Video Credit: LyfePULSE

FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs USF – Game 9

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (4-5)  |  USF Dons (9-0)


UNLV still struggling to find their offensive identity as San Francisco “Runs” past the Rebels 83-62, improving to 9-0


Photo Credit: Las Vegas Weekly

As every new day brings new growing pains for first-year head coach Kevin Kruger and his band of newcomers, he has now come face to face with the part of the season that all coaches inevitably dread. Kruger is now faced with the dilemma of driving home messages about his offensive philosophy or giving players a little more slack in the rope to explore their creativity and promote aggression.

After seeing Kruger draw the ire of some UNLV fans by pulling leading scorer Bryce Hamilton early in the Rebels 64-83 loss to SMU on Wednesday night, Kruger doubled down on that decision and opted not to start Hamilton against San Francisco last night. Hamilton did not enter the game until after the first media timeout at the 15:56 mark, with the Rebels down 12-2.

Earlier in the week, Kruger had eluded to the idea that he was urgently trying to drive home a message about the Rebel offense. In practice, the Rebels were aggressively moving the ball from side to side and not allowing it to “stick” as no player held it longer than .5 seconds nor took more than one dribble. Kruger said that it was a combination of them maturing in the offense as much as it was a point of emphasis from him and his staff once they returned from Dallas, attributing it to the “Analytic side of it.”

Kruger added, “No mid-range. No shots off the dribble. No threes off the dribble. We don’t want to take away their aggression, but we want to make sure that we’re being stubborn in the sense of getting the best shot at the rim. As I mentioned to you before, they’re stubborn, this is a stubborn group, good and bad, but we’ve got to be stubborn in a good sense of getting a layup, getting a catch and shoot three for a teammate, MOVING so a teammate can find you, something as simple as that“.

Referring to SMU, Kruger stressed that even some of the semi-contested shots that players such as Justin Webster had were acceptable because they were in the rhythm of their offense.

As much as the Rebel coaching staff drove those ideas home this week, it was, unfortunately, old habits that plagued the Rebels against San Francisco. Aside from quick shots or a sputtering offense, the Rebels‘ inability to close out on shooters reared its ugly head once again as San Francisco Dons sharpshooter Jamaree Bouyea had a night! The graduate senior led all scorers with 30 points while shooting 8-10 beyond the arc.

Once again, the rebounding discrepancy was a significant factor for the Rebels. They only mustered five offensive rebounds on a night that saw the Rebels shoot 38% from the field. UNLV pulled down 29 total rebounds for the game, while the Dons had 31 defensive rebounds alone. San Francisco outrebounded UNLV 46-29. Yauhen Massalski was a load for the Rebel frontcourt pulling down 16 rebounds to go along with his 18 points. Massalski outrebounded the Rebels by snatching ten defensive rebounds to the Rebels’ 5 offensive rebounds.

The Rebel offense appeared to take on the more aggressive approach and get the ball moving from side to side at moments but then seemed to taper off as their sense of urgency wained. The Rebels looked to Hamilton to generate their offense productivity. Hamilton appeared to play with a sense of urgency that has not been present this season. He attacked the basket, shot with confidence, and forced Don defenders to sit down and slide their feet. When he drew secondary defenders, he often made the extra pass that led to ball movement and defenders getting out of position and ultimately fouling Hamilton.


Hamilton had his best offensive outing to date. Hamilton finished the night with 25 points, four rebounds, and three assists to go along with a couple of steals. 


Photo Credit: AP

Donovan Williams was the only Rebel to have double figures with 12 points. Early foul trouble prevented Williams from contributing more and providing some remnants of a frontcourt presence. No other Rebel scored more than 6 points, and the Rebels were led on the boards by junior Josh Baker’s six rebounds.

The Rebels were more selective of their shot selections this game, so perhaps the silver lining may be that the message that Kruger and his staff are driving home is sinking in. Against SMU, 9 of the 11 players that saw action took at least one three-point shot. Against the Dons of San Francisco, the Rebels saw only 7 of the 11 players that saw action launch from deep.

There were multiple moments in which the Rebels could get the game within two possessions, but timely turnovers squandered those opportunities. This season, turnovers have not been an issue for the Rebels, nor were they tonight. The untimely manner (amid a Rebel run) in which the turnovers occurred was more significant than the total number of turnovers tonight.

The Rebels’ lack of a transition offense also seemed to be an issue because they don’t seem to generate any offense from transition baskets or the ability to capitalize off of the turnovers they’re able to force. The Dons committed ten turnovers to the Rebels’ 11.


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


UNLV Basketball
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics

After 1,138 games, the streak continues, and this game’s “STREAKER” is Michael Nuga. Nuga struggled in his usual capacity of driving the basketball into the gut of the defense, but he smoothly knocked down the three-ball off of a Bryce Hamilton assist.

Tonight’s “SWAGG-BAGG” goes to Bryce Hamilton. Hamilton was in rare form tonight and showed glimpses of the offensive juggernaut that he is expected to be in the Mountain West Conference this year, scoring within the offense and a high level of comfortability.

Josh Baker was the “LAS VEGAS HUSTLA” tonight. His rugged play was noticeable, and it appeared that at every stoppage, one of his teammates was helping him off the floor.

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


The Rebels will return home to take on Seattle University at the Mandalay Bay’s Michelob Ultra Arena on Wednesday at 7:00 PM.

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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

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