When UNLV defeated Colorado State 88-74 on Jan. 28, senior winger Bryce Hamilton scored a career-high 42 points.
The Rebels needed every basket, and coach Kevin Kruger knew the Rams weren’t going to let Hamilton go nuclear again.
“People won’t let Bryce beat them so much anymore,” Kruger said. “They won’t let it look clean.”
In Saturday’s rematch at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV didn’t need Hamilton to score again in the 40s. But he had 20 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in a 72- 51 of Mountain West in front of 6,153 fans who also watched former great Robert Smith’s half-time shirt retirement ceremony.
It was the second-lowest point total this season for Colorado State, which was averaging 76.1 heading into Saturday.
The Rebels (16-11, 8-6 MW) have won five of their last seven games after beating the Rams (21-4, 11-4).
“I feel like we clicked at the right time,” Hamilton said. “I feel like we knew it was coming, though, if we stayed the course.”
Saturday was one of the most complete games of the UNLV season. Just like they did in January, the Rebels shut down Colorado State star David Roddy. Forward rotation of Royce Hamm Jr., David Muoka and Victor Iwaukor kept team leading scorer Roddy to 11 points on 4-for-14 shooting. UNLV also edged the Rams 45-24.
“My length, my strength, my wingspan, I feel like I have everything it takes to guard anybody,” said Muoka, who had four offensive points and four rebounds.
The rebel guards also did their part in defense. After scoring a career-high 35 points against UNLV in January, Rams junior guard Isaiah Stevens was limited to 14. Colorado State shot 5-for-22 on 3-point range, and Kruger praised his players perimeter for their efforts.
A late first-half run gave UNLV a 35-24 halftime lead, and the Rebels took off to start the second half, extending their lead to 20 in the first three minutes.
Every Rebels player who has seen at least 10 minutes scored. Hamm had seven points to go with 12 rebounds, and guard Michael Nuga added 13 points. Iwaukor had two interceptions and two blocks and completed a thunderous alley-oop after joining Hamilton.
Kruger credited his team’s commitment for his improvement.
“They expect to go out and compete and fight,” he said.
UNLV will play intrastate rival UNR on Tuesday with a chance to sweep the season series for the first time since the 2014-15 season.