“At the end of the day,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “The guys did what they needed to do and got stops.”
Last Monday, the Rebels faced the Spartans for the first time this season and easily walked away with an 81-56 victory. However, this time around, it was a tougher battle for UNLV.
With three UNLV players out, including starting guards Donovan Williams and Josh Baker, other Rebels needed to step up offensively and defensively to fill their spots. Freshman Keshon Gilbert was just the guy to do that.
Gilbert got the scoring going early, putting the Rebels up 4-0. Royce Hamm Jr. would come in, knocking down the first three-pointer of the game and adding a dunk on back-to-back possessions.
Early in the first half, the Spartans were able to get within one possession of the Rebels three times, but UNLV kept their lead the entire way, stretching it to as big as 16.
Before the half, Bryce Hamilton scored the final 11 points for UNLV and with seconds remaining, Hamilton stepped back and knocked down the buzzer-beater three to send the Rebels into halftime with a 14-point lead.
Offensively and defensively, the Rebels killed the first half, shooting 63% from the field while holding the Spartans to only 30% shooting.
In the second half, San Jose State switched to zone defense which made the Rebels’ offensive scoring a little rocky. The Spartans used this as an opportunity to begin closing in on UNLV’s lead.
With six minutes remaining in the game, Spartan’s Trey Anderson and Omari Moore, the team’s leading scorers, went on a 6-0 run to make it a two-possession game.
Hamilton would then answer back with a score of his own to keep the lead double digits.
With a minute remaining, San Jose State was only down by four. But Mike Nuga drained two free throws which ultimately sealed the Rebels’ victory.
Hamilton finished his second straight 30-point game, knocking down 10-of-19 field goals to lead all scorers. Jordan McCabe added 11 points while Hamm Jr added 14 rebounds.
“I started to attack the paint more, getting my flow going,” Hamilton said. “As a team, we were able to move the ball a little bit better and find those opportunities to go and score.”
UNLV has now won the last 10 meetings against the Spartans and improves to 22-2 all-time at home vs. San Jose State, and a 45-6 all-time series record.
The Runnin’ Rebels now hit the road for two away games, the team will play San Diego State on Monday, Jan. 24, and Colorado State on Friday, Jan. 28. UNLV will be back at the Thomas & Mack on Tuesday, Feb. 1 to host Nevada for rivalry red out.