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UNLV gets third series sweep of season, this time against San Jose State

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels completed its season sweep of the San Jose State Spartans with a win in a Sunday matinee game.


The Rebels beat the Spartans, 67-64, Sunday, Feb. 21 from the Provident Credit Union Event Center.


“Fortunately, [senior forward Cheikh] Mbacke Diong was a warrior today,” head coach TJ Otzelberger said. “No play bigger than that last play, that last offensive rebound to help bring home a victory so you don’t get style points this time of year in league play, we’re lucky and fortunate to come out with a win.”


UNLV has now won its last eight meetings against San Jose State and have not lost to the team in four years.


Overall, the Rebels lead the all-time series 43-6 including sporting a 19-4 record in San Jose.


Now sitting with a 10-11 overall record and 7-7 mark in Mountain West conference play, good for sixth in the conference standings.


Coming off its third series sweep of the season, UNLV will now head home for a season-ending two-game series from the Thomas & Mack Center.


“I think our identity is defense,” Mbacke said. “When we get seven [stops] in a row, 10-in-a-row, we convert it pretty well on the offensive end.”


Fresno State is next on the schedule for the program with game one scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 24.


Tip-off is set for 8 p.m.


“The league’s communication this week [means] we’ll hear more,” Otzelberger said. “So from what I understand there’s some calls and some meetings that are scheduled for early this week to try to determine [if we’ll play beyond the Fresno State series] but we haven’t had any official word at this point as to whether we will or won’t have any additional games.”


UNLV paused it’s basketball program for 33 days in December after a positive COVID test.


During that time, the program cancelled two non-conference games and postponed for conference games against Wyoming and San Diego State.


As this season has proved, the second game of these conference matchups have proven to provide a tighter contest.


This game featured eight lead changes and 10 ties.


It also featured the Rebels sporting a 13-point lead with 10 minutes left in regulation before the Spartans went on a 13-0 run to tie the game with 7:45 to go.


“We knew we had the arrow possession so the time was going down,” Mbacke said. “I was in a good position, wedging my guy, and luckily we got the jump ball and possession so I think that was a big time play for us to win the game.”


Three different players scored in double-figures for UNLV with two posting double-doubles.


Junior guard Bryce Hamilton led the way with 17 points and 12 rebounds despite shooting 7-of-25 from the field.


It was the second double-double of the season for the California native and his sixth of his career.


Senior forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong posted 13 points and 13 rebounds on 6-of-9 shooting.


It was the third double-double of the year for the Senegal product and the ninth of his career.


“I think there’s really three ways against a zone that you’re going to try and be effective,” Otzelberger said. “Beat it down the floor, get interior passes and have physicality on the interior and then offensive rebounding.”


UNLV won the rebounding battle, 59-29, ending the two-game series +50 in the rebound category.


“The coaches emphasized getting to the glass in this series,” Mbacke said. “We didn’t do a good job last game on the glass -- I had zero rebounds, [Hamilton] got 0 offensive rebounds so that wasn’t good enough work for us to do that.”


In addition, the Rebels won the second chance points battle 20-0 while ending the night +10 as far as points in the paint.


Junior guard David Jenkins Jr. scored 13 points off-the-bench making four threes on 4-of-15 from the floor.


Even with the win, Otzelberger addressed his team’s 36 percent shooting mark from the field.


“I think when teams change defenses and play zones and mix things up and switch, maybe your shots come from some different places,” Otzelberger said. “You’re getting shots in a different rhythm than you normally get them. I mean, even David Jenkins early had some wide-open ones and the numbers say he’s as good of a shooter as anyone is out there.”


For the second consecutive game, the team did a good job defensively on conference leading scorer Richard Washington.


He was held to 10 points on 3-of-11 shooting from the field.


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