For their eighth conference game of the year, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels welcomed the Wyoming Cowboys to the Thomas and Mack Arena. Elijah Harkless put on a strong performance, and the Rebels were able to defeat the Cowboys 86-72 to end their losing streak. The Rebels’ record now stands at 13-7 overall and 2-6 in the Mountain West.
Head coach Kevin Kruger said this was Harkless’ best game of the season.
“(Harkless), I thought, it was his most efficient game of the year,” Kruger said. “Everything came to him, nothing was forced, he had a good pace and tempo.”
Elijah Parquet made his first start since returning from injury and Luis Rodriguez was sidelined due to an injury as well. The game got off to a quick start for the Rebels as they scored the first six points. With 16 minutes remaining in the first half, the Rebels were up 9-5 following a Keshon Gilbert three-pointer. The Rebels’ record for consecutive games with at least one made three-pointer is 1,181 thanks to Gilbert’s three. With 10 minutes remaining in the half, Harkless made a jump shot to make it 19-12 for the Rebels.
The Cowboys went on an 8-2 run to reduce the Rebels’ lead to 21-20 just as it appeared that the Rebels had some breathing room. With three minutes left in the half, the Rebels responded with a 12-3 run, giving them their first double-digit lead of the half, 33-23. With less than two minutes left in the game, Gilbert made a three-pointer to give the Rebels a 38-25 lead. The Cowboys made back-to-back three-pointers and the Rebels’ lead was reduced to 38-31.
As the Rebels had the ball for their final possession of the half, Kruger called a timeout. The Cowboys came out with a zone defense, and after some passing, the ball ended up in Jordan McCabe’s hands. The Rebels led 41-31 at the break after McCabe pulled up from “Steph Curry range” and beat the buzzer.
During the first half, the Rebels shot well from the field. They made 55% of their field goals and 54% of their 3-point attempts. The Cowboys shot only 40% from the field and 37% from beyond the arc. Additionally, the Rebels were never down in the first half.
Kruger said his defense being able to limit the Cowboys offense was because they didn’t over help.
“We just didn’t over help,” Kruger said. “We can’t over help and need to stay in front of the ball and compete like crazy.”
With eight minutes remaining in the second half, the Rebels led 44-35 as both teams traded baskets to end the first half. The Rebels quickly went on a 6-0 run to take a 50-35 lead. The Cowboys went on a 25-15 run to cut the Rebels’ lead to 65-60 with nine minutes left in the game just as things were looking good for the Rebels. With seven minutes remaining in the game, the Rebels came back with an 11-0 run to extend their lead to 76-60. With four minutes remaining, the Cowboys proved they weren’t going away by answering with a 12-2 run that trimmed the Rebels’ lead to 78-72.
The Cowboys didn’t score for the remainder of the game as the Rebels went on an 8-0 run to win. In every statistical category, the Rebels were better than the Cowboys. The Rebels had not triumphed since Jan. 7, when they defeated the then-No. 21 New Mexico Lobos.
Kruger said his offense played really well, which was in part to them gaining back some confidence.
“We had really good spacing and made plays for each other,” Kruger said. “This was without a doubt our best offensive game.”
- Guard Elijah Harkless finished the game with a game-high 28 points. He also added eight rebounds, three assists, and one block.
- Guard Keshon Gilbert tallied 12 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and one steal.
- Forward Keyshawn Hall and guard Jordan McCabe combined for 22 points off the bench.
On Jan. 28, the UNR Wolves and the Rebels will square off in a game dubbed “Coaches vs. Cancer – Suits & Sneakers.” The Wolves just defeated the No. 25 Lobos in a thrilling double-overtime game. Both bragging rights and Mountain West positioning will be on the line.
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