Runnin’ Rebels drop Mountain West opener against Spartans

Source: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Mountain West play kicked off Wednesday for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels against the San Jose State Spartans. Coming into the game, both teams were off to their best starts in years, but in the conference opener, the Rebels lost 75-72 in overtime. The Rebels are now 11-2 on the year.

Most of the first half was closely contested. Before the Spartans ran away with the game, Justin Webster hit a three-pointer to bring the Rebels’ streak of games with a made three to 1,174. With four minutes left in the first half, the game was tied at 28. It appeared that the half would end up being very close.

However, the Spartans went on an 11-0 run and led 39-28. For two minutes, they kept the Rebels from scoring, but a David Muoka free throw put an end to the Rebels’ scoreless streak. The Spartans had a 41-30 lead at the break thanks to a final four-minute 13-2 run. The Rebels only scored two points from free throws and didn’t score a field goal in the final four minutes of the half,

The Spartans out shot the Rebels in every area of the game during the first half. The Spartans also outscored the Rebels in fast break points and points in the paint. It was a poor first half for the Rebels’ defense, which is usually strong.

Both teams were trading buckets in the beginning of the second half, which wasn’t good news for the Rebels’ chances of making a run. The Rebels were trailing 58-45 with 12 minutes left in the contest. They appeared to have no chance of making a run to reduce the Spartans’ lead.

However, a Jordan McCabe three-pointer started the crucial run for them. With seven minutes remaining, Elijah Harkless made a jump shot to tie the score at 58. In response, the Spartans gained the advantage at 59-58. The Rebels then took the lead 62-58 after Harkless went on a 4-0 run. Then, Harkless sank a three-pointer to give the Rebels a 65-62 lead.

The Spartans tied the game at 65-65 and the Rebels had the ball and a chance to take the lead with less than 40 seconds left. The Rebels made a mid-range shot as the shot clock was winding down, but the made basket was changed to a shot clock violation after the referees reviewed the play and determined that the shot wasn’t taken in time.

After that, the Rebels missed opportunity after opportunity in overtime. With 18 seconds left, the Rebels trailed 73-70 and had a chance to tie after Keshon Gilbert forced a turnover. However, the Runnin’ Rebels missed two shots, and the Spartans were able to win this game by snatching the rebound.

Key Performers 

  • Guard Elijah Harkless led all scorers with 20 points. He also added four rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
  • Guard Justin Webster finished the night with 11 points and three rebounds. 

The Rebels must quickly move past this setback and get ready for their Mountain West home opener on New Year’s Eve at 1 p.m. The San Diego State Aztecs will enter the Thomas and Mack Arena as winners of three straight.

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