When the clock ticks under five minutes, UNLV looks to Bryce Hamilton to close out the game.
The Rebels have won three games this year by a combined 11 points. All three have been tight down the stretch. That is when UNLV trusts Hamilton the most.
In the final five minutes of games this season, Hamilton has taken 17 shots. His teammates have taken four. As a result, Hamilton has scored 23 of the 31 Rebel points the closing five minutes of games.
The only other player to make a field goal near the end of a game is Donovan Williams, who drilled a corner three out of a timeout against North Dakota State. The other five non-Hamilton points all came from free throws.
Against North Dakota State, UNLV went to a simplistic play. Royce Hamm set a ball screen for Bryce Hamilton and let him go to work.
North Dakota State was switching their center onto Hamilton off those ball screens. It created a matchup Kevin Kruger wanted to continuously exploit.
“Being with him in the games, you feel that level of confidence,” Williams said. “When coach says we’re going run ball screens with Bryce and Royce because we like that mismatch. You feel confident because you know whoever they put on Bryce coming off the ball screen they are at a disadvantage.”
Hamilton took advantage. He scored eight points and took all but one of the Rebels shots in the closing minutes. Most of which came off that ball screen action. It only added to Hamilton’s gaudy stats as the clock dwindles.
In the final five minutes of games Hamilton has scored 23 points while shooting 10 of 17 (58.9%).
In the first 35 minutes of games Hamilton has scored 28 points and shot just 11 of 39 (28.2%).
When asked if Hamilton is better at the end of games, Kruger said: “It would seem so. His pace changes a little bit. That’s on us to figure out how we can get that for every minute he’s out there. Happily, he did what he needed to do.”
UNLV’s competition will get tougher as fourth-ranked Michigan awaits later this week. Hamilton will need to be better in the first 35 minutes for the Rebels to stand a chance.
But at least the Rebels know they have a closer.