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UNLV can’t overcome another 2nd-half drought, falls to Michigan

UNLV did not get a signature victory over a marquee program on the opening night of the Roman Main Event late Friday at T-Mobile Arena.

But the Rebels won’t have to wait long for another shot.

After falling to No. 4 Michigan 74-61, UNLV will play Wichita State in the consolation game at 9 p.m. Sunday. The Shockers fell 82-78 in overtime to Arizona.

The Rebels (3-1) traded blows with the Wolverines (3-1) for much of the night, tying the game twice on Bryce Hamilton jumpers early in the second half.

Michigan then took control and rode a 22-point effort from Eli Brooks to the win.

“We’d love to sit back and say we are happy that we hung tough, but that’s not really the feeling right now,” Kevin Kruger said after his first loss as UNLV’s coach. “On that note, there were a number of opportunities where we could have given in, but guys fought and competed to get good shots to stop runs and did a good job again of banding together.”

Hamilton, who finished with 21 points and scored seven on a 9-0 run to end the first half, had a chance to tie the score a third time on a 3-point attempt with 15:13 to play. The miss helped trigger a cold spell that saw UNLV go 1-for-8 from the field over a 5:34 span that included three turnovers and three points.

It was the kind of drought that has plagued UNLV in the second half of each game.

“It happened in our first four games, but it can’t happen against Michigan,” Hamilton said. “That’s something we have to get better at and just play a whole 40 minutes.”

After relying on a deep rotation in the first three games, Kruger played his bench a total of 28 minutes and got just four points from the reserves Friday. He also acknowledged that the second half was similar to the first three games.

“The other games we were able to get it back, but we also never went down nine or 11,” he said. “This was a little different and a little different animal in Michigan.”

Royce Hamm again reached double figures in rebounds with 10, as he battled with All-America center Hunter Dickinson but was limited to seven points in 27 minutes after getting into foul trouble.

Hamm serving long stretches on the bench and playing a bit more conservatively could have been a factor in the Wolverines shooting 51 percent and getting 30 points in the paint. Michigan shot 17 more free throws than UNLV and outrebounded the Rebels 33-24.

Donovan Williams and Michael Nuga each scored 12 points for the Rebels, who will look to bounce back quickly against Wichita State.

The Shockers (3-1) are another team with the kind of program Kruger is looking to build.

Wichita State has made the NCAA Tournament in eight of the past nine years in which it was played and has won 78 percent of its games in the past 12 seasons.

“Wichita is a great program that has their culture and expectations of going to the tournament and winning games in the tournament,” Kruger said. “We knew Michigan being where they were this early in the season would present an opportunity … but Wichita is a very similar opportunity for the guys.”

The Shockers were led by Tyson Etienne’s 27 points, but he shot 9 of 27.

Arizona (4-0) will play Michigan at 6:30 p.m. Sunday in the championship game.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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