The Runnin’ Rebels dominated Air Force in the biggest margin of victory in Conference play this season for UNLV with a 78-44 win over the Falcons.
A combination of holding the Falcons to only six made field goals in the second half and shooting a season-high 57.9% from behind the arc were the keys to success.
“I think defense is going to be our anchor,” Royce Hamm Jr said. “If we really lock in on defense throughout the course of the season, going into the conference tournament it will really help us.”
Hamm Jr played a big part in the win, offensively and defensively, racking up his sixth double-double of the season with 12 points and 16 rebounds. His 16 rebounds were the most rebounds in a single-game this season in the Mountain West.
Although the Rebels would ultimately run away with the score, it was a slow start for them, as Air Force jumped to an 0-4 lead before Bryce Hamilton knocked down the first triple of the game.
The Falcons would lead the majority of the first half by as much as six before an 8-0 run by the Rebels which included back-to-back made three-pointers by Justin Webster and Josh Baker which would give UNLV the 19-17 lead.
After taking the lead, UNLV gained momentum ending the first half on a 15-2 run to create a 14-point lead at half. The Rebels shot 52.4% from the field and 60% from three in the first half while holding Air Force to 36.4% shooting from the field and 23.1% from behind the arc.
Defense shined in the second half from start to finish as the Rebels held the Falcons to 6-of-24 shooting from the field and 3-of-12 shooting from behind the arc. UNLV’s shooting stayed hot as they went on a 13-0 run midway through the second to stretch the lead to 34.
The Rebels reached a 34-point lead with just over seven minutes left in the game and were able to hold it throughout the rest of the game, ending with a 78-44 victory.
“Proud of the guys,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “As you probably saw, we had some lineups out there that we haven’t used much, but the guys keep adjusting and playing off each other. We had two days of prep and the intent was great.”
With the win, the Runnin’ Rebels gained their 10th victory in the Thomas & Mack this season, improving to 10-3 at home. UNLV has now won 12 straight against Air Force at home, improving the all-time series record against them to 44-15.
UNLV is now 9-0 this season when limiting its opponents to 59 points or fewer. The Rebels held the Falcons to just 30.4% shooting from the field and 24.0% shooting from three.
The Rebels held Air Force to just 0.77 points per possession, which made for their second best defensive effort this season.
Hamilton led all scorers with 24 points; he has now finished in double figures in 18 straight games and has scored at least 20 points in six of the last seven games.
Jordan McCabe finished with 10 assists, his second game this season with double figure assists. The Rebels recorded 20 assists on 26 made field goals and out-rebounded the Falcons 40-18.
The Runnin’ Rebels will hit the road to face Boise State, the number one team in the Mountain West, on Feb. 11 at 8 p.m. UNLV will then travel to face Fresno State on Feb. 16 before hosting Colorado State at the Mack on Feb. 19 for Robert Smith’s jersey retirement. Tip-off is set for 5 p.m. and tickets can be purchased at unlvtickets.com