FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Whittier College – Game 6


UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (4-2)  |  Wittier College Poets (4-1)


The Runnin’ Rebels get back on track at home against undefeated Divsion III foe Whittier College, 101-45, their first 100-point gamne in 4 years.


UNLV vs Whittier College
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

For Kevin Kruger, the burning question was how to get his Runnin’ Rebels to lock in and focus against an inferior yet capable foe in NCAA Division III Whittier College of Southern California. After dropping two competitive contests over the weekend to the then #4 ranked Michigan Wolverines of the Big Ten and the following night to the Shockers of Wichita State University at T-Mobile Arena. The Rebels needed something to be thankful for after their 2-game slide.

The Runnin Rebels came out against the Poets with back-to-back missed layups, and when the Poets scored first and had a brief 2-0 lead, the entire Thomas & Mack Center fell silent. However, soon after, Royce Hamm Jr. knocked down a 3-pointer, and the Rebels held the lead for the remainder of the night. Once a Rebel crowd sees a 3-ball go in, they start getting into it, and the Rebels felt that energy and their intensity seemed to pick up slightly as well.

With Kruger’s new lineup of Marvin Coleman, Josh Baker, Justin Webster, Reece Brown, and Hamm, the pace began to pick up. These unique lineups are often standard when playing against teams such as Whittier that do not necessarily pose a threat and allow the coaching staff to look at different guys in different spots with other personnel. By the 3:35 mark with starters Mike Nuga, Bryce Hamilton, Jordan McCabe, and Donovan Williams back on the floor, the Rebels enjoyed a 25-point lead.

By the time Webster drove the ball coast to coast in the final seconds of the first half to score a contested layup against one of the Poet bigs, the Rebels had taken a 37-point lead into the locker room, 53-16. The Poets’ best performer per the +/- system was Cameron Stiepock at -10, and the Rebels’ worst performer was Keshon Gilbert at +10.

The second half saw an inspired Whittier team come out of the locker room much more aggressive than they did at any point in the first half. The Poets scored with more efficiency and had much more intense energy. However, the Rebels soon imposed their will, and the 37-point halftime lead quickly blossomed up to 40 points, and the Rebels cruised from that point on.  The Rebels’ 101 points were their first 100 points since a 101-82 win over Southern Utah University on November 25th, 2017.


This game allowed Kruger to use every available player on his roster and allowed fans to see seldom used players such as Trey Hurlburt and Cameron Bairstow.

UNLV vs Whittier College
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Kruger was also able to see the potential in other players that took advantage of the moment, in particular Justin Webster and Reece Brown.

Webster scored a team-high 17 points and added eight rebounds to go along with his five assists. Webster spear-headed a second unit that picked up the lackluster pace that the starters played with early forced Kruger’s to make a hockey shift more reminiscent of the Las Vegas Golden Knights than the historic UNLV Runnin Rebels.

Las Vegas local Marvin Coleman scored 13 points while Donovan Williams added 12 points. Reece Brown also saw extended minutes tonight and chipped in 6 points, six rebounds, and four assists. However, the most significant impact that the second unit made was on the defensive end. They played with a sense of urgency that has not been seen at any point this season.

The inspired play of the second unit hopefully can spark a sense of urgency with the starters as the #2 ranked UCLA Bruins and 2021 NCAA Final Four participants come into the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday at 2:00 pm. Kruger said, “It’s two historic West Coast programs, and I know we’re looking forward to it.”

Kruger didn’t downplay the significance of Saturday’s matchup. Kruger assured the media that the same starting five would start against the Bruins on Saturday, but he also said, “Their approach wasn’t what we were looking for.”

Kruger also said that he hopes the city comes out and shows support for both his team and the retiring of the #13, the jersey number worn by Runnin Rebel legend and local Valley high school product Freddie Banks. Banks wore the #13 as he led the Rebels to the 1987 NCAA Final Four. In his final game as a Runnin’ Rebel, he “left it all on the floor” against the eventual national champions, Bobby Knight’s Indiana Hoosiers. Banks scored 38 points in the Final Four semi-final game and nailed ten 3-pointers.


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


UNLV vs Whittier College
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

After 1,135 games, the streak continues to live on! This game’s “STREAKER” Was Royce Hamm Jr. Hamm knocked down the long ball from the top of the key after the Poets had taken a 2-0 lead following a pair of missed layups by the Rebels, who never looked back after that miss en route to scoring 98 more points on the night.

Tonight’s “SWAGG-BAGG” goes to Trey Hurlburt and Cameron Bairstow. The seldom-used duo had the opportunity to get on Tarkanian Court at the Thomas & Mack floor and show the 4,288 Rebel fans what they do every day in practice. Hurlburt set the tone right away with a long jump shot and got the fans on their feet when he drove the left side of the lane for a nice left-handed layup! Shortly after, Bairstow showed his worth with a three-pointer loaded with the confidence of an NBA marksman! These were well-deserved minutes for a couple of unsung heroes that work their tails off every day.

The “LAS VEGAS HUSTLA” for this game goes to both Justin Webster and Reece Brown. Webster came out of his shell and showed a glimpse of the player that he could become for Kruger, scoring 17 points, to go along with five assists and pulling down eight rebounds. Brown contributed mightily in the 25 minutes of action by scoring 6 points with six rebounds and four assists. Brown used his length and proved to be a willing ball-mover allowing the offense to flow smoothly while he was on the court.


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


The Rebels will now take on the #2 ranked UCLA Bruins at the Thomas and Mack Center on Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is slated for a 2:00 pm start.


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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

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