Game-winning block by Wood preserves win over Utah State, win streak
A game-winning block from sophomore Moses Wood in his first start as a UNLV Runnin’ Rebel resulted in a 59-56 win over Utah State Monday, Jan. 25 from the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Honestly, I thought that was a great play by Utah State,” he said. “I knew obviously that they needed a three so [Utah State center Neemias] Queta was going to be looking for someone on the perimeter.
“So when I saw [Utah State’s Steven Ashworth] coming up the side, I said, ‘I’m committing to this. [I] got the block, game over.”
The final minute of the game UNLV overcame two turnovers with a chance to put the game out of reach.
“That was stressful for sure man,” Wood said. “We had a couple of mistakes there at the end but at the end of the day we pulled out the [win] and that’s all that matters.”
Head coach TJ Otzelberger said, “It was definitely a hard fought battle on both sides,” head coach TJ Otzelberger said. “Certainly a defensive battle down-the-stretch. We kind of bent, fortunately we didn’t break.”
Wood added 10 points including shooting 2-for-5 from three-point range on the offensive end.
“As we’ve had these games at home you can see his confidence growing,” Otzelberger said. “Seeing him not only make shots but being a good ball mover, be a great defender, rebounder and just playing with so much heart so I think there’s times as a coach where you want to impose your will.”
UNLV extends its current win streak to five games and is now 6-6 on the year after starting the season 0-4.
“We’re on a roll now man,” Wood said. “That’s five in a row, I think we’re hot, we’re on a roll. I feel really good about Wednesday coming up and the rest of the season. I think we’re one of the most dangerous teams in the Mountain West.”
In addition, the Rebels got their third straight Mountain West conference win after starting the conference schedule 0-2.
“Our guys got up for this one,” Otzelberger said. “And we’re going to have to get up for another one on Wednesday because I know they’re going to make some adjustments and so are we and it’s going to be a hard-fought battle.”
Utah State will look to even the season series at one apiece Wednesday, Jan. 27 from the TMC with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m.
The Aggies came into this first game having won more games than the Rebels had even played (12 to 11).
However, it was ball movement and great team play that led to the win for UNLV.
Team leading scorer Bryce Hamilton set a new career-high in assists for the second time in his last three games.
He missed the team’s last game against Benedictine Mesa with a sore ankle.
“I know that ankle is still bothering him but he gutted it out,” Otzelberger said. “Where [Hamilton] was great tonight was setting up people, he had eight assists, made plays for his teammates -- five steals, a career-high.
“We all know Bryce can score the ball and other teams do too so they’re designing their defense in ways to try and force him to pass and we’re going to continue to put the ball in his hands.”
Hamilton added 14 points on the offensive end with four made three-pointers, finishing tied with junior guard David Jenkins Jr. for team-high in points.
In addition to his 14 points, Hamilton added five rebounds and a career-high five steals to his stat line.
Jenkins shot 4-of-13 from the field for his 14 points but went 2-for-5 from beyond the arc.
As a team, the Rebels went 13-for-30 from three-point range.
Six of the eight UNLV players that played in the game scored.
Coming into the game, Queta was a cause for attention being the Defensive Player of the Year for the Mountain West in 2019.
“When [the Aggies] are at their best, Queta is catching the ball where he wants and making plays for other people,” Otzelberger said. “For him to only have three assists, three turnovers tonight and end up with eight [points], he’s a very dominant interior player so I thought our guys had good defensive awareness off-the-ball.”
Senior forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong was tasked with the job of handling Queta on both ends of the floor.
“I think we did a great job with Queta,” Wood said. “I think Mbacke did an unbelievable job on him the whole night. He limited his touches and his points so I’ve got to give props to Mbacke on the great job tonight.”
Queta finished with eight points on nine shot attempts to go along with 11 rebounds.
However, he did account for six blocks on the defensive end, three more than the entire UNLV team.
Mbacke countered with four points, 11 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.