FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs UNR – Game 22

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (13-9 / 5-4)  |  UNR Wolfpack (9-10 / 3-5)

Franchise Sports Media

 

After 1,455 days the Runnin Rebels restore bragging rights behind a balanced scoring attack and defeat their in-state rivals UNR 69-58.

 

UNLV vs UNR
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

“HOME SWEET HOME!” “Home is where the heart is!” “There’s no place like home!”

Whatever antidote you use, it certainly fits as the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels found their way back to Thomas and Mack after playing 5 of their last six games on the road. The stars were aligned just right as the Rebels got the chance to come home and play in front of an inviting crowd, particularly the rowdy student section.

Now that I fulfilled the request of UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger to mention how much he and his program appreciated them let’s talk basketball.

All jokes aside, last night, the Thomas & Mack Center was back to its old ways and playing the role of a raucous venue in which to play a basketball game if you are an opposing team. And even more so, if you’re an intrastate rival such as UNR.

The 6,670 fans in attendance came equipped with a chip on their shoulders and an attitude to match. It accounted for a classic matchup between two old rivals, and it made for a fantastic college basketball atmosphere which created an energy that prompted Kruger to plead with the press. “Whatever you guys write, make sure you write that! That crowd was amazing. It felt so good to walk out of the tunnel and see that student section like that“.

There were many storylines. The Rebels held the Wolfpack to a mere 2-12 shooting from the field after 10:00 minutes of action. The Rebels gained control of the game after a Bryce Hamilton 4-point play from the deep corner with 13:03 in the 1st half. The 4-point play sparked an 11-1 run by the Rebels that only stopped once Kenan Blackshear made a basket with 10:28 to play in the half.

After coming off a night against Colorado State in which he scored a career-high 42 points, Bryce Hamilton was named the Mountain West Conference player of the week and the United State Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Oscar Robertson National Player of the Week. Most Rebel fans were eager to see another 30-point effort from Hamilton.

 

There was also the fear of whether or not Hamilton could go rogue and attempt to duplicate history, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

UNLV vs UNR
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Hamilton handled himself with poise and a workman’s mentality. Less efficient than he has been in the past few weeks, Hamilton credited his teammates Donovan Williams, Mike Nuga, and Jordan McCabe for stepping up and being part of a highly balanced scoring attack.

Hamilton was extremely excited about beating UNR! When asked how he felt about beating UNR, Hamilton said, “Man! It feels amazing! It’s my first time getting this win…all credit to the guys“.

Hamilton was noticeably happy and ready for the challenge from Utah State Saturday. “I feel like we’re clicking a little bit. We’ve got a tough one on Saturday against Utah State, and they’re probably playing the best right now in our conference“.

Bryce Hamilton had 17 points and five rebounds, Donovan Williams added 17 points to go along with his three rebounds. Mike Nuga had 10 points, five rebounds, and five assists. Jordan McCabe scored a season-high 16 points to go along with his four assists, and Royce Hamm Jr. once again flirted with a double-double as he scored 9 points and pulled down eight rebounds to go along with 1 blocked shot. However, that one blocked shot that may have saved the game as he went up and blocked a dunk with two minutes remaining, a block that may have very well shifted the momentum back to UNR.

The Rebels didn’t rely primarily on Hamilton to “save them” whenever the going got tough. Instead, the whole squad shared the burden, and as a result, the Rebels looked to be a more engaged team.

Kruger doted about how well his team prepped for this game as they had also done against Colorado State last week. However, UNLV appears to be a different bunch. Kruger said that his team is “embracing terminology better” and that “they’re not having to stop and think, they’re not pausing and not being hesitant.” He attributed that to why they’ve been putting together such solid defensive halves.

UNLV held the Wolfpack to 25% shooting from the field in the first half, as Keshon Gilbert and McCabe disrupted a lot of what Steve Alford’s offense was trying to do. In addition, the duo combined for five first-half steals. Getting Williams back also helps the Rebels, as his presence on the floor alleviates a lot of the pressure the defense applies to Hamilton. Williams says that he spent every waking hour with the UNLV trainers, and even up until tonight’s game, his status was uncertain. However, Josh Baker is still nursing his concussion, and Marvin Coleman was not with the team; better yet, Coleman was seen in the stands in street clothes.

UNR had an equally balanced scoring attack, as Alford’s bunch managed to have multiple guys in double figures. Blackshear led the way with 17 points, Desmond Cambridge Jr., Will Baker added 12, and Tre Coleman added 10 points.

Take note; if these past two games have been legitimate tests, then next Saturday’s game may be the mid-term! The Rebels will be traveling (once again) to Logan, Utah, to take on the Aggies of Utah State.

 

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

 

Tonight’s “STREAKER” was Donovan Williams. Williams three kept the streak alive at 1,151 games.

In tonight’s game, the “VEGAS HUSTLA” was Mike Nuga! Nuga was impressive both offensively and defensively. Nuga maintained energy and played with a sense of urgency that UNR could not match.

 

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

 

The Rebels will take on the Aggies of Utah State on Saturday, Februaray 2nd at 3:00 PM in Logan, Utah. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.

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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Che on Twitter @CoachCheJones

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