Runnin’ Rebels upset No. 21 New Mexico Lobos

Source: Eric Draper/Associated Press

The No. 21 New Mexico Lobos presented a formidable opponent for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels in their third conference game. The Rebels managed to pull off the surprise victory over the Lobos by a score of 84–77 despite a shaky start. The Rebels’ record now stands at 12-3 overall and 1-2 in Mountain West competition.

Head coach Kevin Kruger said the Lobos came out scorching hot, but that his team adjusted as they typically do to win this game.

“They did a good job of adjusting and sticking together,” Kruger said. “And making plays for each other, being each others’ biggest cheerleader, and when you have that type of atmosphere within your huddle and bench, you have a chance to win games.”

The Lobos started the game on an 8-0 run, which didn’t bode well for the Rebels. As he scored UNLV’s first points, Elijah Harkless’ jumper stopped the bleeding. With a three-pointer, Jordan McCabe reduced the Lobos’ lead to 10-7. With this three-pointer, the Rebels’ streak of games with consecutive made threes reached 1,176.

The Lobos led 26-14 with 10 minutes left in the first half. Additionally, it appeared as though they would take control of the game. With five minutes left in the half, the Rebels went on a 10-2 run to get back into the game and were only down 28-24.

With a minute left in the half, the Lobos eventually increased their lead to seven. However, the Rebels hit back-to-back three-pointers to cut the margin to 39-38, their closest since the game’s opening tip. The Lobos came back and went on a 4-0 run to lead 43-38 at the break. The Lobos made three more shots than the Rebels did in the first half, which was the biggest difference.

The Rebels exploded after the break and went on a 9-0 run to take the lead for the first time in the game at 47-43. For a few minutes, both teams traded blows. A 19-8 run to start the second half had given the Rebels a lead of 57-51 with 13 minutes left.

The Rebels held a 63-55 advantage with 10 minutes left in the game, their largest lead of the contest. The Lobos went on a 14-7 run to reduce the Rebels’ lead to 70-69 just as things were looking up for UNLV. With two minutes remaining in the game, the Rebels reacted with an 8-2 run that increased their lead to 78-71. The game wasn’t necessarily over because of this cushion and the final 30 seconds were dramatic.

With 33 seconds left, the Lobos made a layup to reduce the Rebels’ lead to 80-76. The Lobos received possession of the ball after the Rebels were penalized for a five second inbounds violation. The Lobos were then fouled by Harkless on a three-point attempt, his fifth, resulting in three free throws. The first free throw was made by the Lobos, but they missed the following two. They missed their chance, and the Rebels won 84-77 after a few made free throws.

After going down 26-14 in the first half, the Rebels outscored the Lobos 70-51 for the rest of the game. In terms of field goals, three-pointers, and free throw percentage, the Rebels’ offense outperformed the Lobos. In addition, they outscored the Lobos in bench points, fast break points, and points off turnovers.

Kruger said this win allows his team to get their confidence back heading into a two-game homestand.

“Guys jogged off the floor and talked to the person who was subbing in and they were communicating throughout the whole night,” Kruger said. “And when you do that you have a chance to win these types of games.”

Key Performers 

  • Guard Elijah Harkless finished with a game-high 25 points. He also tallied six rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block. 
  • Guard Keshon Gilbert contributed with 14 points, three rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
  • Guard Jordan McCabe added 12 points, two rebounds, and one steal off the bench. 

On Jan, 11, the Boise State Broncos visit the Rebels as the first of a two-game home stand. Despite having different conference records, both teams enter the game with 12 victories.

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