FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Colorado State – Game 21

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (12-9 / 4-4)  |  Colorado State Rams (16-2 / 6-2)

Franchise Sports Media

 

Hamilton’s career-high night leads the Rebels past the #22 ranked Rams with an 88-74 win at Moby Arena.

 

UNLV vs Colorado State
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Kevin Kruger must’ve felt as though he was being trolled by a social media prankster, or even worse, flat out cursed by the basketball gods themselves when he realized that he would be required to take on the uber tough #22 ranked Rams of Colorado State without 2 of his starters and a key reserve!

The Rebels traveled to Fort Collins to wage war without starters Josh Baker and second-leading scorer Donovan Williams (the Robin to Bryce Hamilton’s Batman), averaging a Mountain West Conference’s 4th best 13.9 ppg. The Rebels were also without Baker, a defensive juggernaut that would’ve proven to be a significant part of the plan to slow down the Rams. Baker is still dealing with a concussion he suffered against San Jose State.

When you throw in the absence of key reserve Marvin Coleman, Kruger’s roster was depleted, to say the least.

Outside of the Rebel locker room, just about every basketball fan conceded that the Rebels were facing an uphill battle to compete with Colorado State. The Colorado State fans and perhaps the Rams‘ basketball team were not expecting a competitive game from the Rebels in any facet of the game. However, much to the chagrin of all Fort Collins residents, the Rebels (Bryce Hamilton, more specifically) had other plans.

Charged with the near-impossible task of going into Moby Arena and beating a team that had not lost all season at home, Hamilton used a precise, laser focus to single-handedly dismantle the Rams‘ defense for a career-high 42 points. The Mountain West Conference’s second-leading scorer at 19.8 ppg, Hamilton, was aggressive early and often. Hamilton has played inspired basketball “riding solo” and as of late, Hamilton has been “riding dirty.”

As Williams has emerged as a potent secondary scoring option for the Rebels, Hamilton appeared to finally have some help in the backcourt, or at least an additional option for Kruger to sit Hamilton for stretches to rest, as he has carried the Rebels for the better part of 2.5 years now.

Ironically, the Rebels came out of the gate a bit stagnant and stumbled their way around the opening minutes of the game. Fortunately for UNLV, the Rams stumbled as well as both teams failed to score for almost three minutes to start the game.  The first Rebel basket didn’t even come from Hamilton. It was on a three-point basket by Royce Hamm Jr. with 17:09 to play in the first half.

 

As both teams struggled, Hamilton was scoreless for almost six minutes of action before his offensive improv began.

 

UNLV vs Colorado State
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

At the 14:10 mark of the first half, Hamilton made his first of many points of the night to give the Rebels a 7-4 advantage, a lead that they would not relinquish the entire game. The Rebels had a firm grasp on the lead as well as the tempo early on, and refused to surrender it. For 93% of the game, UNLV led the Rams, and Hamilton was the main antagonist.

He was virtually unstoppable, scoring at will in the first half, finishing with 21 points, three rebounds, and three assists with precision and efficiency. At timely junctures throughout the first half, Hamilton was huge on the glass and set the tone in the paint with an array of high-flying dunks that let the Rams know that the Rebels were indeed more than the opening act to a performance by Hamilton that will be remembered for seasons to come.

The first half was so good for Hamilton he opted to (in true Las Vegas fashion) give the Colorado State fans an encore performance! Hamilton put together another 21-point performance in the second half. He also shot 7-13 from the three and 11-14 from the free-throw line.

A combination of Hamilton’s offensive eruption and Colorado State’s David Roddy’s offensive woes proved to be too much for the Rams as Roddy struggled to score at all in the game. Roddy was inadvertently fouled by Hamilton with 1:11 and scored his second and third points of the half.  Roddy finished the night with only 13 points on 4-10 shooting with eight rebounds.

Hamilton, on the other hand, put together one of the greatest single-game performances in recent memory as he was as unstoppable as any college basketball player has been in the nation this season. Hamilton’s teammates found him often, yet in the flow of their offense, and the Rebels looked like a totally different team than they have all season. This new-look Rebel team showed a more carefree style of play in the way they handled the Rams, and the explanation could be as simple as “addition by subtraction.”

The losses of Williams, Baker, and Coleman ignited a sense of urgency for this Rebel team, Justin Webster and David Muoka, in particular, who appeared to be much more relaxed and played less tense than they have at previous junctures this season. Webster scored 12 points, and Muoka finished the night with 11 points and six rebounds.

Although Jordan McCabe only scored 7 points, perhaps his biggest contribution won’t show up on the stat sheet. He dished out five assists, but most importantly, he did a magnificent job handling the ball against full-court pressure in the closing minutes of the game as the Rams attempted a semi-comeback. At one point, Colorado State had pulled within 11 points and applied the full-court pressure that seemed to disrupt all Rebels not named McCabe. To their credit, as a team, the Rebels took care of the basketball the majority of the night, committing only 11 turnovers (3 of which were actually blocked shots).

 

Runnin Rebel point guard, Jordan McCabe, did a magnificent job handling the ball against full court pressure in the closing minutes of the game as the Rams attempted a comeback.

 

UNLV vs Colorado State
Photo Credit: College Basketball News

Perhaps, aside from a great week of preparation and the necessity of everyone on the Rebel roster to step up and contribute above and beyond the usual, one might look to the fact that Kruger has appeared to loosen the reigns on Hamilton as of late. Hamilton has put together arguably the greatest offensive stretch in Rebel history.

Hamilton has scored consecutive games of 32, 30, 23, and now 42 points. Hamilton has averaged 29.4 ppg over the past five games. His confidence is evident and has Hamilton playing at a level that only a handful of players in the nation are enjoying right now.

Another factor that may be an option moving forward (and something that I have been calling for since December) is playing Hamm and Muoka simultaneously, which allows Hamm to play against smaller bigs giving him the advantage for once. However, in this game, Hamm took advantage, which ultimately led to Hamm having early success.

Once Colorado State opted to put their better post defender on Hamm, Muoka himself got going. Both of these scenarios frustrated the Colorado State bigs and, in particular, really disrupted Roddy, who appeared to be frustrated with the Rebels‘ frontcourt from the onset.

 

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

 

Tonight’s “STREAKER” was Royce Hamm Jr. The Rebel big man added to the nation’s record three-point streak, which now sits at 1,150 games.

In tonight’s game, the “VEGAS HUSTLA” was, without question, Bryce Hamilton. Hamilton’s 42 points are the highest points scored by a Rebel in 21 years. In 2001 Trevor Diggs was 1 point shy of the century mark when he dropped 49 points on Wyoming.

The Rebel senior has put together one of the greatest offensive stretches in the history of the program scoring 32, 30, 23, and 42 points. Hamilton accepted the challenge to put this team on his back and successfully fought off the Rams for an upset that has made the rest of the Mountain West Conference take notice. Hopefully, it will continue.

 

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

 

The Rebels will take on in-state rival Nevada-Reno on Tuesday February 1st at the Thomas & Mack Center at 7:30 PM.

UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                             UNLV vs Colorado State                                               

 

-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Che on Twitter @CoachCheJones

Follow The Franchise on Social Media

https://twitter.com/TheFranchiseLV

https://facebook.com/TheFranchiseLV

https://instagram.com/TheFranchiseLV