Runnin’ Rebels lose at home for third time this season, this time to Bulldogs
UNLV lost its third home game, second in Mountain West play, in 10 tries after dropping its latest conference outing.
The Runnin’ Rebels lost, 73-68, to the Fresno State Bulldogs Friday, Jan. 14 from the Thomas & Mack Center.
“Thought it was a really good fight by our guys especially there late,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “We just turned it on a little late.”
Coming into the game, UNLV had won three of its last four meetings against Fresno State. The average margin of victory in those games was 1.2 points per contest.
The program is now 9-7 on the year, 7-3 at home and 1-2 in the Mountain West.
Next up is a road game at San Jose State for the Rebels. The program has already had three games postponed this season. One being the first scheduled meeting with the Spartans.
“It’s very challenging,” senior guard Bryce Hamilton said. “You think you’re going to play one team on some days and then you end up playing somebody else. It’s just something you have to adjust to, everybody else in the country is going through it.”
At the 7:19-mark of the first half, Fresno State had led for seven minutes and 39 seconds while UNLV had led for 4:10.
Moments later when the game was tied at 22, it would mark only the second tie of the game despite neither team being able to build a lead larger than seven.
That tie at 22 would be the last tie of the game.
The Bulldogs used a 21-5 run over the last 7:44 of the first half to take a 10-point lead into halftime. That stretch was highlighted by an 8-0 run taken to the halftime buzzer.
“I feel like we played pretty well in the first half,” Hamilton said. “We played good defense, they shot [41% in the first half] I think it was more the second half, they shot [61%].”
UNLV had to withstand an early 6-0 run by its opponent before taking the lead with 11:31 left in the first half.
The Rebels built a lead as large as six points during that span.
Las Vegas native and Fresno State forward Orlando Robinson was a handful for the UNLV defense all night.
“I just think he’s really good,” Kruger said. “He does a really good job of getting the position he wants. I think that’s probably what led to the fouls – in the end I haven’t seen it yet but I think he was catching it where he wanted and with his length, it's hard to cut him off and beat him to his spot when he’s in that threatening area.”
Robinson was solely responsible for the 6-0 start by the Bulldogs, scoring all of their points during that stretch.
By the 13:56-mark of the first half, Robinson had four rebounds to the Rebels’ five as a team.
Junior forward Victor Iwuakor played some valuable minutes off-the-bench for UNLV, even forcing some tough trips down the floor for Robinson.
At one point, Iwuakor along with Hamilton were big on a defensive possession that ended in a shot-clock violation for Fresno State.
Later in the first half, he blocked Robinson.
“Vic has had an interesting first few months,” Kruger said. “You guys see him, I mean defensively and athletically, he’s gifted. He understands angles and he’s always low and ready in a stance.
“He can guard five [positions]. He can guard two of the quickest guards for stretches against New Mexico and he comes out and guards one of the best bigs on the West Coast in Robinson tonight so he’s incredibly versatile.”
Robinson still finished the first half with 16 of his 24 points.
In addition, he went 9-of-11 from the free throw line.
“It’s tough,” senior forward Royce Hamm Jr. said. “I think some of the calls were very tough in that situation. I think we just have to adjust to the calls and the plays that are being made in the game. As bigs, I’ll speak for our group, [we] just need to do the work a little bit earlier.”
He added 11 rebounds in 36 minutes of play, helping Fresno State outrebound UNLV 36-27 .
Hamilton led the team in scoring with 24 points on 9-of-19 from the floor. He scored 17 of his points in the second half.
“Yeah I think so,” Kruger said when asked if there could be anything done schematically to get Hamilton going earlier. “That’s another thing we talked about in the locker room is us as a staff continuing to try to figure out the best positions to put the guys in to create advantages for them.”
Hamilton was responsible for helping cut the deficit to five late in the second half after hitting back-to-back three-pointers.
He did miss a three-pointer with about 19 seconds left that would’ve tied the game at 71.
“Just [wanted] to get a quick shot,” Hamilton said. “Royce came and set a screen and I noticed that the big was there too late and I shot it. I probably could’ve been able to get into the paint and look to kick or shoot but I was just thinking on the fly so I just shot it.”
Hamm Jr. scored 14 points and made his first five shots from the field before missing one.
He also hauled in eight rebounds.
Junior forward Donovan Williams added 15 points on 4-of-11 shooting.