The Runnin’ Rebels remain undefeated to start the season after beating the California Golden Bears 55-52 for their second home game of the year played in front of fans filling the Thomas & Mack.
UNLV are 2-0 for the first time since the 2017-18 season and are 6-3 all-time against the Golden Bears.
To open the first half, Bryce Hamilton lets it fly from 3-point line, starting an 8-2 run for the Runnin’ Rebels.
UNLV came out in a man-to-man full court press not switching when hit with a screen. The Golden Bears still managed to go on a 12-4 run to tie the score 12-12, halfway through the first half.
Offensively, the Runnin’ Rebels got cold and began to trail 20-17, but with two minutes left to go in the first half freshman Keshon Gilbert made a big three-pointer to end the first half 30-29.
To open the second half, the Runnin’ Rebels turned defense into offense. Donovan Williams caused an offensive foul on Golden Bear Andre Kelly and UNLV’s Michael Nuga came down on the other end from beyond the arc, knocking down a 3-pointer.
With 15 minutes left in the ball game, Gilbert threw an alley-oop pass to Royce Hamm Jr. to spark up the Runnin’ Rebels offensive intensity.
Defensively, the Runnin’ Rebels double-teamed the Bears immediately when they passed the three-point line, causing 10 turnovers in the ball game.
The Golden Bears saw daylight on the offensive side of the ball and went on a 13-5 run to take a four-point lead, 42-38.
The Rebels began to rely on their three-point shooting ability, with Josh Baker and Jordan McCabe hitting back-to-back threes to cut the lead to two points, 46-44.
Three minutes left to play and the Runnin’ Rebels began doing what they do best and driving the ball to the basket taking the lead 51-48.
Defensively, again, the Runnin’ Rebels pressed full-court man-to-man.
With 45 seconds left on the clock, Golden Bear Jordan Shepherd drove to the paint, but it was blocked by Hamm Jr. The Bears had one more chance to score the ball, but Shepherd couldn’t find the bottom of the net from beyond the arc.
Jordan McCabe was sent to the line and made both free throws with 13 seconds left on the clock.
The Runnin’ Rebels step up defensively and offensively when it’s needed to shift momentum on their side.
“We are just really proud of the team,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “There were a number of times where things could have gone the other way, but we just continued to fight and battle. We had some big plays down the stretch, and again, Keshon Gilbert just goes in and changes the flow of the game.”
“It’s fun to watch. [Gilbert] plays hard and the city is going to love him – he just plays basketball the way it’s supposed to be played. Donovan Williams goes in there and just plays as hard as he can. It was huge for us. Looking forward to watching the film and getting ready for Monday.”
Hamilton led the Runnin’ Rebels with 12 points while Nuga had 10 points and Williams had eight points.
The Runnin’ Rebels will be facing North Dakota State on Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack before participating in the Roman Main Event where they will be facing the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 19 at 9:30 p.m. at the T-Mobile Area.