Runnin’ Rebels set to compete in the Mountain West Conference Tournament

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Bryce Hamilton (13) turning to the Runnin' Rebels bench after hitting a three-pointer during UNLV's home game against Colorado State. Photo by Jordan Anders-McClain.

The Runnin’ Rebels earned the No. 5 seed in the 2022 Mountain West (MW) Tournament and will compete against the No. 4 seed, the Wyoming Cowboys, in the quarterfinals to begin the hunt for the Conference Championship. 

UNLV only faced Wyoming once this season for the last home game on Mar. 2, where the Rebels put up a huge defensive effort to win 64-57. 

This time around it’s different, a championship title is on the line. 

While last time out was just another regular-season game, this is win or go home. Since the Rebels finished within the top 5 seeds in the MW, they got a bye through the first round of the tournament, giving them an extra day to practice and secure a game plan going into Thursday afternoon.

“The game plan for Wyoming,” Donovan Williams said. “They’re a team that likes to play heavily in the post, they like to beat you up physically in the paint, getting offensive and defensive rebounds.” 

“So for us the game plan is to match their physicality, match their toughness, and just play a brand of basketball defensively that we know how to play. On the offensive end, just work together, use each other, and be the team we know we can be offensively.”  

In UNLV and Wyoming’s previous meeting, the Rebel’s defense held the Cowboys to just .86 points per possession which would make for Wyoming’s worst offensive performance of the season. 

One player that came up big offensively and defensively that game was Royce Hamm Jr, who held Wyoming’s leading scorer Graham Ike to just 6-of-19 on the floor, while Hamm finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. 

Ike is second on the MW leaders board in points per game just behind UNLV’s Bryce Hamilton, so it’s safe to say a big key to winning this quarterfinal match will be stopping Ike, and Hamm will be the one to do it. 

As far as offense, Hamilton is averaging 21.8 points per game this season and has finished as the Rebels’ leading scorer in 14 of the 18 conference games played this season. 

It will be a battle of who will be able to stop the top 2 MW leading scorers for a chance to play in the semifinals against the winner of No. 1 Boise State vs No. 8 Nevada/ No.9 New Mexico.

While offense and defense will play a big role not only in this game but the whole tournament as well, another factor is the Rebels being able to play in front of a home crowd on their court. 

“Having the home court advantage, it’s your home court, it’s your floor, it’s your fans, it’s our city,” Williams said. “Just for us, we just want to be the team in the tournament the city can be proud of. We want people to come out and watch us play this year. We want people to come back and watch us next year.”

“Our biggest goal is giving something the fans can cheer for.”

You can cheer on the Runnin’ Rebels as they take on the Wyoming Cowboys in the quarterfinals of the 2022 MW Tournament, tip-off is set for 2:30 p.m. 

For those fans unable to attend in person, you can catch the game on the CBS Sports Network. 

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