Runnin’ Rebels win in-state showdown, defeat UNR Wolf Pack

Source: UNLV Athletics

For their ninth Mountain West contest of the year, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels welcomed the UNR Wolf Pack to the Thomas and Mack Center. The Rebels defeated the Wolf Pack 68-62 after a fierce matchup, bringing their record to 3-6 in the Mountain West and 14-7 overall. Kevin Kruger is now 3-0 against the Wolf Pack as the Rebels’ head coach. UNLV also took down UNR in the teams’ annual football matchup in November.

Kruger said the crowd was amazing and brought much-needed enthusiasm to help his team beat their intrastate rivals.

“Hopefully they all had a great time,” Kruger said. “There is no doubt that having the crowd getting into it how they did tonight was a huge reason and a huge part of how we kept that security and confidence.”

At the beginning of the game, the Wolf Pack went on a 6-2 run. UNR led 11-10 after a three-pointer by Rebels guard Keyshawn Hall, but the Rebels soon found their footing. The number of consecutive games in which the Rebels have made a three-pointer increased to 1,182 with the make. Together with Hall’s three-pointer, the Rebels went on an 8-0 run to take a 15-11 lead with 11 minutes left in the first half. Five minutes remained in the first half when the Rebels embarked on a 15-9 run to take a 30-20 lead.

With a minute left in the half, the Wolf Pack responded with an 11-3 run to cut the Rebels’ lead to 33-31. UNR had a chance to tie the game or take the lead after Elijah Harkless missed a jump shot, but Keshon Gilbert protected the lead by leaping into the passing lane for a steal and giving the Rebels a four point lead with a dunk.

The Wolf Pack made two free throws to reduce the Rebels’ lead to 35-33 at the break. UNR shot just 34% from the field, but shot 56% from three and 86% from the free throw line. The Rebels had a difficult offensive half as well, but their 10-2 advantage in fast break points helped them hold onto their lead.

Justin Webster said they wanted to make the Wolf Pack play at their pace, hence the advantage in fast break points.

“We realized early in the game that they weren’t trying to run with us in transition,” Webster said. “Once we were able to get stops and rebounds, we were able to play in transition, and it just worked in our favor.”

The Wolf Pack quickly went on a 5-0 run after the break to take the lead 38-35. With 15 minutes remaining in the second half, Webster made a three-pointer to tie the score at 42. With 12 minutes remaining in the game, the Rebels went on a 7-2 run to retake the lead at 49-44. The Rebels were up 56-49 after a three-pointer by Shane Norwell. They appeared to be pulling away, but UNR countered with an 8-0 run to take a 57-56 lead with six minutes left in the game.

With their own 6-0 run in response, the Rebels took the lead once more, 62-57. Harkless made a layup with two minutes remaining in the contest to increase the Rebels’ lead to 65-62. On the following possession, the Rebels forced a turnover but failed to convert a field goal. With 45 seconds left, UNR gained possession of the ball and had their chance. As he took a charge to force a Wolf Pack turnover, Harkless made the biggest play of the game. Jordan McCabe was fouled and made both of his free throws to increase the Rebels’ lead to 67-62. UNLV defeated UNR 68-62 for their second consecutive win.

Harkless said getting back to that defensive identity they had earlier in the season is huge.

“That’s something we take pride in,” Harkless said. “We spend hours on that (defense) a day and it felt good to get a good outcome against a good team.”

Key Contributors 

  • Guard Elijah Harkless finished with a game-high 18 points. He also added nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
  • Guard Justin Webster tallied 17 points (five 3PM), three rebounds, two assists, and one steal.  
  • Guard Shane Norwell totaled eight points, five rebounds, and one assist off the bench. 

After defeating the Wolf Pack, the Runnin’ Rebels climbed from tenth to seventh in the Mountain West standings. The Rebels must defeat the Colorado State Rams on Jan. 31 in Colorado if they are to keep moving up the standings.

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