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Rebels survive scare from Spartans, squeak by 70-62

Photo Credit: Lucas Peltier/UNLV Athletics

UNLV’s dominance at the Thomas & Mack Center continued Saturday adding its eighth home win in 11 outings.

The Runnin’ Rebels defeated the San Jose State Spartans, 70-62, Saturday, Jan. 22 from the Thomas & Mack Center. “I’m just ecstatic and proud of how the guys just continue to fight no matter what’s going on,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “Learning that [junior forward] Donovan Williams was going to be out 15 minutes before the game and just adapting and adjusting, knowing that San Jose State was going to compete and not be the same team we played [Monday].”

Earlier this week, UNLV beat San Jose State by 25 points at the Provident Credit Union Event Center.

While the Rebels improve to 11-8 on the year and 3-3 in the Mountain West, it sends the Spartans to 7-10 and still in search of their first conference win.

In addition, it marked the seventh win in the last 10 games for the program. Though only two of those wins came against teams with plus-.500 records.

All three losses have come to teams with .500 records or better.

Next the team will travel for a Monday, Jan. 24 date against the San Diego State Aztecs. That will be the fourth game in the last week.

“It’s a tough stretch for us,” senior guard Bryce Hamilton said. “But we can’t complain. Everybody else is going through it so we just have to be able to adapt. Whatever game they give us, we’re just happy to still be able to play.”

The Aztecs beat the Rebels, 62-55, on New Year’s Day at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“I feel like we can play with them,” Hamilton said. “We’re a pretty good team, we just have to stay disciplined out there for 40 minutes. They’re a great team and they have great tradition. They killed us in the rebounding the first time so that’s going to be a big emphasis for us.”

In the 80 minutes over two games between UNLV and San Jose State, the Spartans have led for 17 total seconds.

This game was more of the same level of dominance as the first.

The Rebels made eight of their first nine baskets before shooting 63% in the first half, building a lead as large as 14 points.

That shooting percentage stayed above 60 well into the second half while the lead grew to 16.

San Jose State would cut into the lead, getting it down to eight twice. The Spartans would get the lead down to as little as four points with about a minute left in the game.

“I feel like [it] did a pretty good job [with its zone defense],” Hamilton said. “They have a lot of length, they were able to bother us a little bit so we weren’t expecting that. But overall, we did pretty well against it. They got out of it once we were able to get a [few] more buckets.”

Kruger admitted down-the-stretch he was a little “anxious.” With 5:46 left in regulation, UNLV held a 10-point lead and had a 58% mark from the field while holding its opponent to 35% shooting.

Hamilton led all scorers with 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting after starting the game 0-for-2 from the field.

It’s the second straight game he’s crossed over into 30-point territory and the third time this season. He has now scored 30 or more points four times in his collegiate career.

This is the first time he’s done it in back-to-back games.

“Just taking what the defense gives me,” Hamilton said. “Just being patient on the offensive end, starting inside-out. I’m just trying to attack the paint more and get my flow going and I just feel like as a team, we’ve been moving the ball a lot better.”

Hamilton didn’t score his first basket of the game until nearly 11 and a half minutes into the first half.

That was largely in part to six different players accounting for the team’s first eight made field goals.

By the 5:32-mark of the first half, all eight players that saw the floor for UNLV had also scored.

From there, Hamilton took over. He scored 14 points in the first half, making five of his last six shots from the field.

This included a buzzer-beating three from the “Thomas & Mack Center” floor lettering on the UNLV home court just before halftime.

In Monday’s contest, he was held to 12 points on 4-of-12 from the field.

Senior guard Jordan McCabe was the only other Rebel player in double figures with 11 points with three made three-pointers.

Junior forward Donovan Williams was in attendance and present on the Rebel bench but did not play.

After the game, Kruger did confirm it was an injury-related DNP but did not specify the type of injury.

Freshman guard Keshon Gilbert got the start in place of Williams, making it his first collegiate start.

“I don’t want to say [learning last minute] affected me because I’ve been ready,” Gilbert said. “I just stayed down and kept working until my time was called. I’ve been ready for this moment.”

The team was already without guards Marvin Coleman and Josh Baker, who have both missed the last two contests for UNLV.


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