An afternoon affair at the Mack was capped off with the UNLV Runnin Rebels (7-9) defeating the Air Force Falcons (4-13) 68-58. This win erases a three game losing streak and puts the Rebels back in the win column as they take game one of a two game series against the Falcons.
The first half remained tightly contested, as both teams could not break free from one another. Five ties and three lead changes in the first half alone as Air Force found points from range, shooting 53% from the arch. Team leader in points, AJ Walker, led the way for the Falcons with his 15 points and gave UNLV fits with his outside shooting. UNLV struggled defending the three ball early and was held to no three’s in the first half. Still, a dominant presence from the inside from Cheikh Mbacke Diong and returning star Bryce Hamilton gave the Rebels a three point lead at half.
The start of the second half could not have been drawn up any better for the Rebels, an 8-0 run, featuring Diong on six of those points, had the Rebels feeling like they could break the game wide open. Yet, the Falcons found themselves lingering around and UNLV could not completely ground their offense as much as they would have liked to.
“They are able to make up deficits in a hurry,” Oztleberger said of the Falcons today. Air Force was able to hang around from the arch, as they counted to find their only offense from three point land.
“We lost some defensive focus, we went from nine straight stops to seven straight scores, so we’ve got to be more intentional because they (Air Force) can go on those runs”. Oztleberger said of his defense that has had difficulty defending the three ball.
Thankfully for the Rebels, Bryce Hamilton returned to the lineup after rehabbing an ankle injury. Hamilton was able to make his way to the bucket in this game and found himself with a double-double. 22 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Hamilton’s presence was felt in the line-up for UNLV as when sharpshooters like Caleb Grill and Moses Wood could not find a rhythm, Hamilton was able to open up different opportunities for his teammates to score.
The Rebels were able to come away with the 10-point victory in a game that they probably feel like they could have won by a lot more. Game two of the Falcons-Rebels series takes place on Monday at 6:00pm.