UNLV hopes Air Force game will continue hot shooting

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When UNLV guard Justin Webster saw his first shot fall Monday night, he knew he was hot.

“I felt like it was going to be one of those days,” he said. “I got quite a rest the night before, walked into the gym and said, ‘Yeah, this is going to be a good day to shoot basketball. “

There were plenty of positives in the Rebels’ 81-56 victory over San Jose State. The team’s defense caught the Spartans with 36.7 percent of the shooting from the ground. Donovan Williams scored in double digits for the third game in a row, and the team fired 50 percent from the field despite a night off from player Bryce Hamilton.

As Thursday’s Air Force game of Mountain West approached, one of the most encouraging signs of the team’s attack came from Webster and 5th year guard Michael Noga. Coming off the bench for UNLV coach Kevin Krueger, the duo scored 12 and 14 points respectively, giving Unit Two a boost and keeping pressure on San Jose State.

“They just went in and played with a ton of energy,” Krueger said. “The ball finds energy. I found both. They put in a bunch of really good plays, especially in the first half, but it moved into the second half as well. When they bring in that firepower, it makes the team so much better.”

In particular, the pair shined from over three points. Webster was effective at 2 of 3 from outside the arc, while Nuga made 4 of 7. They captured six of the team’s 11 builds from downtown, with the Rebels (10-7, 2-2 Mountain West) scoring season best. 50 percent of the three-point range

“The coach can call us at any time, we have to go into the game with confidence and break shots,” Webster said. “…”I feel like me and (Nougat)…we played with confidence, we played aggressively.”

The Monday night show showed the shooting that Krueger so badly needed. Most teams play Hamilton when UNLV has the ball. Without accurate shooting of the ground space, the defenses steadily filled the passage and cut off the driving lanes of the seniors.

In four of its past six games, UNLV has shot less than 29 percent from a three-point range. Although several transfers were introduced by Krueger to improve the team’s off-court shot, the team’s three-point ability was inconsistent at best until Monday night.

Only Williams and Royce Hamm Jr. have three shots above 34 percent, mainly due to effective shot selection – Williams has taken 50 three times less than Hamilton, for example.

Rebel struggles included Webster and Nougat. Coming into Monday, Webster was only up 30.3 percent of his triples, below his Hawaiian average of 37.8 percent. Likewise, Noga’s 29.7 percent before the San Jose State game was more than eight percentage points lower than the 2020-21 season at Kent State.

UNLV will need Webster and Nuga to continue making their repayments. Junior Josh Becker, another sniper still trying to find his shot after arriving from Hutchinson CC, missed training on Tuesday after being hit in the eye against San Jose State and is seen daily.

They will have plenty of opportunities to do so as they enter a four-game period in eight days,

“It’s hard to get wins in this conference,” Webster said. “We are going to get wins no matter who we play… We lost to Fresno State in a tough game, but we bounced back and beat San Jose. It prepares us to go into the Air Force and that difficult stretch into the future.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. He follows Tweet embed on Twitter.

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