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Runnin’ Rebel Recap: UNLV pushes the pace against San Jose State and New Mexico

San Jose State v UNLV Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

Coming off a difficult road trip that saw the Rebels lose its first conference game and needing overtime to beat Wyoming, UNLV regrouped at home to cruise past San Jose State and New Mexico.

The Rebels exploded on offense, they managed to get scoring from many players in a variety of ways. UNLV defeated San Jose State 98-87 on Wednesday and took care of New Mexico 99-78 Saturday afternoon. UNLV remains in sole possession of second place of the conference, 6-1, and 11-9 overall.

Rebels utilize its size and depth to drain Spartans

Just like how the Rebels have turned some heads, the Spartans have caught the attention of plenty on the conference. They upset UNR and New Mexico, and gave San Diego State a late scare, so they are no push-over.

Even with an improved Spartans team, UNLV dominated inside and got double-figure scoring from six players to win over San Jose State.

Shining for the Rebels again was Marvin Coleman, who lead the Rebels with 17 points. Mbacke Diong impressed with another double-double, 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Diong lead the Rebels, as they dominated the glass, out-rebounding San Jose State 45-23.

Its dominance on the glass helped UNLV set up its transition offense. The Rebels had a lot more flow and movement offensively. The movement was evident in the assist total for UNLV, where they had 23.

The Rebels, who have struggled to knock down open shots, took full advantage of the looks San Jose State gave them. UNLV went 55.4% from the field, and 40% from three.

Jonah Antonio hit five of 10 threes, for all 15 of his points. And Bryce Hamilton went six of 10 to score 16 points off the bench.

UNLV lead by as many as 20 late, but San Jose State finished the game on a 17-9 run to make the game closer than it was. Seneca Knight carried the Spartans with his 30 points in 34 minutes.

UNLV piles on the points against New Mexico

How do you top a 98-point performance? Score 99. And this time, make some history in the process.

The two shining stars for the Rebels in conference play, Hamilton and Coleman, both had historic nights against the Lobos.

Hamilton had a career high 35 points on 14 of 19 (74%) shooting. Coleman notched a triple-double,11 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assist, he is the first for a UNLV player since 1999.

Both players have found a significant role under new coach T.J. Otzelberger. Hamilton has become an effective scorer over the past month, who can drive to the basket and finish.

Coleman has turned into the point guard the Rebels need. He logged over 37 minutes, but he did not look tired. Coleman hyped up the energized Thomas and Mack Center crowd and heard his name chanted from the crowd.

“I just felt like there was a point in that game where our guy’s togetherness and their union, and the amazing crowd really came together, and we all saw how awesome Runnin’ Rebel basketball can truly be,” Otzelberger said after the win.

UNLV only lead 43-40 at halftime, but the Rebels managed to tire out a thin Lobos roster. A key moment of the game was when Otzelberger switched to a four-guard lineup, that saw Diong on the bench for an extended period of time.

“Offensively for us, when they are playing that 1-3-1, our pace and flow wasn’t great early,” Otzelberger said. “We thought that we needed multiple ballhandlers out there, multiple guys we can hit ahead and can attack in transition. In essence, beat them down the floor.”

Five Rebels scored in double-figures. Antonio and Nick Blair each had 14. And Hardy added 12.

UNLV has been able to take advantage of the zone defenses from its last two opponents to get pace and transition in its offense. And the Rebels players and coaching staff will make the necessary adjustments to give themselves the best chance to win, “Every game is going to call a different equation,” Otzelberger said.

The Rebels might not pay with this pace and excitement for every game the rest of the season but Otzelberger promises the team will do anything and everything it takes to win.

“All in all, we love to get out and run. We love to play up tempo, we love that energy in Thomas and Mack, and fans on their feet, and dunks, and transition threes. Those are great, but to me, the only stat that matters is winning, and we are going to focus on that each game.”

UNLV hits the road and will travel up north to face UNR Wednesday at 8 p.m. They return home on Sunday afternoon to host undefeated San Diego State.