The Runnin’ Rebels finished off non-conference play on a four game-winning streak before they head into conference play which will kick off in 2022.
On Jan. 1, UNLV will host San Diego State to begin a 17-game Mountain West (MW) conference schedule which will end March 5, days before the MW Championship tournament begins at the Thomas & Mack Center.
After a small rough patch on the teams first road trip where they went winless, the team regrouped and came back to win all four remaining games by double digits before the break. Through the 13 games, the Runnin’ Rebels sit 8-5 and sixth in the conference standings.
One thing we’ve learned about this team so far this season is chemistry is everything. The scarlet and gray, working on and off the court in Vegas to build that chemistry has been a huge part in the team’s success, hence having a 6-1 home record.
While all the players have contributed to a win this season, the starters have not only made a huge impact on the court but in their own individual ranks.Through the first half of the season, senior guard Bryce Hamilton currently ranks 47th in the nation in points per game and 5th in the MW averaging 18.6 a game.
In the backcourt, dishing out the passes is Jordan McCabe, who ranks 46th in the nation in assists per game and 5th in the MW. Cleaning up the glass, Royce Hamm Jr averages 9.9 rebounds per game, putting him at 17th in the nation and 2nd in the MW.
With Hamilton being the leading scorer in 10 out of the 13 games played, the next man up was a question that needed to be answered before heading into the second half of the season. Then, Donovan Williams came out putting up a career high 32 points against Hartford on Dec. 11.
Since then, Williams is averaging 12.5 PPG while shooting 47% from the field, which ranks him 17th in the MW. Defensively, the Rebels have shined and that starts with freshman Keshon Gilbert who is leading the MW with 3.46 steals per 40 minutes played.
As a team, the scarlet and gray are ranked 31st in assist turnover ratio. Ahead of them are two teams in the MW: Utah State, ranked 18th, and Colorado State, ranked third. With a tough conference, each team being ranked in different offensive and defensive statistics, UNLV has the potential to play its third ranked opponent this season.
If No. 20 Colorado State stays in AP’s top 25 by the time the Rebels travel to play them on Jan. 28, it will be the Runnin’ Rebels third ranked opponent after facing UCLA and Michigan earlier this season. On top of that, CSU is one of the four remaining teams that are undefeated with a 10-0 non-conference record.
The good news for UNLV is it still has a chance to make it into a bid for March Madness. The bad news is they’ll need to play at full potential for the remaining 17 games and the MW tournament. They can certainly do it now with the team back at full power with Victor Iwuakor finally cracking the lineup after injuries kept him out the first nine games.
With the team at full strength and chemistry at an all-time high, the team is more than ready to come out of conference play with a winning record and they’ve proven they have the drive to do it.
Home Game Schedule
Jan. 1 vs San Diego State
Jan. 11 vs New Mexico – Pack the Mack
Jan. 14 vs Fresno State – Faculty and Staff Appreciation
Jan. 22 vs San Jose State – Coaches vs Cancer
Feb. 1 vs Nevada – Rivalry Red Out
Feb. 8 vs Air Force – A date with the Rebels
Feb. 19 vs Colorado State – Robert Smith Jersey Retirement
Feb. 26 vs Boise State – Black Out/ Student Appreciation
Mar. 2 vs Wyoming – Senior Night/ White Out
Make sure to catch the Runnin’ Rebels back at the Thomas & Mack to host San Diego State in the MW conference opener at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 1. Students can get their tickets for free on UNLVTickets.com.