Runnin’ Rebels stay hot, improve to 4-0 after defeating High Point

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The final game of a four-game home stand saw the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels defeat the High Point Panthers by a score of 78-68. The Panthers fall to 3-1 while the Rebels move to 4-0 on the year.

For the Rebels, this game unfolded similarly to the previous. The first six minutes of the first half saw the Rebels go on a 10-4 run. The Rebels’ best advantage of the half (15-7) came when guard Keshon Gilbert made all three of his free throw attempts at the 10 minute mark. The Panthers, though, answered with a 10-2 run to level the score at 17.

The Panthers gained control at the six-minute mark of the first half and took a 23-22 advantage after making back-to-back three-pointers. The remainder of the half was spent trading buckets between the Panthers and Rebels. However, the Rebels were down 36-33 at the break.

The Rebels’ first half was peculiar. They outperformed the Panthers in terms of offensive rebounds, bench points, fast break points, and turnovers. The Panthers’ 54% from three-point range compared to the Rebels’ 8% was the significant difference that offset everything else.

Coach Kevin Kruger said they got good looks, but their shots weren’t falling down. 

“I thought we did a good job of getting paint touches and creating for each other,” Kruger said. “They weren’t falling and I think that bothered us in the first half.”

The Rebels started the second half with a fresh attitude, just like they did in their victory over the Dayton Flyers. The Rebels’ 16-6 run was capped by back-to-back three-pointers. With only 13 minutes remaining in the second half, they immediately recovered to take the lead once more, 49-42.

However, the Panthers always fought back and wouldn’t give up, even when the Rebels had leads of eight or nine points. UNLV guard Elijah Harkless made a three-pointer with two minutes remaining to give the Rebels their first double-digit lead of the game at 75-65. After that, the Rebel defense did its job well and kept the Panthers from scoring all but one garbage time three pointer. The Rebels triumphed 78-68, defending home court.

Kruger said the team knew they were in for a fight and that they had to grind this one out. 

“This was an incredibly flammable High Point team, that scores in bunches and waves, we caught the brunt of that pretty good,” Kruger said. “Proud of the guys for competing and fighting to do what they needed to do to end up getting the win.”

Once more, the Rebel defense was outstanding as they held the Panther attack, which was scoring over 100 points per game, to just 68. Additionally, the Panthers only shot 37% from the field. As the Panthers turned the ball over 20 times, the Rebels’ streak of forcing 20 or more turnovers continued. The Rebels outrebounded the Panthers 48-38 and racked up 18 offensive rebounds, both season highs, which contributed to their victory.

Key Performers 

  • Guard Elijah Harkless led the Rebels with 15 points. He also had five rebounds, seven assists, a steal, and a turnover. 
  • Center David Muoka finished the night with 12 points, nine rebounds, an assist, two blocks, and a steal. 
  • Guard Luis Rodriguez had a game high 10 rebounds and five steals. He also added 12 points and an assist. 

The Rebels compete in the SoCal Challenge Tournament next in Southern California. On Nov. 21, they tip off their tournament against the Southern Illinois Salukis.

Kruger said that non-conference play is about learning the guys and to build chemistry.

“It’ll be good for us to go out there and play a road game,” Kruger said. “We’ve got to be ready and it starts right now.”

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