UNLV gave the No. 1 team in the Mountain West all it could handle before simply running out of gas in the team’s latest outing.
The Runnin’ Rebels fell to the Boise State Broncos, 86-76, Saturday, Feb. 26 from the Thomas & Mack Center.
It’s just the fourth time in 15 tries this season, the program has lost at home.
“[We] showed a lot of fight and a lot of grit,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “To come back on a team like Boise and give ourselves a chance to win. I was really proud of that side of it but on the other side, you can’t let a team like Boise get its rhythm going and offensively flow like it did.”
With the loss, UNLV has its three-game win streak snapped.
The team is now 17-12 on the year and 9-7 in the Mountain West with two more games to play.
“There are no moral victories,” Kruger said. “It’s about winning and losing, without question. But when you do have an older group, film is different. Walking through what we do differently is different because they have the game experience through their careers.”
Senior night is next for the Rebels as they prepare to welcome in the Wyoming Cowboys Wednesday, March 2.
Senior guard Bryce Hamilton looked as if he was in for a horrid shooting night in the first half but tightened up his performance in the second half. Hamilton scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half after a 10-minute first half.
He did not score his first points of the game until nearly 13 minutes into the game.
Shortly after, he’d commit his fourth turnover of the first half, two of which were on offensive foul calls.
“Those charges early on are real momentum shifts,” Kruger said. “No matter who you are, it’s in the back of your head that if you go into the paint if you go to try to make a layup or make a play, [the Broncos] are going to rotate over, they’re going to take charges.”
As a team, UNLV committed 10 turnovers while Boise State only committed eight.
The second half is where Hamilton shined, matching his first half scoring output in the first 2:58 of the 20-minute period.
“Just being able to get to my shots,” he said. “The coaches drew up a couple of plays for me and the coaches and my teammates help me and believe in me to be able to make those plays. I knew I had to get it going in the second half and that’s what I did.”
Hamilton ended the night shooting 8-of-17 from the field with five rebounds and two assists.
UNLV’s second half push came when Hamilton got going but early in the game, it was the team’s bench that kept the game close.
“The bench helped a lot,” Hamilton said. “That was huge for them. That’s just something for the starters – I’ll take that myself. We just have to do better starting out well. [The Broncos] started out really hot and they felt comfortable the entire game but the bench did a good job coming in and being ready to play.”
Junior Donovan Williams scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half.
With the help of junior forward David Muoka, the Rebel bench put up 20 points before the Bronco bench could break into the score column.
After the team fell behind by 13 points early, the bench went on a 12-2 run to cut the lead to two.
Eventually, the lead was cut to one on Hamilton’s first points of the game.
In the second half, the team would tie the game at 53. That would serve as the lone tie of the ballgame.
UNLV did hold a lead on several occasions in the second half with the first coming about four and a half minutes out of the halftime break.
“While we end up in a great punches thrown back-and-forth in the second half,” Kruger said. “Lead changes, big plays made on both sides; it still had a feel like we’re going to have to do something here to turn the tide.”
The game featured eight lead changes with all of them coming in the second half.
However, offensive rebounds told the story late with the Rebels failing to keep the Broncos off the offensive glass.
Fifth-year senior Royce Hamm Jr. said after the game, the team collectively just goes after the rebound.
Kruger added to that notion.
“I think one, they have a lot of guys that can go,” Kruger said. “But they also understand when to go. If you’re going to out-rebound Boise, you just have to be so disciplined about boxing out every time – all five guys.”
UNLV lost the rebounding battle, 38-29, including being outrebounded, 13-6, on the offensive side.
Hamm Jr. finished with 12 points and four rebounds.