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UNLV drops opener with Boise State 78-66

Bryce Hamilton scored 26, but it was too little too late for the Runnin’ Rebels.

Utah State v UNLV Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

UNLV had a 19-13 lead midway through the first half and they were holding its own against the Boise State Broncos, who is fighting for its NCAA Tournament lives. But the next 10 plus minutes would be disastrous for the Runnin’ Rebels as they saw its lead disappear in a manner of minutes.

Down six, the Broncos scored the next 12 points to go up six, and they finished the first half on a 29-11 run to take a 12 point advantage going into halftime, and 12 points was the final margin of victory for the Broncos as they defeated the Runnin’ Rebels 78-66 on Thursday night.

“It continues to be a pattern that we don’t sustain for 40 minutes,” head coach T.J. Otzelberge said after the loss. “We need our older guys to bring better leadership. We need everybody to do their job and the care factor to be at an all-time high. Hopefully we can learn that lesson and not continue to put ourselves in this spot.”

The Broncos shot 52 percent from the field in the first half, but they made a big difference on the free throw line, making 10 first half free throws. In total, the Broncos made 18 of 22 free throws in the game, while UNLV only made four of nine.

UNLV struggled on converting on its shots inside the three-point arc, they only made 13 of 33 shots inside two-point range.

Bryce Hamilton led UNLV in scoring with 26, most of which were in the second half when UNLV was down double digits. Caleb Grill added 14 and David Jenkins has 12.

Boise State had three players score in double figures as well. Emmanuel Akot scored 16 points on 70 percent shooting. Abu Kigab had 14 points and Mladen Armus has 13 points, UNLV managed to hold Derrick Alston to only 9 points and two made field goals.

The Runnin’ Rebels fall to 8-10 overall and 5-6 in conference play, UNLV has lost all five road games it has played in conference. Boise State improves to 15-4 and they sit tied in second place in the Mountain West standings with Colorado State at 11-3, and a half game behind Utah State (11-2), who had its series this week against Wyoming canceled.

Here are some takeaways from the game:

Hamilton’s Two Halves

Hamilton was non-existent in the first half. He scored two points on one of six shooting and had two early fouls that forced him to sit for nearly eight minutes.

The second half was a different story, Hamilton scored 24 of his 26 total points in the second half. He made nine of 15 shots and hit four three pointers.

However, none of his production came when UNLV had a lead or needed some points to answer as the Broncos were making its run in the first half.

“I hate to say it this way,” Otzelberger said, “but we need Bryce to be that effective offensively when we have a chance to win the game in the first half and early in the second half.”

Hamilton is still not 100 percent with his ankle injury that forced him to miss the UNR series, and Otzelberger acknowledged that. But he still wants to see him play at his highest level from the start.

In the first half, Grill had 11 points and Jenkins was behind him with eight points, and nobody else had more than five points, Otzelberger said that part of the reason why they were down early was because Hamilton struggled so much.

“Now I hope he can carry it over when it’s time to win the game and in key moments of the game, not when we’re down double figures late,” Otzelberger said.

Missing Marvin

We have seen Otzelberger call upon a few different players to be the primary ball handler since Marvin Coleman went down with a season ending injury.

Jenkins, Blake, and Hamilton have all spent a majority of the time filling that spot for the Runnin’ Rebels. However, none of them are pure point guards like Coleman is.

Last night UNLV committed 12 turnovers and Boise State capitalized and scored 16 points off those Runnin’ Rebel turnovers, 14 of which came in the first half.

While Boise State went on its run in the first half, UNLV had more turnovers (3) than points (0) in a four minute stretch.

UNLV is also in need of a passer on the offensive end, the Runnin’ Rebels only assisted on eight of its 25 made baskets. Hamilton has shown when he is passing the ball well, UNLV does well, but he only compiled two assists and six other players had one each.

One thing to keep an eye on this offseason is to see if Otzelberger goes after a point guard either in recruiting or in the transfer portat to give UNLV another pure point guard on the roster in case they are in a similar situation in the future.

Boise on the Bubble

Entering the night, Joe Lunardi had Boise State as one of the “Last Four In,” along with fellow conference member Colorado State.

The Broncos were swept last week in Reno against the Wolf Pack, dropping Boise State out of the lead in the conference and down many bracket projections.

Boise State had the benefit of going through many of the easier teams in the conference early in league play, beating up on teams like New Mexico, San Jose State, and Air Force.

They split its series between Colorado State and the losses against the fifth place Wolf Pack dropped them a spot in the NET Rankings, and gave them two Quad 2 losses, the only Quad 2 games the Broncos have played.

Boise State desperately needs to sweep UNLV to keep its NCAA at-large chances alive, especially given they finish the season against Utah State and on the road at San Diego State.

Up Next

UNLV and Boise State face off again Saturday night, February 13 at 7:00 P.M. PT, the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and is on the radio at ESPN Las Vegas 1100 AM/100.9 FM.