevin Kruger and staff look to find offense this season, they are learning a lot from their exhibition tour in Canada, which concludes at 7 p.m. Friday against the University of Fraser Valley in Abbotsford, British Columbia

In UNLV’s 104-74 win over the University of Calgary on Wednesday, all 11 players scored. Five hit double figures, led by guard Jackie Johnson with 17. The all-hands-on-deck mentality is the approach Kruger envisions his team will take to scoring.

“That’s the way we’re going to be,” Kruger said of everyone needing to contribute offensively. “We’re going to be a team that every night there might be a different scorer.”

Through their practices leading up to the exhibition games, Kruger said when they worked on offense, he wanted the players to create catch-and-shoot, 3-point opportunities.

He’s looking for this team, which has eight new players, to drive to the basket, then kick out the ball for open jumpers.

“We’ll become a good shooting group when we can get a rhythm with each other,” Kruger said.

Senior guard Justin Webster came to UNLV last season from Hawaii with a reputation as an accurate jump shooter. After finding his shot late last season, Webster believes he can help fill the Rebels’ offensive needs.

“I have to be ready to shoot,” Webster said. “With my ability to shoot and get the ball out quickly, I have to hit those shots.”

In UNLV’s first two games in Canada, Johnson, a Duquesne transfer, has shown promise as an option offensively. At 5-foot-11, Johnson has utilized his quickness to beat defenders to the basket. He has averaged 16.5 points through two games.

The Rebels are without Oklahoma transfer guard Elijah Harkless, who came to UNLV with the most accolades offensively. He is recovering from offseason knee surgery. Kruger expects him to be a key part of the offense once he is healthy.

As UNLV’s trip wraps up, Kruger said he was pleased with the looks they got against Calgary. And, as is the goal of the entire trip, he’s learning more about how his team will score in games.

“We’ve got it on film now with the whole group to show them the type of shots we’re looking for and want to take,” he said.

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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