UNLV Runnin Rebels vs Utah State Aggies


Runnin’ Rebels (7-8, 2-0) | Utah State Aggies (13-3, 2-1)


UNLV started the new year off the best possible way they could have hoped for, with a dominating 70-53 upset victory over the defending Mountain West Conference Champions Utah State. 


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Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites – Franchise Sports Media

Head coach TJ Otzelberger could not have been more impressed with how his players performed. “That’s Runnin’ Rebel basketball, and that’s what it needs to be every night,” said Otzelberger.

Their intensity on both sides of the floor was incredible. The Rebels were fighting for loose balls, diving on the floor, and giving it their all for the full 40 minutes. It wasn’t just the starters, as all ten players who entered the game contributed in some way to help pull off the upset.

Sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton came off the bench to lead the way and score a game-high 20 points, while also grabbing six rebounds. He is continuing to find his rhythm and get more comfortable in this offense. This game was arguably his second-best game behind his career-best 21 points and 14 rebound performance in their game against Fresno State. It seems like he’s playing his best ball so far against conference opponents. Hopefully, that will remain the same as the rest of the season rolls on.


Junior guard and team co-captain Amauri Hardy also scored in double figures with 14 points, while also dishing out six assists. Hardy seemed to be everywhere on the floor in this game, whether it was going hard to the basket for fast-break points or diving on the ground numerous times for 50/50 balls.

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Junior forward Mbacke Diong continued his recent streak of scoring in double figures with a monster 10 point, 14 rebounds, and four block performance. Diong is the dominant force the team needs him to be for them to be successful. He was feeling himself when he swatted a layup attempt and then flexed to get the Thomas & Mack Center crowd loud and out of their seats.

There was a scary moment at the 6:15 mark of the first half when he landed hard on his back and stayed on the ground for several minutes. He then needed help getting up, exited the game, and went straight into the locker room. Fortunately, he returned just minutes later and re-entered the game with 1:15 left until halftime. Diong continued to play in the second half. There is no determined extent of how bad he was hurt and if he will miss practice at all later this week.


It is never an easy task to lock down the reigning conference player of the year, but UNLV did an outstanding job when it came to defending Sam Merrill. Otzelberger used several of his players to take on the task and even threw a few double teams at him to throw him off his rhythm. Merrill came in averaging 17 points per game but was held to only 10 points on 2-6 shooting, going 0-4 from three.

Reigning conference freshman of the year, Neemias Queta sat out his second consecutive game after aggravating a previous injury in their game against Florida. It is undetermined how many more games he will miss.

With Queta out and Merrill struggling to find his flow on offense, the Aggies struggled to gain any momentum. They only led for a total of 1:06 in the game, which was early in the first quarter. After that, it was all UNLV.


The Runnin’ Rebels will look to carry on this momentum of a three-game winning streak into their next game against Air Force. The game will take place on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 7 pm at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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UNLV Runnin Rebels vs Utah State 

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Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24


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