UNLV exercises demons, beat UNR for first time in four years
Updated: Feb 2, 2022
It had been four years since UNLV had last beaten Nevada – Reno but that is now a thing of the past following the latest meeting between the two rivals.
UNLV beat UNR, 69-58, Tuesday, Feb. 1 from the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Rebels had lost the last eight meetings to the Wolf Pack.
“Man, it feels amazing,” senior guard Bryce Hamilton said. “It’s my first time getting this win. All credit to the guys. [UNR] didn’t have their best player tonight but we didn't take them lightly. We still stepped up, everybody stepped up.”
The win against UNR at the Thomas & Mack Center was the first since the 2015-16 season.
UNLV is now 13-9 on the year and 5-4 in the Mountain West. Currently, the team is sixth in the conference.
In addition, the program is now 9-3 at home this season.
“If you guys write anything, please write about how unbelievable that crowd was,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “And the energy and the student section. My goodness, that was so much fun to come out of the tunnel and just see how much life was in the Thomas & Mack.”
Now, the Rebels will head back to the road for a conference matchup against the Utah State Aggies.
“I feel like we’re clicking a little bit,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got a tough one on Saturday against Utah State. They’re probably playing the best right now in our conference.”
The game will be played Saturday, Feb. 5 with tipoff set for 3 p.m.
UNLV was about as close to full strength as it could get as it got juniors Donovan Williams and Josh Baker back from injury.
With nearly a full-deck at his disposal, Kruger was rewarded with four players reaching double-digits in scoring.
Williams got right in on the action despite not starting. Upon entering the game, he drained the team’s first three-pointer for a record 1,151th straight game with a made three.
“There was a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “It was kind of a game-time decision. When the guys got back from Colorado on Saturday, I’ve just been with the trainer everyday since then to see if I would be healthy enough, strong enough – it was more of a mental thing.”
Williams was the first to double-digits, adding another three to his credit giving him 11 in the first half.
That three-pointer came in front of the UNR bench and something was said in the direction of the rivals, drawing a technical foul on Williams.
He finished the game with 17 points on 6-of-11 from the field with four made threes.
Senior guard Jordan McCabe added 11 of his 14 points in the first half as well. Much like Williams, McCabe drained four three-pointers.
“Jordan’s a great shooter,” Hamilton said. “We tell him to ‘Shoot, shoot.’ He stepped up today, he played really well. [Guard Mike Nuga] played really well. Of course, Donovan, [forward Royce Hamm Jr.], everybody played their part.”
As a team, UNLV went 12-for-32 from deep while holding UNR to 3-of-17.
Hamilton, the team’s leading scorer, had a slow start to the game after being named National Player of the Week.
“Bryce again answered the bell,” Kruger said. “He was patient, he didn’t force anything early. He didn't try to get 42 points. And I thought that was the maturity he showed in that.
“It was incredible, I mean, National Player of the Week? I’ll have to ask him what it feels like, [I] never had that opportunity.”
Hamilton stole the show early with an and-one three-point basket from the corner in front of UNLV’s Gucci Row.
However, Hamilton would start the game a cold 2-for-8 from the floor.
Hamilton would get it together in the second half, ending tied with Williams for team-high in points with 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting.
Fifth-year guard Mike Nuga was the final Rebel player in double-figures with 10 points and two made threes.
While UNLV was returning to nearly full-strength, UNR was without leading scorer Grant Sherfield and seven-foot forward Warren Washington.
Whether it played a factor or not, the Wolf Pack were held to one make in its first 10 attempts.
The team’s second field goal came nearly 10 minutes into the game.
During that time, the Rebels would build a lead as large as 19 points in the first half.
As it often does, the rivalry produced an interesting second half as UNR made its run.
“I don’t know, they just came and blitzed us,” Hamilton said when asked about the second half run by UNR. “They did a good job. We just have to do a better job at being ready for that trap and have other players to throw it out to.”
The Wolf Pack were able to get the lead down to as little as five points in the second 20-minute session but would get no closer.
A 7-0 run by UNLV pushed the lead back to double-digits for good.