Runnin’ Rebels suffer first loss of season to No. 4 Michigan
UNLV suffered its first loss of the season, coming in double-digit fashion to No. 4 Michigan.
The Wolverines beat the Runnin’ Rebels, 74-61, from the T-Mobile Arena on opening night of the Roman Main Event.
“We would love to say that we’re happy that we hung tough,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “But honestly that’s not really the feeling right now.”
Now sitting at 3-1 on the year, UNLV will turn its attention to a Sunday, Nov. 21 matchup with the Wichita State Shockers.
“There’s really no reason to not have a standard or expectation about ourselves,” Kruger said. “To be able to play in a game and compete and beat Michigan. Not saying we’re ready to do that right now but I don’t think, with this group, that it’s unfair with this group to ask that and demand that this season.”
Tip-off is set for 9 p.m.
“We kind of see it as the same opportunity,” Kruger said. “Wichita State is a great program and has got its culture and expectations of going to the tournament and winning games in the tournament. So to have another opportunity really is great for us as a program and as a team this early.”
Michigan advances to play Arizona in the championship game of the Roman Main Event.
Ultimately, a key scoreless stretch gave the Rebels no real chance at upsetting its Big Ten opponent.
Facing a two-point deficit, UNLV went scoreless for more than four minutes and would eventually go for 2-for-10 during a six-minute period.
“There were a number of opportunities again where we could’ve given in,” Kruger said. “But guys fought and competed to get good shots to end runs.”
To get to that point, the Rebels had to battle back from a double-digit deficit in the first half as team leading scorer from last year, Bryce Hamilton, struggled.
Hamilton started the game 1-for-4, with his first basket coming seven minutes into the game.
“Like coach said, that happened to us in our first four games,” he said. “Against Michigan, that just can’t happen. That’s something that we’re going to have to get better at and just keep playing the whole 40 minutes.”
However, he would help engineer a 9-0 UNLV run, where he hit a timely three-pointer to help send his team into halftime down three.
Hamilton hit another three coming out of halftime to tie the game at 35 apiece.
He would hit another long-range shot before ending the night with 21 points on 9-of-23 shooting.
In addition to the scoreless stretch, the Rebels found themselves behind the eight-ball due to fouls.
Fifth-year senior Royce Hamm Jr. came close to a block about halfway through the first half with UNLV down five but was whistled for a foul. One made free throw pushed the lead to six.
Hamm Jr. was called for his third foul of the game 30 seconds into the second half.
The foul bug didn’t just bite Hamm Jr. as it played a pivotal role for guard Jordan McCabe as well.
McCabe was whistled for back-to-back fouls, nine seconds apart from each other, with UNLV down six.
Hamilton was called for a foul three seconds later putting the Rebels in five fouls in the first seven and a half minutes of the second half.
Moreover, the last four fouls for UNLV were called within 43 seconds of each other.
“I thought [our guys] guarded them,” Kruger said. “And they competed. Again, [Michigan is] a well-oiled machine. As I mentioned the other day, they’re where we want to be.”