Directed By: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs California – Game 2


The Runnin’ Rebels show resiliency and cohesion in a dog fight win over the Cal Bears 55-52.


UNLV vs California
Photo Credit: Quincy Hatcher/Franchise Sports Media

UNLV fans were perhaps feeling reminiscent of Bill Murray in the classic film “Groundhog Day.” The Rebels once again played another close game, this time against the Cal Bears, and came away with a 55-52 win at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night. 

The outcome was the same, a win, pushing their record to 2-0. Yet the opponent wasn’t a smaller school from a smaller conference, but, they weren’t necessarily one of the nation’s college basketball blue bloods either.

The Cal Bears are considered a contender in the PAC-12, and after suffering their second loss since losing to UC San Diego of the Big West Conference 80-67, they may be trending in the wrong direction, yet, their play didn’t reflect an inferior team. The Bears competed and at no point gave in to the Rebels pressure with only 10 turnovers on the night.


From the onset the Rebels displayed a more aggressive nature to their approach and early on it was Michael Nuga that set the tone.


UNLV vs California
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Nuga attacked the Bears defenders and attacked the paint creating scoring opportunities for his teammates as well as for himself. On one of the Rebels first possessions, and then on a few on in the game, he attacked his defender on the baseline and dropped the pass off to Royce Hamm Jr. for a three-point play. Plays like that got the Rebel faithful on their feet early.

The Rebels had a balanced scoring attack all night. Bryce Hamilton only scored 12 points on 5 of 14 shooting, the tune of the night was defensive, which just so happened to be a tune that Rebels fans were oh so eager to dance to. Freshman Keshon Gilbert matched Nuga’s aggressive sense of urgency with defensive pressure and tenacity all over Jerry Tarkanian Court, much to the delight of fans courtside.

There were few defensive lulls as the Rebels seemed to work and communicate with one another more efficiently on both ends of the floor. Hamm Jr. continued to have a huge presence on the glass pulling down a team-high 7 rebounds. Hamm worked hard on the glass as well as putting pressure on the Cal frontline players to match his energy in transition as he ran the floor well.


UNLV vs California
Photo Credit: Quincy Hatcher/Franchise Sports Media

Another Rebel that put a lot of pressure on the Bears was West Virginia transfer, Jordan McCabe.

McCabe played the point guard position fluidly and controlled. He moved the ball well and made timely plays with the ball in his hands down the stretch including a huge three-pointer, as well as two clutch free throws to seal the game.

The Rebels had a balanced contribution from multiple players that will not show up in the stat sheet. Whether it was McCabe’s ability to fight over the top of screens and stay attached to his man, or Hamm Jr. altering shots and boxing out a primary rebounder, or the gutsy effort of Donovan Williams to body up with 6-9, 255-pound behemoth Andre Kelly, or Hamilton diving on the floor for a loose ball after taking a questionable shot. The Rebels worked hard, worked together, and in the words of UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger, “…had all eyes locked in on me“, eager to get in the game and do their part to help the home team win.


The Rebels will undoubtedly hang their hat on the defensive end.The tenacity and youthful exubernace of Gilbert, coupled with the experience and energy of Nuga and the length of Williams and Hamm will set the Rebels up for success if they can continue to match each other’s effort as they did in stretches tonight


Although the Rebels took 29 three-pointers and only made 10 they made timely three-point shots. Hamilton, McCabe, and junior guard Josh Baker all knocked down threes that all shifted the momentum of the game and ultimately gave the Rebels the lead for good on Hamilton’s three with 6:05 left to play.

The Bears got a double-double from 6-8 Australian Grant Anticevich who went on a stretch that was reminiscent of NBA League MVP Nikola Jokic to Rebels fans. Anticevich finish with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Shepard, a former player of coach Kruger and assistant Carlin Hartman at Oklahoma struggled on 3 of 17 shooting and finished with 9 points and 4 turnovers, due largely in part to the aggressive nature of Gilbert and Nuga.




UNLV vs California
Photo Credit: Quincy Hatcher/Franchise Sports Media

The following are game tidbits that may not show up in the boxscore! 

The streak continues to breathe! This game’s “STREAKER” is Bryce Hamilton. It was only 25 seconds into the 1st half when Hamilton knocked down the first 3 points of the game from the left-wing.

Keshon Gilbert once again was tough and pesky on defense.

The “SWAGG-BAGG” goes to Jordan McCabe. He made the move of the night early in the first half as he drove from the left baseline and faked out a pair of Cal defenders and finished with an uncontested layup.

Tonight’s “LAS VEGAS HUSTLA” was Royce Hamm Jr.  He made the hustle play of the night when he blocked a shot on one end and beat the Bears bigs down the floor and scored.

UNLV Head Football coach Marcus Arroyo was in attendance after securing his 2nd win in a row over visiting Hawaii Warriors, 27-13 at Allegiant Stadium. Arroyo was received extremely well from those in attendance and rightfully so. Congratulations to UNLV Rebel Football and coach Arroyo!

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


The Rebels will now take on North Dakota State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Monday evening. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 pm. The game can be seen on the Mountain West Conference stream.


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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

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