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UNLV gets spark from reserves, rolls past San Jose State

Updated January 17, 2022 - 9:28 pm

Junior swingman Donovan Williams scored 20 points to power UNLV to an 81-56 road victory over San Jose State on Monday night.

But Williams was equally pleased with senior guard Mike Nuga, who came off the bench to score 14, and junior guard Justin Webster, who scored 12 off the bench at Provident Credit Union Event Center in San Jose, California.

“You never really know where the punches are going to come from,” said Williams, who scored in double figures for the seventh straight game. “Mike and Web … this is their game. Every given game, you’ve got to be ready when your name is called.”

Nuga and Webster buoyed UNLV’s second unit and helped the Rebels (10-7, 2-2 Mountain West) secure another conference victory after a 73-68 loss Friday to Fresno State. They combined to hit 6 of 10 from 3-point range and helped UNLV shoot 50 percent from the field and beyond the arc.

“Pretty much everything that we had talked about that we had to do, they did,” Rebels coach Kevin Kruger said. “That’s when it’s the most fun, when they’re out talking to each other, figuring things out.”

UNLV had shot 50 percent or better in only three of its previous 16 games, as Kruger has implored the Rebels to pass, cut and move the ball with more patience. And on Monday, they employed the fluid style of offense he had long hoped to see en route to one of their most efficient outings.

Lead ballhandlers attacked the basket with a purpose to draw secondary help defenders, leaving shooters uncovered beyond the 3-point line. UNLV converted 8 of 11 3-pointers in the first half, thereby unclogging the lane and creating more scoring opportunities at the basket.

Williams scored 12 in the first half to power UNLV to a 44-29 halftime lead, and the Rebels intensified their defense in the second half to hold San Jose State (7-8, 0-3) to 32 percent shooting.

Nuga and Webster helped offset a subpar performance by senior wing Bryce Hamilton, who scored 12 points on 4-of-16 shooting.

“Mike and Justin, when they come in and play confident, that makes us incredibly powerful and a strong group,” Kruger said. “To bring those two in to get a lift would be huge for our club going forward.”

The Rebels continue a busy week Thursday with a game at Air Force before returning home Saturday for a rematch with the Spartans.

“It is what it is. … You’d love to have a week,” Kruger said. “We’ll get ready for it. I’m losing track of days, and whatever day we get out there, we’ll get out there.”

Contact reporter Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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