The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels traveled to Fort Collins, Colorado to face the Colorado State Rams on Tuesday for the team’s 10th conference matchup of the season. The Rams shocked the Rebels and defeated them in overtime in their first meeting. This time around, the Runnin’ Rebels avenged their loss with an 83-71 victory. Following this game, the Rebels’ record is now 15-7 overall and 4-6 in the Mountain West.
Since guard Elijah Parquet’s return on Jan. 21, the Runnin’ Rebels are 3-1. Overall, with the Rebels are now 13-1 with Elijah Parquet active and just 2-6 without him.
For this game, the Rebels had Luis Rodriguez back but were without Jordan McCabe, their best backup guard. With a 6-0 opening score, the Rams established the game’s pace. With 17 minutes remaining in the first half, Keshon Gilbert ended the Rebels’ scoring drought with a three-pointer that trimmed the Rams’ lead to 6-3. Gilbert’s three-point attempt extended the Rebels’ streak of games with a made three-pointer to 1,183. With 11 minutes left in the half, the Rebels went on a 19-4 run after Gilbert’s shot to lead 22-10.
With nine minutes left in the half, Elijah Harkless made a step-back jumper to give the Rebels a 24-15 lead. For the following four minutes, Harkless’ jump shot would be the only basket the Rebels would make. The Rams went on an 8-0 run during that time to reduce the Rebels’ lead to 24-23.
Head coach Kevin Kruger called a timeout to set up a play while the Rebels had the last possession of the half. Gilbert received possession of the ball and made a three-pointer to put the Rebels ahead 39-30 at the break.
Kruger said McCabe’s absence opened up opportunities for Gilbert, which he has taken advantage of.
“(Gilbert) has been really good and has been knocking down open shots,” Kruger said. “A great first half for him.”
The Rebels put themselves in a 44-30 position by scoring five straight points out of the half. With 13 minutes remaining in the second half, the Rebels made back-to-back three-pointers to increase their lead to 60-41. After a 7-2 Rebels run, Keyshawn Hall made a three-pointer to make the score 67-45, their largest of the game. With five minutes remaining, the Rebels had a comfortable lead of 72-51, but the Rams quickly came back. With under three minutes remaining, the Rams went on a 14-2 run to cut the Rebels’ lead to 74-65.
Fortunately for the Rebels, they would make their free throws and prevail 83-71. Though things became interesting in the final moments, the Rebels led for 35 minutes and dominated the second half. Seven more field goals and six more three-pointers were made by the Rebels than the Rams. In addition, the Rebels outperformed the Rams in terms of rebounds, assists, bench points, and turnovers. The Rebels also didn’t allow Isaiah Stevens to go nuclear, as he was held to 18 points in 40 minutes.
Kruger said Parquet guarding him and being able to throw different defenders on him was the key to slowing Stevens down.
“Elijah Parquet hounded him,” he said. “The guys did an unbelievable job of giving him different looks, one of the things we did is we held him to his average.”
- Guard Elijah Harkless had a team-high 17 points. He also added five rebounds, five assists, one block, and two steals.
- Guard Keshon Gilbert finished with 16 points (shooting 75% from the field), five rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
- Forward Keyshawn Hall and guard Luis Rodriguez finished with 21 combined points off the bench.
As the Rebels are building some momentum, Kruger said it came down to getting over the hump during the beginning of conference play.
“We are having a lot of fun and confidence,” Kruger said. “We talked about two weeks ago, how it was almost like a stomach bug, that you just have to get through.”
The Fresno State Bulldogs, losers of three straight, will now be the focus of the Rebels, winners of three straight. The Bulldogs defeated the Rebels in their first meeting of the season, despite their current losing streak, this will be a tall task for the Rebels. The Thomas and Mack Arena will host the rematch on Feb. 3 at 8 p.m.
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