For the first time since the 2017-2018 season, the Runnin’ Rebels open their season 3-0 after defeating North Dakota State in an exhilarating game Monday night, winning 64-62.
“We are proud of the way that they continue to fight and grit it out,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “North Dakota State is a nightmare of a matchup from a scouting standpoint with Kreuser and (Grant) Nelson and what they can do.”
Early on, UNLV struggled to keep possession of the ball with Bryce Hamilton catching two fouls in the first three minutes of the game, allowing the Bisons to open with a 10-5 run.
The Rebels found offensive momentum with Justin Webster, driving to the basket causing the defense to foul him, giving UNLV the lead (21-18) with six minutes to go.
The Runnin’ Rebels continued to boost their offensive intensity ending the first half 32-27.
Royce Hamm Jr. opened the second half making one of two free-throw attempts, 33-30.
With a 64-62 lead with nine seconds to go, Marvin Coleman missed the front end of a one-and-one, but Hamm Jr. jump block secured the Rebel win and marked his first walk-off block. It also marked the second game-saving block in a row as he also had one in the previous game against California.
Hamilton led all scorers for the third straight game, tallying 17 points, while Donovan Williams added 15 and Jordan McCabe chipped in 13. Royce Hamm Jr. made a career-high-tying 17 rebounds and blocked two shots.
Williams had two high-flying dunks, one was off a Coleman steal, which extended UNLV's lead to five points with eight minutes to play, pumping the crowd up.
"I told Jordan I have been dreaming about getting a fast break dunk in the Mack since June," Williams said. "I go home and I just dream about getting dunks. Some people dream about getting steals, blocks, threes, whatever. I just dream about getting dunks."
North Dakota State (2-1) was led by Rocky Kreuser's double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds, while Maleeck Harden-Hayes also scored in double figures with 12.
The Runnin' Rebels held the Bison to a UNLV opponent season-low 35.8% shooting (19 of 53).
With a season-low of eight turnovers, the Runnin’ Rebels had a season-high of 17 assists.
Monday night marked the second meeting between the two teams, giving UNLV a 2-0 all-time in the series.
“Just really happy for [the team] and really proud of them because we feel like they're guys that deserve it,” Kruger said. “So to come out on top in three close games when we could have lost all three it's just a good feeling."
The Runnin’ Rebels remain in Las Vegas to compete in the Roman Main Event at T-Mobile Arena on Friday, Nov. 19 as they face Michigan at 9:30 p.m. for the first game of the tournament.