In a year unlike any other, players were hoping that the start of a new season could bring some sense of familiarity. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, sporting events have been very limited when it comes to fan attendance.
In October, the Nevada governor decided to allow venues to hold events with up to 10% capacity. When UNLV put in their request to have fans attend their football games, they were granted approval for 3% capacity of Allegiant Stadium, which means that for their first two home football games, UNLV allowed about 2,000 fans to attend their games. After the approval for fans at the football games, the school was unsure how many fans they would be able to host for their basketball games, if any at all.
When the Nevada COVID-19 numbers started to spike in early November, UNLV, along with their Athletic Director, Desiree Reed-Francios, decided to no longer allow fans to attend their games. This ended all fans in attendance for the school’s final two football games, along with any chance of having fans in the Thomas & Mack Center when the Runnin’ Rebels opened their season.
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels kicked off their 2020-2021 season Wednesday night. UNLV came into the game as 12 point favorites and looking to start their season off on the right track.
At tip-off, the only people in the arena were the teams, the coaching staffs, media, and gameday staff for the Thomas & Mack Center. Oh, and there were three rows of cardboard cut-outs in the center-court bleachers. Since there were no fans in the stands, UNLV used artificial noise to keep the “home-court advantage.” However, this didn’t seem to help.
Neither team got off to a good start, however, MTST was able to take control of the game midway through the first half and never looked back. Once Montana St took the lead, 11-10, UNLV never regained the lead. In fact, after Montana St took a double-digit lead, the closest UNLV would get to them was 12 points.
Montana St held the Rebels to just 33.3% shooting from the floor in the first half. The Rebels failed to make a 3PT attempt until 3:22 left in the first half, going 0 for 8 prior to making their first shot. Montana St’s shooting night, on the other hand, went the opposite of UNLV’s. They shot 62% from the floor in the first half, while going 7 for 11 from 3PT range.
In addition to shooting well from behind the arc, the Bobcats were also able to attack the Runnin’ Rebels in the paint. The Rebels were outscored by the Bobcats in the paint, 38-18. In regards to the lack of paint protection, Junior Guard, Marvin Coleman said, “We gotta do a better job getting more physical, not letting it in. Like I said earlier, we gotta have good hand pressure and ball pressure on the ball so they can’t just zip passes in there.”
In a game that didn’t have too many positives for the Rebels, Junior Bryce Hamilton was able to showcase his talents. The six foot, four inch guard finished with a game high 27 points on 10-19 shooting, while also adding eight rebounds and four assists.
UNLV will be heading east for their next game. They’ll be taking on the UNC Tar Heels in the first round of the Maui Invitational. Normally this tournament would be held in Hawaii, however, due to the pandemic, it was moved to Raleigh, North Carolina. The tournament will be played over the course of three days, from Nov 30 until Dec 2. Following the conclusion of the tournament, the Runnin’ Rebels will head to Manhattan, Kansas to take on Kansas State on Dec 5.