UNLV vs Air Force
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste – Franchise Sports Media



Runnin’ Rebels (7-8, 2-0) | Air Force Falcons (7-7, 1-1)


After defeating the defending Mountain West Conference Champions Utah State, the Runnin’ Rebels will now look to win their fourth straight game against Air Force.


UNLV will look to go 3-0 in conference play in what will be the final game of their current five game home-stand.

Head coach TJ Otzelberger has been pleased with the performance of his players since calling them out for their lack of hustle after their last loss to Pacific on Dec. 18. It is safe to say that his guys heard the message loud and clear and responded with arguably the team’s best overall complete game in their dominating upset over Utah State. “I feel like the message was clear after that game that we have to play harder,” said sophomore guard Marvin Coleman. “I still remember it like it was yesterday.”

After the game, Otzelberger simply said, “…that’s Runnin’ Rebel basketball.” The composure of the team is showing and seems to be blossoming at the right time, just in time for conference play. “Their mindset’s been good, I think their confidence is growing,” said Otzelberger. “I think we’ve seen it over the last few games.” Coach Otzelberger is not the only one noticing either, the crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday night definitely noticed it too, and they were the loudest they have been all season to prove it. For the first time in awhile, the pride and joy of Las Vegas gave their fans, who have been desperately wanting something to cheer for, a reason to do so.

Sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton led all scorers with a game-high 20 points, going 9-11 from the field. He provided the highlight of the night with a powerful one-handed slam dunk on a fast break to get everyone in the arena out of their seats.Junior forward Mbacke Diong continued his streak of dominance with another double-double performance of 10 points and 14 rebounds.

He took a scary fall on his back late in the first half, which saw him take a few minutes to get up before needed help being taken to the locker room. But Diong returned just minutes later and was able to play the rest of the game. His toughness was on full display, contributing for three blocks, including one that resulted in him flexing for the Runnin’ Rebel faithful.

Junior guard and team co-captain Amauri Hardy also scored in double figures for UNLV, with 14 points, including shooting 50% (2-4) from behind the arc. As a whole, the defense was incredible as they held the Aggies’ reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Sam Merrill to only 10 points. Utah State only scored a total of 53 points, their lowest amount of the season.

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we have to remember that after UNLV’s resounding victory over Fresno State, their best game at the time, they lost their very next game in embarrassing fashion to BYU. We will have to see how they respond now after once again playing their most complete game of the season. Air Force, who have a similar record to UNLV, have won three of their last four games. They are led by senior forward Lavelle Scottie, who is currently averaging a team-high 14.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game. The Falcons are coached by Dave Pilipovich, who is in his eighth season at the helm.


The Runnin’ Rebels will take on Air Force on Saturday, Jan. 4, at 7 pm inside the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU and can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1100 AM.

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Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24


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