FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs New Mexico – Game 31

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (18-13 / 10-8)  |  New Mexico Lobos (13-18 / 5-12)

Franchise Sports Media


The Pit is the pits for the Rebels as they fall in their MWC season finale despite a valiant comeback effort. It was too little too late as the Rebels fall 76-67 to the Lobos.


UNLV vs New Mexico
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Few things in sports are on the same level as winning on senior night. Perhaps come from behind wins? Rivalry games? Championship games! How about playing the role of spoiler by beating a team on THEIR senior night? That’s precisely what the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were looking to do to the Lobos at The Pit in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

For the most part, seeding is all but wrapped up for the Mountain West Conference Tournament. There were no impeding upsets that would impact seedings and for all intents and purposes. This game between the Rebels and the Lobos was meaningless…on paper at least.

The Lobos are trying to salvage any last bit of dignity and/or self-respect after having an unbelievably bad season, playing well below .500. A win or a loss would keep the Lobos ahead of Air Force, who sits at 4-12 in the Mountain West Conference standings. However, since the Lobos swept the Falcons this season, 91-77 on February 5th and 69-65 on February 26th, they have locked in the #9 seed in next week’s Mountain West Conference Tournament, most likely opening up against the Wolfpack of UNR.

For Kevin Kruger’s Rebels, the concern early was whether or not this game not changing their Mountain West Conference Tournament seeding would allow a mental letdown and subsequently an approach to this game without the same intensity as the Lobos. Early on, it did appear to be the case as the sense of urgency was evident from the Lobos, and the Rebels almost seemed to be going through the motions.

The Rebels started the game off shooting a horrendous 1 for nine from the three-point line, and by the 8:29 mark, Kruger was forced to call a timeout after a Jaelen House three-pointer put the Lobos ahead 26-13. The Lobos went on a 20-3 run that backed the Rebels up against the ropes. A combination of House, Jamal Mashburn Jr., and Sebastian Forsling were more active than the Rebels and played with a higher sense of urgency. The Lobos were clearly using the energy in The Pit as a catalyst for the Mountain West Conference Tournament. The Lobos had a laser-like focus in the first half and went into the locker room at the break with a 15-point, 38-23 lead. The Rebels shot a horrendous 12% from the three-point line in the first half.


The minor setback last Saturday night against a very talented Boise State Bronco team may be a performance to revisit for UNLV.


UNLV vs Fresno State
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Mashburn (son of former NBA star Jamal Mashburn) finished the first half with 12 points and was the aggressive force that propelled the Lobos, as House was slowly but surely finding his footing. The second half was all House, though, as the Phoenix, AZ native and son of former NBA star Eddie House controlled the tempo and the pace of the game. House had the Rebels on their heels and played at a higher pace that the Rebels could not answer. House finished the game with 27 points, six rebounds, and five assists, while Mashburn added 21 points.

Once again, the only offensive productivity came from one place… Bryce Hamilton. The unfortunate situation for the Rebels is that during these droughts, the lone Rebel that can find their way out of the hole is Hamilton. However, more often than not, Hamilton is subsequently forced to take shots that are not offensively efficient.

Although Hamilton finished the night with 28 points and showed glimpses of his superior skill set, there were more possessions where the Rebels struggled to get offensive continuity than there were possessions that looked “tournament-ready.” Aside from Hamilton’s scoring, the Rebels got some timely baskets from Justin Webster for the second straight game. Webster shot the ball exceptionally well against Wyoming in a 64-57 win last Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center, as he finished with 11 points last night.

Against New Mexico, Webster nailed a couple of big three-pointers as well as a couple of hard-driving layups. Webster has come into his own as Krugers most consistent outside threat. Webster has really begun to improve as a recent uptick in playing time has developed some confidence. His nightly contributions have continued to increase. Webster contributed 13 points as he was the only Rebel besides Hamilton to score in double figures. Royce Hamm Jr. once again just missed recording a double-double with  9 points and ten rebounds. Despite struggling with his shot, Jordan McCabe finished the night with seven assists and only two turnovers.

Ultimately this game has no bearing on the Rebels’ Mountain West Conference Tournament appearance or seeding. The only concern is if this will affect their confidence or propel them to where they need to be. There’s an old saying that many of us coaches use; we want to be playing our best basketball come March.

Although the Rebels aren’t playing their best basketball, they aren’t necessarily bad. They have not shot the ball well in particular, HamiltonMcCabe, Mike Nuga, and Donovan Williams have all struggled shooting the ball as of late, but the law of averages suggests they’re all due to start shooting the ball better in subsequent days.

As far as the NCAA Tournament is concerned, the Mountain West Conference boasts four teams that most mock brackets agree upon. Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State, and Wyoming are all teams that most believe are locks for the Dance. For the Rebels, their path to the NCAAs appears to be one of almost destiny. The Rebels will face the University of Wyoming in a quarterfinal matchup at 2:30 PM at Thomas & Mack Center on Thursday. The Rebels will have been eight days removed from beating the Cowboys when they face off.

If the Rebels are to win the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship, they will have to go through 3 of the teams projected to make the NCAA Tournament. Projections look as though if the Rebels get past Wyoming, they would most likely have a semifinal game versus #1 seed Boise State. Their next matchup would have them face off with one of the other projected NCAA Tournament teams, the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between #2 seed San Diego State or # 3 seed Colorado State. The Rebels swept Colorado State, and the Aztecs swept UNLV. However, the Aztecs and the Rams split in their two matchups this season.

The arduous task ahead of the Rebels may very well be the task that affords them their ticket to dance via an appearance in the MWC Tournament championship game. However, their best bet to go dancing maybe just to win the damn thing!




The “STREAKER” for this game was none other than Bryce Hamilton as he knocked down the three-pointer with 17:53 to play in the 1st half to give the Rebels their first and only lead of the game, 3-2. Hamilton’s three-pointer continued the Rebels’ streak at 1,160 games.

In tonight’s game, the “VEGAS HUSTLA” was Justin Webster. The transfer from Hawaii scored 13 points and almost single-handedly put the Rebels back in the game.



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 Wyoming Cowboys for the second time in 8 days in the Mountain West Conference Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center at 2:30 PM. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

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