It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t pretty, but in the end UNLV was able to do just enough in Kevin Kruger’s collegiate head coaching debut to defeat Gardner-Webb 64-58 at the Thomas and Mack Center.
The shooting performance from both teams was sloppy to say the least. Both teams combined to shoot 5-45 from behind the arc, including 1-26 in the first half, with UNLV hitting just twice total from three point range for the game. If not for Royce Hamm’s 18 point, 17 rebound double-double and birthday boy Bryce Hamilton’s 22 points, including a key basket late in the game, UNLV would have lost their season opener for the second year in a row.
UNLV (1-0) made 13 more free throws than Gardner-Webb (0-1), in what turned out to to be a key stat that helped decide the game for the Rebels. The shots from the charity stripe made up for the lack of field goal production for UNLV, as they shot only 30% from inside the arc. Gardner-Webb wasn’t stellar from the field either, shooting 38%.
The Runnin’ Rebels just made more plays than Gardner-Webb, including a 9-0 run for UNLV to take a 60-51 lead with less than three minutes to go, as well as two big Mike Nuga free throws with nine seconds left to seal the deal. Marvin Coleman had 8 big rebounds for UNLV and Donovan Williams chipped in with 10 crucial points.
Gardner-Webb was led by D’Maurian Williams’ double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds. Zion Williams had a team-high 11 rebounds and Lance Terry added 13 points.
Next, UNLV will stay at home to take on the Cal Golden Bears on Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center. Tip-off time is 5 p.m. pacific time. The game will be streamed on the MountainWest Sports Network and also on Stadium.
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