FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs SDSU – Game 14


UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (8-6 / 0-1)  |  San Diego State Aztecs (9-3 / 1-0)


The Runnin’ Rebels scoring goes stale as the Aztecs roll into the Thomas and Mack to start Mountain West Conference play with a 62-55 win over UNLV.


Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Classes are complete; finals week is over; grades are in! So what have our Runnin’ Rebels learned from last semester? Today was their first assignment, a pop quiz none the less and here’s how the Rebels faired:

In front of a nationally televised audience (and 5,082 at the Thomas & Mack Center), the Rebels came out aggressive, looking in what appeared to be an imposing of their will on the Aztecs. The Rebels controlled possessions from the onset and even at times the boards. There was a new sense of urgency with this Rebel bunch. For the first time in a long time, the Rebels had multiple players fighting for rebounds or sliding their feet defensively and cutting off an Aztec ballhandler.

After flirting with a 10-point lead for most of the 1st half, the Aztecs’ Matt Bradley made yet another basket and closed the gap for San Diego State, only for Bryce Hamilton to nail a three-pointer from the top of the key to slow the Aztec push.

With the score deadlocked at 25-25, the Rebels and Aztecs were still in the giving mood of the season as they took turns giving the ball back and forth to one another. However, as the half progressed, the Rebels failed on numerous occasions to secure a lot of the 50-50 balls that led to Aztec baskets. Right before the half, head coach Kevin Kruger called a timeout to regroup his team as the Aztecs held their biggest lead of the game 35-29, to only have it erased by a last-second three-pointer by Hamilton that got the Rebel faithful on their feet as the Rebels went into the locker room down.


What was an imposing of will early on the boards for the Rebels’, took a drastic turn in the other direction as the Aztecs went into the intermission with a 33-19 advantage in rebounds


Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

A lengthy break in the action came on what was eventually ruled a flagrant one foul on Hamilton. The Thomas & Mack Center fans erupted into an array of boos and other innuendos (and some direct insults layered in profanity), which quickly became cheers as Aztec forward Nathan Mensah missed both free-throws. To add insult to injury, after the Aztecs didn’t convert in the issuing passion, the Rebels marched down after a Hamilton rebound, and Hamilton himself nailed a three-pointer.

As the Aztecs continued to assert their dominance on the boards over the Rebels, they (Rebels) were never quite able to separate themselves. A plethora of questionable calls went against UNLV, which seemed to ignite the fans, and the energy began to give the Rebels that extra push and allowed them to stay within striking distance. With 7:42 left to play, the Rebels were still trailing San Diego State by 5, 50-45.

The fourth foul on Royce Hamm Jr. prompted Kruger to sit him and utilize a combination of David Muoka and Victor Iwuakor in the post. However, post play was not the issue as much as it was a scoring drought. That drought saw the Rebels muster only 4 points in the final 7:18. The Rebels would finish the night being outrebounded by San Diego State 55-42. Aside from the lopsided output rebounding the basketball, UNLV also shot a mere 29.7% from the field and a dismal 25% from the three-point line. UNLV shot 62.5% from the charity stripe on 10-16 shooting.


Neither team shot the ball great as the Aztecs shot 33.8% from the field and 20% from the three-point line, 3-15.


Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Those statistics from an opposing team are sufficient enough to win. Still, when you consider a similar shooting performance from the Rebels and the fact that UNLV only turned the ball over five times, one would have to agree with Kruger’s assessment that the shooting woes were not merely poor decision making or just an “off night,” San Diego State has something to do with that. That is why they’re a top 10 defensive team nationally.

The Rebels struggled mightily on offense, and Rebel leading scorer Hamilton said he took responsibility for the inefficiency, a sentiment that Kruger disagreed with. Kruger said he felt as though he shouldn’t have taken responsibility. Kruger added, “We put him in a lot of situations where we expect him to make plays, we lean on it, and he tries to do that to the best of his ability. Bryce is as good as anybody in recognizing when he could’ve made a different decision, and he acknowledges it. He’s always very good in trying to get better in that regard.”

So when it’s all said and done, what the Rebels learned from the previous semester and how they’ve used it in a practical sense are different. The Rebels also learned that Hamilton is their go-to guy and their most consistent scorer. Utilizing that in a practical sense would mean realizing that Hamilton is much more dangerous and much harder to defend when another scorer is also a threat. That “other scorer” is best being Donovan Williams. For much of the game, Hamilton and Williams took turns scoring instead of having the presence of a 2-headed monster, and 2-headed monsters are much scarier!


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


Josh Baker is this game’s “STREAKER” after 1,143 games. Baker came out aggressive and knocked down the three-pointer early.

The “LAS VEGAS HUSTLA” of this game was Mike Nuga. It was great to see Nuga back on the floor with his usual intensity and high energy. In a little under 12 minutes of action, Nuga came off the bench and provided all that embodies his style of play. As I’ve always told my players, there are only two ways to play…Hard or NOT HARD! Mike Nuga always plays hard.


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


The Rebels will travel to Clune Arena to take on the Falcons of Air Force next Saturday at 7:30 PM

UNLV vs SDSU                           UNLV vs SDSU                          UNLV vs SDSU                          UNLV vs SDSU                     UNLV vs SDSU                           UNLV vs SDSU                          UNLV vs SDSU                          UNLV vs SDSU                     UNLV vs SDSU                           UNLV vs SDSU                          UNLV vs SDSU                                                                  

-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

Follow Che on Twitter @CoachCheJones

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