UNLV started strong, per usual, but dug themselves into a 10-point hole after failing to get stops on the defensive end. The Mustangs shot 50 percent from the field while holding the Rebels to only 35.8 percent, the difference in the game. SMU out-scored UNLV in the paint 26-10, proving the lack of offensive presence for the Rebels down low. But UNLV out-rebounded SMU 36-27, proving the Rebels strong defensive presence on the boards. UNLV will need to find a way to score inside the paint when their shooters are struggling from the field, as they did Saturday night.
Sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton scored a career-high of 18 points, in only 17 minutes, helping UNLV fight back from being down as many as 13 points. Hamilton knocked down two shots beyond the arc in the final 29 seconds of the game to keep the rally alive, but the rebels couldn’t pull this one out.
Four UNLV players scored in double figures but the Rebel’s below average shooting percentage hindered their chances of victory. Coach T.J. Otzelberger stretched further down the bench once more, distributing minutes to keep players forceful on the floor. UNLV’s bench contributed 20 points to the final score, 18 of which came from Hamilton. Junior guard Jonah Antonio remained out with a hand injury for the second straight game, but is expected to return to the lineup sooner than later.
In the second half, the Rebels closed in on the Mustangs, only trailing two points with five minutes remaining. The Mustangs responded with a 6-0 run that would give them enough separation to close out the game. The Rebels gave one last desperate attempt to comeback in the final minute playing the fouling game to conserve time, but the Mustangs were perfect from the free-throw line and secured the win.
The Rebels have lost 3 close games, for the lack of being able to finish. “Right now, the effort is great, but winning is totally different,” Coach Otzelberger said. The Rebels have got to find a way to close out games the way they start them before conference play or else the Rebels are going to be in for a long season.
The Rebels move to 2-5 in preseason play, and have one more game in the Southwestern Showdown presented by Engage Telehealth. Next up, the Rebels host Jackson State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.