There was no letdown for UNLV tonight. Three days after springing a shocking upset at San Diego State, the revitalized Rebels came right back and trounced Boise State, 76-66.
Until the final minutes (when Boise trimmed a 27-point deficit to single digits) it was about as good a performance as T.J. Otzelberger's team has put together this season, as the Rebels dominated both ends of the court. On offense, the guard trio of Bryce Hamilton, Amauri Hardy and Elijah Mitrou-Long shredded the Boise defense, especially in the second half, and finished with a combined 62 points. Defensively UNLV pressured the ball and harassed Boise State into shooting 31.3 percent.
Hardy scored a game-high 24 points. Hamilton scored 22, Mitrou-Long chipped in 16 and Marvin Coleman posted five points and 11 rebounds.
UNLV is now 11-6 in conference play, matching its win total from last season, and has clinched a bye in the first round of the Mountain West tournament. If the Rebels beat San Jose State on Saturday and Utah State slips up against New Mexico, UNLV could finish as high as third in the standings.
UNLV smoking Boise State, 60-33
UNLV is simply smoking Boise State, and with 10:49 remaining the Rebels have built a 60-33 lead.
The offense has picked up in the second half, and that's the understatement of the season — the Rebels have made 11-of-14 from the field (78.6 percent) and the backcourt trio of Amauri Hardy, Bryce Hamilton and Elijah Mitrou-Long has combined for 49 points so far.
It looks like the win over San Diego State was not a fluke. It's hard not to get excited about how well UNLV is playing right now.
UNLV looking good, leads Boise at half
The Rebels hit their stride late in the first half, and Bryce Hamilton hit a 3 on the final possession to send UNLV into the locker room with a 34-22 lead over Boise State.
Hamilton has a game-high 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, and his production came at a time when the Rebels needed it. Boise State opened the game in a zone defense, and the alignment gave UNLV's smaller lineups a hard time. Hamilton was the only UNLV player able to get to the rim for a while, and after he loosened up the defense, Elijah Mitrou-Long (six points) and Amauri Hardy (10 points) were able to take advantage.
The story for the Rebels has been on the defensive end. UNLV struggled to contain Boise State in the first meeting between the teams, but the Rebels have been sharp on that end of the court tonight. With Marvin Coleman and Elijah Mitrou-Long leading the effort, Boise has been limited to 7-of-28 shooting over the first 20 minutes. Top scorers Derrick Alson and Justinian Jessup, both of whom are All-Conference candidates, combined to score four points on 1-of-8 shooting.
If UNLV keeps up this level of defense over the second half and secures this win, it might be time to start taking the Rebels seriously as a contender to win the Mountain West tournament.
UNLV leads Boise State in defensive struggle
It has been slow-paced so far, but UNLV just used a 6-0 burst to extend its lead over Boise State to 22-13 with 4:08 left in the first half.
Boise State has used a zone defense to keep UNLV's small lineups from getting to the rim off the dribble, and the Rebels haven't been able to make them pay by hitting open 3's (3-of-14). But Bryce Hamilton has gotten into the paint a couple times and has a team-high 11 points, while Elijah Mitrou-Long has scored six. Marvin Coleman has provided toughness on the defensive end with eight rebounds and a steal.
Boise State has been held to 4-of-19 shooting, and leading scorers Justinian Jessup and Derrick Alston have combined for just two points.
Rebels take early lead over Boise State
There weren't any immediate signs of momentum for the Rebels coming off their big win over San Diego State on Saturday, but they've picked it up over the last couple minutes to build a 10-5 lead over Boise State with 11:36 left in the first half.
T.J. Otzelberger put all three of his seniors in the starting lineup for Senior Night, and that change in the rotation seemed to slow the Rebels, as they hit just one of their first seven shots from the field. But after subbing in Marvin Coleman as part of a four-guard lineup, UNLV pushed ahead. Bryce Hamilton has five points and will shoot a pair of free throws after the timeout.
Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Boise State
UNLV is still riding high after a big win over previously undefeated San Diego State on Saturday, and the Rebels hope the momentum will carry over to tonight when they face off against Boise State in a key late-season Mountain West battle.
Can UNLV extend its winning streak to four games? Three keys to watch:
Watch the fouls
Rebels fans, please have mercy on me: the refs are not out to get you. Yes, the officials have whistled a lot of fouls on UNLV this season, but that is because UNLV commits a lot of fouls. It’s part of the team’s defensive strategy — be aggressive, don’t give up easy baskets — and it’s one reason why they’ve been able to rebound well and compete defensively despite playing smaller than all of their opponents.
Boise State is a team that can exploit that mindset, however. The Broncos are top-50 in the country in terms of free-throw attempts, mostly due to the forward duo of Derrick Alston and Roderick Williams, who combine for more than 10 attempts per game. In the first meeting between these teams, Boise shot 31 free throws (to UNLV’s 19) in a 73-66 win.
UNLV will probably get called for its fair share of fouls again tonight, but a key will be to limit the cheap ones. If the Rebels can avoid touch fouls, offensive fouls and other unnecessary contact while still playing physical defense, they might be able to at least keep Boise State out of the bonus long enough to mitigate the free-throw disparity.
No one has thrived in UNLV’s guard-heavy lineups more than senior Elijah Mitrou-Long, and the Rebels should ride that until the wheels come off.
In the last three games, he is averaging 17.3 points off the bench while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range. He has played 31.0 minutes during that stretch, and he should get at least that much tonight in a key game for UNLV’s Mountain West tournament seeding.
Look for Otzelberger to sub in Mitrou-Long at the first opportunity, especially in the second half.
Boise State isn’t as good from 3-point range as some other Broncos teams in recent years, but senior guard Justinian Jessup is the real deal. The lefty is making 39.7 percent from 3-point range, and in the first matchup with UNLV he knocked down 5-of-6 from distance (the Rebels made only six triples as a team).
No matter who draws the primary defensive matchup on Jessup, the priority will be to eliminate any open 3-point shots. The Rebels did a pretty good job against another high-volume 3-point shooter on Saturday as they forced San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn into a 4-of-13 performance from beyond the arc, so Jessup shouldn't be unstoppable.
TV: CBS Sports Network, 8 p.m.
UNLV: 15-14, 10-6 MWC (KenPom No. 103)
Coach: T.J. Otzelberger
Leading scorer: Bryce Hamilton, 15.5 points per game
Leading rebounder: Mbacke Diong, 8.1 rebounds per game
Leading assists: Elijah Mitrou-Long, 3.3 assists per game
San Diego State: 19-10, 11-6 MWC (KenPom No. 79)
Coach: Leon Rice
Leading scorer: Derrick Alston, 17.8 points per game
Leading rebounder: Roderick Williams, 8.4 rebounds per game
Leading assists: Derrick Alston, 3.1 assists per game