UNLV
Photo Credit: LV Sports Biz

FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Omaha – Game 12

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UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (7-5)  |  Omaha Mavericks (1-10)

 

Bryce Hamilton leads the Rebels and a balanced scoring attack over the Omaha Mavericks en route to an 84-71 win.

 

UNLV vs Omaha
Photo Credit: LV Sports Biz

Awww, Christmas break! The most wonderful time of the year…unless you’re a college basketball coach. This is the time of the year when finals have wrapped up, there are no classes (so idle time is at a semester high), and most importantly, players have one foot in the gym and the other at the airport!

When matched up against an opponent such as the (1-9) Omaha Mavericks, coaches often catch players going through the motions or have already mentally checked out. So it’s imperative that coaches like Kevin Kruger find unique ways to maintain a sense of engagement and assure themselves that their players are what we call “locked-in.”

The Rebels were far from locked in for stretches as they went on a barrage of missed three-pointers, a Rebels’ drought that rivaled  Lake Mead. A drought that saw the Rebels miss 12 straight three-point attempts. After the great three-point famine of the first half and Omaha showing enough resilience to knock down their fair share of threes, the Mavericks went into the locker room leading 38-35 behind the sharpshooting of Omaha guard Felix Lemetti.

The Swedish guard controlled his team’s fortunes for the majority of the night, and after picking up in the second half, where he left off in the first half, Kruger and staff opted to disrupt Lemetti with double teams and heavier pressure. Although Lemetti finished the night with 20 points on 6 of 9 shooting from the three-point line, the second-half pressure applied by Jordan McCabe and Josh Baker proved to be enough to disrupt the Mavericks and allow for some breathing room.

There wasn’t a lot of offensive parody in the first half as the Rebels relied solely on the productivity of leading scorer Bryce Hamilton. He has strung together a great stretch of games and tonight continued to do the same once again as he led all scorers with 26 points, five assists, and four rebounds. In the second half, the parody shifted drastically as the Rebels finished the night with five players in double figures.

In a game that was truly “A Tale of Two Halves.” Royce Hamm Jr. came alive in the second half, grabbing ten rebounds and adding 8 points while playing solid defense in the post. Hamm finished the night with a double-double, 16 points, 12 rebounds, and more importantly, Kruger and his staff managed to stay out of could trouble. Foul trouble has played a significant role in the inconsistent output from Hamm as he carries the lion’s share of responsibilities as the Rebels primary post presence. Josh Baker has reveled in the role of the ultimate team player. After the Rebels scratched and clawed, only to pull away from Omaha late, Hamm exclaimed, “There’s nothing better than winning!

 

A turning point in the game came when Kruger inserted forward Reece Brown into the game.

 

UNLV vs Omaha
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

Brown made an immediate impact. He stoled the ball within his first 15 seconds on the floor and wasn’t done there. The 6-9 Brown proceeded to pick the loose ball up and start the fast-break, dribbling the ball half the length of the floor and making the nice dish to a trailing Donovan Williams, who took flight and finished with the two-handed dunk. The dunk got the Rebel fans to leap out of their seats just as high as Williams did for his energy-shifting dunk.

On the heels of his career-high 32 point performance against Hartford at the Mandalay Bay Saturday, Williams had a slow start as he only made one basket in the first half on 1-6 shooting.  Williams showed UNLV fans his more noticeable form in the second half as he attacked the basket and used his length to score over and around Omaha defenders. Williams finished the night with 12 points and five rebounds.

Baker had another solid game in which he was reliable offensively and, as of late, has displayed a strong propensity to value the basketball. The junior college transfer has adapted well and, with backcourt partner in crime Jordan McCabe, has done an excellent job with the ball-handling duties. Baker finished the night with 12 points, five rebounds, and three assists with only one turnover. After flirting with a double-double in his last game, McCabe continues to dish the ball well as he finished with 11 points and five assists without a single turnover!

Baker and McCabe have not cost the Rebels any possessions with bad decision-making or careless turnovers. They have been reliable and consistent. If UNLV would’ve shot the ball better tonight (22-59, 44% FG and 8-31, 26% 3FG), they would have undoubtedly had more than their combined eight assists.

Kruger praised his team’s effort and willingness to fight through adversity and dismissed the possibility that they may have taken Omaha lightly. He said, “They went into the timeout knowing that something had to change, (we) throughout some suggestions, and they put their stamp on it, kind of adjusted defensively and then that really change the course of the game.”  Kruger even expressed the fact that they are gym rats, “This is a group that loves being in the gym. A handful of them, I believe, won’t even be going home, so they’re gonna stay here, and they’ll be in the gym every day, I’m sure.

 

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

 

After 1,141 games, the three-point streak is not taking a Christmas vacation. This game’s “STREAKER” is once again Bryce Hamilton. At the 19:32 mark, Hamilton hit the opening shot, a three extending the streak.

This game’s “SWAGG-BAGG” award goes to an opposing player for the first time this season. That player is the Omaha Mavericks’ Felix Lemetti. He impressed Rebel fans while at the same time frustrating them as he made three-pointer after three-pointer, many coming from very deep as well.  

Reece Brown is this game’s “LAS VEGAS HUSTLA.” In limited action, Kruger probably got the most “bang for his buck” when he inserted Brown into the game with 9:56. Brown immediately stoled and assisted Donovan Williams for a crowd-pleasing slam dunk!

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

 

The Rebels will once again be at the Thomas & Mack Center next Wednesday, December 22nd, to take on the University of San Diego at 7:00 PM.

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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Che on Twitter @CoachCheJones

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