UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (10-8 / 2-3)  |  Air Force Falcons (9-7 / 2-3)

Franchise Sports Media


Bryce Hamilton led all scorers with 32 points, but to no avail as the Rebels fall to Air Force 69-62.


UNLV vs Air Force
Photo Credit: Air Force Academy

As with most coaches, UNLV Runnin Rebels head coach Kevin Kruger was more than willing to accept offensive productivity from any player not named Bryce Hamilton or Donovan Williams.

Early on, the dilemma for Kruger was trying to find ways in which Hamilton and Williams could be efficient simultaneously. Once the Rebels were able to do that, the next obstacle for Kruger and his staff was to send out an APB for anyone that could produce points, the final bullet in the gun, so to speak.

The idea is to find sufficient enough offensive productivity from another Rebel to solidify offensive output to make up the slack in case Williams or Hamilton are ever in foul trouble or have an off night shooting the basketball.

The Rebels were able to find not one, but two Rebels to fit the bill in guards Mike Nuga and Justin Webster. In addition to the unlikely duo stepping up against San Jose State Monday night, the two Rebels did so in a manner that has been their Achilles heel all season… three-point shooting. Nuga and Webster shot a combined 6-10 (a season-best 50% from the three-point line) and led the surge as Hamilton had an off night.

So the question remained: would the Rebels continue to shoot the ball Golden State Warrior-like or would they come down from their dream? Would Webster and Nuga continue to spark the offense from off the bench or would they fizzle and rest the burden heavily on the shoulders of Hamilton and Williams again?

Well, all things came crashing down upon Kruger’s Rebels at once. The Rebels shot 27% from the three-point line. Nuga and Webster combined for 1 of 6 shooting. Williams struggled for the majority of the game to find his rhythm offensively but finally got himself going and finished the night with 19 points. It was almost as if the Rebels were playing in the bizarro-world. Everyone except for Bryce Hamilton was productive early on, but he  got himself back on track and finished the night with 32 points to lead all scorers.


After Mike Nuga’s 3-pointer 3:06 into the game, Hamilton nailed another 30 seconds later. However, the Rebels went 31 minutes and 3 seconds before they made another. 


UNLV vs Air Force
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

The Rebels were aggressive early on at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado as Hamilton and Williams both scored on layups. After an Air Force three-pointer by Ethan Taylor, the Rebels continued to grow their lead and were up 12-3 after roughly 5 minutes of play.

With 2:57 left to play in the game and a 6-point Air Force lead, a rather questionable call sent Niko Jackson to the free-throw line. Fortunately for the Rebels, Jackson only made 1. Victor Iwuakor knocked the ball away from Jackson and as the two dove to the floor for the ball, Jackson appeared to trip Iwuakor who landed on Jackson and the referee called the foul on Iwuakor.

Down the stretch, it was Williams who seemed to come alive as he made numerous plays, including a steal and an acrobatic move for the basket and free-throw. His play in the closing minutes assisted Hamilton as the duo single-handedly attacked the Falcons’ defense and they were, to say the least…defenseless. Unfortunately, it was too little too late as the Falcons put the finishing touches on the game from the free-throw line at the final 69-62 score.

The determining factor for the Rebels was once again poor shooting. Until Williams and Hamilton made three-pointers in the final 5 minutes of play (Hamilton made his with 0:51 to play) the Rebels were shooting a horrendous 14% from the three-point line. Nuga made his 3-pointer 3:06 into the game. Hamilton nailed another 30 seconds later to push the Rebel lead to 10-3. However, the Rebels went 31 minutes and 3 seconds before they made another three-pointer.


UNLV vs Air Force
Photo Credit: Air Force Academy

They made 4 out of 15 three-point attempts. Willaims and Nuga made one a piece and Hamilton made two, the latter coming with 51 seconds to play. The Rebels made 20 FGs and the Falcons made 23. The Rebels had 12 turnovers and the Falcons also had 12. Rebels had 30 rebounds, the Falcons 31. The Rebels fastbreak points sat at 8, while the Falcons had 6. The Rebels had 2 blocks, and the Falcons had two as well. The Rebels points off of turnovers were 10, and the Falcons had 13.

Once again, the Rebels and their opponents were neck and neck throughout the game, with the exception of a few pivotal stats (shooting in particular). However, the more impactful stat line is the fact that the Falcons assisted one another on 70% of their made field goals, while the Rebels assisted on only a mere 30% of their made field goals. Explanation: one-on-one basketball. This offensive behavior coupled with a scoring drought that lasted 2:31, indeed attributed to the Rebels’ demise.

The Falcons had no answer for Hamilton, nor Williams for that matter, and on the few occasions that the Rebels got out into transition they were clearly the more athletic team. However, eight fastbreak points was not the most efficient way to establish themselves in transition. The Rebels fell to 2-3 in Mountain West play as they now take on the Spartans of San Jose State for the second time in 5 days having just bested the Spartans 81-56 on January 17th.



The following are in-game tidbits that may or may not appear in the boxscore.


Tonight’s game’s “STREAKER” was Mike Nuga! The streak stays alive after 1,147 games. Nuga made his 3-pointer 3:06 into the game.

The “VEGAS HUSTLA” for this game was Bryce HamiltonHamilton led all scorers with 32 points and was virtually unstoppable as the Falcons watched him have his way with their frontcourt and backcourt players.


Don’t forget to go out and support the Runnin’ RebelsClick here to get your UNLV Runnin’ Rebels tickets! 


The Rebels will take on San Jose State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday, January 22nd at 12:00 PM.

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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

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