UNLV vs Montana State
Photo Credit: News Break

FSM Essential Recap: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels vs Montana State Basketball – Game 1

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UNLV (0-1)  |  Montana State Bobcats (1-0)

 

The UNLV Runnin Rebels tipped off their 2020-21 basketball season Wednesday night against Montana State at Thomas and Mack.

 

UNLV Basketball
Photo Credit: UNLV Athletics Twitter

UNLV decided to go with a small ball lineup to start the game. All five of the players were guards, with the tallest being Nick Blake, who stands at 6’6”. The Rebels could not get anything going to start the game. Both teams were sloppy early on, but Montana State found an offensive rhythm while UNLV could not. 

UNLV relied on Bryce Hamilton to repetitively drive in the paint, but Montana State quickly figured out how to stop it. Hamilton finished the first half just 3-9 from the field as Montana State utilized a zone defense where there was always one player in the key no matter what. Since UNLV could not drive well to the paint, they tried to shoot more, which only made matters worse. Nobody could hit open shots, which also resulted in sloppy play to the tune of 7 turnovers in the first half.

UNLV relied on the highly-touted guard David Jenkins Jr. for their jump shots, but that did not work. DJ finished the half shooting 2-7 from the floor. Whenever a player for UNLV was open on the perimeter, they missed nearly every shot. They finished the half shooting 10 for 30 as a team and shot 3 for 12 from three. It took until 3:23 left in the first half for Moses Wood to hit the team’s first three-pointer. 

Montana State’s offense struggled initially, with UNLV clogging the paint with their small-ball starting lineup. The Bobcats decided to start passing more and getting jump shots outside the paint, which overwhelmed UNLV. The Bobcats’ passing started to get better as the game went on, and they started hitting more of their open shots, unlike the Rebels. They finished shooting 18-29 as a team and 7-11 from three. 

The only bright spot for UNLV this first half was their defense from the tip. They played good defense in the paint even though they started to do worse once they got overwhelmed. Even when Montana State started hitting all their jump shots, UNLV’s defense defended well in the paint. The reason they were losing so drastically is that Montana State hit their three-pointers while UNLV could not. 

 

UNLV ended up losing the game 91-78 to the Bobcats. 

 

The Rebels could not get much going in the second half, but they did improve their three-point shooting. However, as soon as they would drain a triple, Montana State would just come right back down and drain one of their own. UNLV did improve their shooting as they finished 11 for 25 from three and 25 for 55 from the floor, but the Runnin Rebels could not stop Montana State’s barrage.

Cheikh Diong couldn’t score from the paint at the start of the second half, but Montana State’s Amin Adamu kept getting in the lane easily across the floor. Xavier Bishop could not be stopped either, as he scored 22 points. Adamu either scored a layup or got an assist due to drawing double teams most of the game. He finished the game with 14 points and 6 assists. The only great performers for UNLV were Hamilton, who ended his night with 27 points, and Blake with 16. 

UNLV’s other second-half improvement was their rebounding, but it still needs a lot of work. Last season, UNLV averaged 39.2 rebounds per game. Tonight they finished with 26. Their defense struggled entirely in every aspect in the second half, no matter how hard they tried to fight back into the game. The sloppiness did not improve as they had 7 turnovers in the first half but finished with 18. This Rebel defense will have to find a way to form more chemistry as they could not keep up with Montana States’ constant passing.

 

UNLV will travel to Asheville, North Carolina, to compete in the Maui Invitational, which has been moved to the mainland because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Runnin’ Rebels’ first game is scheduled for Monday, November 30 vs. No. 16 North Carolina at 4 p.m. PT. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.

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Kyle Randolph

Twitter: @KyleRandolphFSM

 

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