Runnin’ Rebels fall to first-place Boise State 86-76

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Bryce Hamilton driving to the basket during the Runnin' Rebels home game against Boise State, UNLV lost 76-86. Photo by Jordan Anders-McClain.

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The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels had their three-game win streak snapped by the Boise State Broncos, losing the game 86-76 Saturday night. 

The Broncos were the last team to beat the Runnin’ Rebels, 69-63 on Feb. 11, and they currently sit at the top of the Mountain West Conference with less than a week to go before the conference tournament.

Bryce Hamilton led UNLV with a team-high 25 points, along with five rebounds. Donovan Williams came off the bench to score 17 points on 70% shooting.

“I thought that we showed a lot of fight and a lot of grit to come back on a team like Boise State and give ourselves a chance to win. I was really proud of that side of it,” head coach Kevin Kruger said, “but on the other side, you can’t let a team like Boise State get their rhythm going and offensively flow like they did. They are too good.”

The Broncos came out of the gates strong early. Abu Kigab scored eight points for them within the first four minutes of the game.

Some strong shooting for the Broncos saw them stretch the lead to 10 points with six minutes gone in the first half. Marcus Shaver Jr. dropped 15 points on 63% shooting for the Broncos in the first half.

Hamilton had a rough start to the game. The Broncos clearly knew who the biggest offensive threat to them would be, as they played tough defense on Hamilton, forcing him into a turnover or a tough shot.

With the score at 19-9 to the Broncos, the Runnin’ Rebels needed a spark and they got that from their bench. Led by Williams with some help from David Muoka and Justin Webster, the UNLV went on an 18-10 run.  

Hamilton knocked down a jumper for his first points of the half to cut the lead for the Broncos to one point, but it seemed every time the Runnin’ Rebels would get close the Broncos would heat up and extend their lead.

Offensive rebounds were a problem for the Runnin’ Rebels, while the Broncos retrieved seven offensive rebounds and outscored UNLV 12-5 on second-chance points in the first half.

The Runnin’ Rebels were able to capture some momentum to end the first half. Muoka completed two huge dunks which got a packed Thomas & Mack Center on their feet.

The first half ended with the Broncos leading 47-41. 

Williams led the Runnin’ Rebels with 12 points at the half, while Muoka also came off the bench to score nine points. UNLV outscored the Broncos bench by a massive 27-10 in the first half.

The Rebels came out hot in the second half, Hamilton began to shine, scoring nine quick points to give the Runnin’ Rebels a 55-53 lead with five minutes gone in the second half. 

Hamilton scored 20 of his 25 points in the second half.

The Broncos continued to unleash Kigab on the offensive end. As their leading scorer this season, he went shot for shot with Hamilton. 

Eventually, the Broncos were able to establish a lead after they went 69-64 up with eight minutes to go in the second half.

Foul trouble for the Runnin’ Rebels meant Hamilton and Royce Hamm Jr. had to sit on the bench for key minutes of the second half.

Meanwhile, Shaver continued to be a pain for the Runnin’ Rebels. He scored a crucial layup to put the Broncos up 79-70 with two minutes remaining in the game.

Kigab missed two crucial free throws with one minute remaining, which appeared to give the Rebels a chance. UNLV could not capitalize, as they missed their final few shots to lose the game 86-76.

The win completes the sweep for the Broncos over the Rebels. Shaver finished with 27 points for the Broncos while Kigab added 23 points.

The Runnin’ Rebels will remain at home for senior night when they face the Wyoming Cowboys on Mar. 2 at 7:30 p.m. UNLV will then wrap up the season on March 5 when it travels to New Mexico to take on the Lobos at 8 p.m.

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