Just days after one of the Mountain West’s biggest upsets of the season, the UNLV Rebels had another sizable contest on Tuesday,
Not because of the quality opponent, which was the case against Colorado State, who’s not just one of the most formidable teams in the Mountain West, but across the entirety of the mid-major class nationwide.
Tuesday was big because, well, it’s a rivalry game! Not just any ol’ rivalry, though — it was this season’s first iteration of the Silver State rivalry against instrastate foe Nevada, who’s won eight straight and 11 of the last 13 versus the Rebels.
UNLV got the best of its foe up north on Saturday with the 69-58 victory over the Wolf Pack — who were shorthanded — at home in Las Vegas, Nev., snapping its eight-game rivalry skid. Nevada has now lost four of its five games and drops to 9-10 (3-5 MWC) while UNLV moves to 13-9 (5-4 MWC).
The Pack were without two of their top-four players Tuesday: Grant Sherfield (foot), one of the best point guards in the Mountain West, plus Warren Washington (hand), one of the conference’s best shot blockers and offensive rebounders, who missed his second straight game.
Nevada shot a dismal 34.5 percent, including 3-of-17 (17.6 percent) from distance a game removed from posting a season-low 13.3 3-point percentage.
Kenan Blackshear topped the team with a season-high 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting and 2-of-4 from 3-point range. Desmond Cambridge tallied 14 points, but made just four field goals on 20 attempts, in addition to his seven rebounds plus team-highs in blocks (3) and steals (4).
Will Baker finished with 13 points on 5-of-15 shooting, grabbing a team-most eight boards. Tre Coleman added 10 points on a perfect (!) 5-of-5 shooting, adding four rebounds, one steal and one block.
UNLV canned 39.7 percent of its shots, though it rained 12 3-pointers — outscoring Nevada by 27 from distance — at a 37.5 percent clip. Only five Rebel players scored — four in double-digits.
Coming off a well-deserved Mountain West player of the week award because of his sensational 45-point performance at Colorado State, UNLV guard and the conference’s leading scorer Bryce Hamilton had 17 points on 6-of-17 shooting with five rebounds and two assists.
Donovan Williams, who was labeled doubtful (knee) this morning due to injury, still played, tallying 17 points — tying Hamilton for the team high — on 6-of-11 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Jordan McCabe had 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, adding four assists and a team-high three steals. Mike Nuga totaled 10 points, five rebounds plus dishing out a team-high five assists.
Royce Hamm Jr. was the lone single-digit scorer for the Rebels, coming one point short on three shots. He grabbed a team-high eight rebounds and rejected one shot.
Both teams had just eight combined points in the first five minutes after beginning 2-for-13. Hamilton’s four-point play conversion gave UNLV the 11-5 lead.
The Wolf Pack were sorely missing Sherfield, who accumulated three times as many turnovers (3) as made baskets (1) through the first 9:36. Baker’s jump hook cut the Rebel lead to seven, 24-17, with 4:48 remaining in the first half.
After the Pack eventually trimmed it to six, UNLV ended the final 3:57 on a 15-5 run to widen its advantage to 42-26 heading into the break. (Three of the Pack’s five points over that span came courtesy of a ridiculous 30-plus foot buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Blackshear.)
Nevada shot just 25.9 percent in the first half, including 2-of-8 from deep and 10-of-11 from the charity stripe; UNLV shot 39.4 percent, with nine of its 13 field goals coming from beyond the arc at a 39.1 percent clip.
The Wolf Pack exited halftime on an 20-6 run to trim the lead to five. But UNLV retaliated back with a 10-2 run — capped by Hamilton’s jumper — that made it 58-46 with 7:20 remaining. Hamilton’s silky smooth jumper with 1:30 remaining iced UNLV’s 13th victory of the season and its first win over Nevada since Feb. of 2018.
Next up: Nevada will play the second of its four-game-in-seven-day stretch at Fresno State on Friday before traveling to play San Diego State on Sunday.