Game Recap: UNLV 78, Wyoming 69 (OT)
Rebels move to 4-1 in MW; Cowboys still winless
UNLV holds steady in second place despite a close call in Laramie
TJ Otzelberger’s team found a way to survive on Saturday, preserving the hot streak that has marked their coach’s first season in the Mountain West.
UNLV (9-9, 4-1 MW) beat Wyoming 78-69 in Laramie’s Arena-Auditorium, but the Runnin’ Rebels needed a late push – and an extra five minutes – to save themselves from the Cowboys’ upset bid.
The Rebels were led by Bryce Hamilton’s 19 points off the bench. Jonah Antonio and Marvin Coleman were both also in double digits for UNLV, scoring 15 and 14, respectively. Donnie Tillman also added 10 points from the bench.
Kwane Marble paced Wyoming (5-13, 0-6 MW) in the scoring department with 19 points, followed closely by Jake Hendricks with 18 and Hunter Maldonado with 16. Marble was extremely efficient, going 4-for-4 from the field and 9-for-11 on free throws, but Maldonado and Hendricks combined to shoot just 30% on the game.
Wyoming led by seven points with 1:25, after Hunter Thompson hit the front end of a trip to the free throw line. But a 7-0 run, capped by two Donnie Tillman free throws in the dying seconds, forced overtime.
The Cowboys never led again.
UNLV opened up the extra period with back-to-back three-pointers from Coleman and Antonio. Coleman also hit a three during the late run to push the game into overtime.
The second-year Rebel is averaging nearly ten points per game since being installed in the Rebels’ starting lineup just before Christmas. Antonio, another recent addition to the starting five, reached double figures for the first time since the team’s opening game of the season.
Those adjustment has already paid early dividends for Otzelberger, with the team going 5-1 over their past six games. UNLV has finally climbed back to .500 after losing eight of their first 12 games.
That they were victorious despite a poor offensive showing from Amauri Hardy is especially encouraging for a team that has looked one-dimensional at times.
Saturday’s triumph was the fourth in five tries for UNLV in Mountain West play, keeping them in a second-place tie with New Mexico. The Lobos were also victorious over the weekend, beating Air Force at home. Both teams trail undefeated San Diego State, with the Aztecs moving to 17-0 after an easy win over Boise State.
In stark contrast to the early success of those teams, Wyoming still remains winless on the conference season. The Cowboys are in last place in the Mountain West, trailing Fresno State by a game and a half.
UNLV hosts San Jose State (6-12, 2-4 MW) on Wednesday night. The Spartans are coming off a loss to Colorado State over the weekend, but they haven’t looked like the pushovers they were a year ago. Jean Prioleau’s club has already beaten New Mexico and Nevada in league play. They also came closer than anyone else to beating San Diego State, with Malachi Flynn’s buzzer-beater serving as the Aztecs’ only saving grace.
Wyoming will head to Reno to take on Nevada (10-7, 3-2 MW) in a Tuesday night matchup. The Wolf Pack have stumbled a bit of late, with the aforementioned loss to San Jose State and another to Utah State making for a very forgettable week. But this team is plenty talented and should have the offensive firepower to outgun the Cowboys. Jalen Harris should be in the mix for MW Player of the Year honors if he can continue to light up the league’s defenses.
Andrew is a current USBWA member, covering college basketball for multiple outlets, including Mountain West Wire of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group and Busting Brackets of the FanSided Network. He also runs the Dieckhoff Power Index, a college basketball analytics system, and provides bracketology predictions throughout the season.