Runnin’ Rebels sweep season series against Wyoming

Source: University of Wyoming via Twitter

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to take on the Wyoming Cowboys on Wednesday night. The Rebels were aiming for the season sweep after annihilating the Cowboys in their first meeting earlier in the season. The Rebels defeated the Cowboys by a score of 69-59 and have now won both games in the season series against Wyoming, improving to a 16-8 overall record and 5-7 in conference play.

The Rebels had their full roster at their disposal as Jordan McCabe was active. Luis Rodriguez made a three-pointer to score the opening basket of the contest. Rodriguez’s attempt extended the Rebels’ record of consecutive games with a made three-pointer to 1,185. After taking an early 3-0 lead, the Cowboys went on a 10-3 run to go up 10-6 with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. However, the Rebels would score back-to-back threes to take the lead at 12-10. With six minutes remaining in the half, the score was tied at 20, indicating that both teams had calmed down after what appeared to be an offensive explosion.

The Rebels made the final two baskets of the half to lead 25-24. Elijah Harkless led the Rebels at the half with nine points. The Rebels offense struggled in the first half despite Harkless’ efforts. They only made two two-point field goals, and their three-point percentage was only 33%. Wyoming was held to a 36% field goal percentage, a 17% three-point shooting percentage, and nine turnovers thanks in part to the stingy Runnin’ Rebels defense.

Head coach Kevin Kruger credits his players for their defensive effort in the first half. 

“Our guys just knew they had to bring that defensive effort,” Kruger said. “The guys did an unbelievable job of holding them to 24 points in the first half.”

With 17 minutes remaining in the second half, the Cowboys went on an 8-4 run to take the lead 33-29. The Rebels regained the lead 38-33 after Harkless’ three-pointer capped a 9-0 run. With 15 minutes remaining in the half, the Rebels went up 39-35 following a successful free throw by David Muoka. Harkless went on a 7-0 run by himself following Muoka’s free throw to give the Rebels their largest lead of the game at 46-35. With 10 minutes remaining in the half, however, the Cowboys struck back with a 10-2 run, cutting the Rebels’ lead to 48-45.

The Rebels led 52-49 with eight minutes left in the half. With four minutes left in the half, a three by Elijah Parquet capped a 9-1 run and pushed the Rebels’ lead to 61-50. The Rebels were held to zero field goal makes for the remainder of the game, but they still defeated the Cowboys 69-59 by making their free throws. While neither offense was good, the Rebels made more free throws and they had Harkless on their side as well. With 33 points, Harkless led all scorers and once again served as the Rebels’ driving force.

Kruger said that this was Harkless’ best game as a Rebel. 

“That was by far his best and most efficient game as a Rebel,” Kruger said. “He doesn’t have trouble finding an edge and the student section gave him one tonight.”

Key Performers 

  • Guard Elijah Harkless led all scorers with 33 points. He also added eight rebounds and two assists.
  • Guard Keshon Gilbert tallied 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists.

Traveling to sunny San Diego to face the No. 25 San Diego Aztecs in first place are the Rebels, currently in seventh place. The Aztecs defeated the Rebels in their first encounter in Las Vegas, and the Rebels are now seeking retribution. The game will tip off on Feb. 11 at 1 pm.

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