FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Wyoming – Game 30

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (18-12 / 10-7)  |  Wyoming Cowboys (23-7 / 12-5)

Franchise Sports Media


UNLV sends their seniors off in style and a win to boot, beating Wyoming 64-57.


UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Senior night is a fond memory for all involved, and in UNLV’s situation (playing their conference tournament on their home court), one might think that senior night may not mean as much to these Rebels as it would to other college teams. Well, that would be a wrong assumption, as UNLV managed to hold off a very good Wyoming team, proving that the Rebels are, in fact, a good team themselves.

The true testament of a good team is not how many wins they accumulate or how many points they beat their opponents by…but in the eyes of coaches, it is purely how well they bounce back from adversity. Teams that are good, well-coached teams typically respond to bad first halves or poor performances in games with detailed precision. They effectively play harder on defense and put in a strict no-nonsense practice in the days following a poor game.

At this juncture of the season, every team is being assessed for their ability to be either a worthy participant in the field of 68 or a legitimate Final Four contender. All eyes are on every aspect of a team. How teams respond to adversity, how teams react to the loss of key players, how they respond to bad officiating, how their coaches adjust to new looks from teams that may not have appeared on film, etc.


The minor setback last Saturday night against a very talented Boise State Bronco team may have been nothing but a minor setback for UNLV.


UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

That game served as a “wake-up call,” if you will, to let this team know that they’re not quite where they need to be in order to be a dangerous team come tournament time. For first-year head coach Kevin Kruger, this season’s final stretch has enormous ramifications.

This final stretch can quiet the naysayers, invigorate the fan base, and kick-start his recruiting. A great showing by the Rebels (or any team for that matter) could spark the interests of potential recruits or perhaps even current players that opt to enter the portal; a place where Kruger and his staff were able to find success this current season.

UNLV came out of the gate against the Cowboys playing inspired basketball and took a commanding lead early on and, after more than 13 minutes of action, had held the Cowboys to only 10 points. Even though Wyoming fought hard, the Rebels stayed the course and applied tough defense to the menacing Graham Ike in the post. Ike averages almost a double-double with 20.3 points per game and 9.8 rebounds per game. As the game began, Ike scored Wyoming’s first 7 points of the game, but he only made three more baskets for the rest of the night. What was the difference?

Enter David Muoka! Muoka forced Ike to take contested shots and seemed to be everywhere Ike wanted to be before Ike could maneuver himself in position to get there. Muoka played perhaps his best post defense against one of the Mountain West Conference’s best post players, in perhaps one of the Rebel’s most important wins down this final stretch heading into the Mountain West Conference tournament.

Kruger was ecstatic about his team’s play and, in particular, the way they defended against a really good offensive team that averages 74.6 ppg. A very proud Kruger said, “Those guys are not easy to guard. It is not easy to play defense in the post. And when you have multiple guys comfortable with their back to the basket, like Wyoming has, all you can do is compete and battle each play, and I thought they did that. We didn’t give up any uncontested layups.”


Another bright spot for Kruger’s Rebels was the defensive effort of freshman Keshon Gilbert, who continues to excite Rebel fans with his tenacity on the defensive end.


UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Gilbert pestered the Wyoming backcourt from one end of Jerry Tarkanian Court to the other, undoubtedly making the late great Runnin Rebels’ legendary coach extremely proud. At one point, Gilbert poked the ball away from Wyoming guard, Hunter Maldonado, only to run across the court and steal the ball from another Cowboy player who corralled the loose ball.

The freshman played a pivotal role on this senior night, diving on the floor for loose balls and pressuring the ball fullcourt. Later in the game, Maldonado took an inadvertent elbow to the face from Hamilton, which forced him to leave the game and required a visit to the hospital.

As good as they were on defense, there were struggles on offense for Mountain West Conference’s leading scorer, Bryce Hamilton. Hamilton struggled mightily as he didn’t score his first point of the game until the 11:40 mark of the first half. Hamilton shot only 3-15 from the field, including 1-4 from the three-point line, but managed to finish the night with 15 points, six rebounds, and four assists. Hamilton’s 8-8 from the free-throw line helped the Rebels shoot 14-18 on the night for 78%.

The scoring slack was picked up by Justin Webster, and Royce Hamm Jr. Webster was as efficient as he has been at any point this season. Shooting 5-7 from the field, Webster has made himself a consistent piece of the puzzle and has proven to be a reliable three-point shooter who will force defenses to play him honest and prevent double teams on Hamilton.

Hamm had another double-double with a team-high 17 points and ten rebounds. Hamm played tremendously and made timely plays to give Kruger’s Rebel a much-needed victory in preparation for a New Mexico team that is a scrappy bunch despite their record (12-18, 4-12). As Kruger noted, there is a history of great basketball between the two schools. The Rebels will be traveling to Alburquerque for a chance to play spoiler on their senior night.




UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

The “STREAKER” for this game was none other than Royce Hamm Jr. Hamm not only knocked down the trey from the top, but he followed it with another three, securing the record at 1,159 games.

In tonight’s game, the “VEGAS HUSTLA’S” were Keshon Gilbert and David Muoka! The duo of Muoka and Gilbert once again came off the bench and sparked defensive energy, which sparked the Rebel defense. Muoka played tough defense on one of the top post players on the West Coast, and Gilbert pressured the Cowboys ballhandlers into uncomfortable positions all night.

Franchise Sports Media would like to thank the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels seniors, Bryce Hamilton, Royce Hamm Jr., Trey Hurlburt, and Mike Nuga for their dedication and commitment to our beloved Runnin Rebel basketball program. You have carried yourselves with dignity, class, and a contagious competitive spirit that embodies what a Rebel is truly about, and we celebrate you! Thank you for starting the Kruger era off with a bang. In years to come, you guys will be remembered as the ones who kicked it off! Good luck in your future endeavors; I am sure you will do well!


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


The Rebels will head to Alberquerque on Saturday to close out regular season play in the Mountain West Conference against the Lobos of New Mexico at 8:00 PM. The game will be televised on FOX Sports1.

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-Che Jones – Franchise Sports Media

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