UNLV Runnin’ Rebels upset No. 21 Dayton, stay unbeaten

Source: Chase Stevens/Associated Press

The No. 21 Dayton Flyers visited the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels Tuesday night. Both teams entered the contest unbeaten, but the Rebels defeated the Flyers 60–52 to hand them their first loss of the season. The Flyers now stand at 3-1, while the Rebels improve to 3-0 on the year.

A 7-2 run by the Rebels got the game started. Early on, the Rebels looked promising, but the Flyers showed them why they were the country’s No. 21 team. With 10 minutes remaining in the first half, the Flyers went on an 18-4 run to lead 20-11. The Flyers had a 23-13 lead after a three-pointer, but the Rebels fought back. Elijah Harkless scored six straight points to help the Rebels start a 7-0 run. The Rebels reduced the deficit to 23-20, giving the impression that they were back in the contest. However, the Flyers answered with a 9-2 run of their own to end the first half and led 32-22 at the break.

Dayton’s size and athleticism were key reasons why UNLV was struggling in the first half. Head coach Kevin Kruger said they had to get better and play harder than they did in the first half.

“We’ve got to box out, we know it’s going to be a fight,” Kruger said. “They are probably the biggest team in the country, so it’s going to be a fight every time a shot goes up.” 

The Rebel offense was limited to 29% from the field and 18% from three during the first half. Kruger said the Rebels had to keep driving and kicking to help set up their offense in the second half.

“We had a good stretch where we had some good looks,” Kruger said. “We’ve just got to pass it, share it, and we’ve got to take shots when we are open.”

With 17 minutes left in the second half, the Rebels were down 37-25 following a three-pointer by the Flyers. They didn’t give up though, and they came back with a 12-1 run to tie the score at 38-38. The Rebels eventually took control as both teams continued to trade shots. Guard Keshon Gilbert hit a three-pointer to give the Rebels their first lead since the beginning of the first half at 47-44.

After that, the Rebels’ tight defense prevented the Flyers from making a single field goal, save for free throws, for the remainder of the game. The Flyers made free throws in the waning moments of the game, and the Rebels eventually won 60-52. The UNLV defense helped them win once more by limiting the Dayton offense, which was averaging 73.4 points per game, to just 52. Additionally, they kept forcing turnovers, as evidenced by the 24 forced against the Flyers. They now have three games in a row where their defense has produced 20 or more turnovers.

Kruger said that defense will be their calling card and that the team has shown that.

“We’re going to have to get deflections and turnovers because we go through some ruts offensively,” Kruger said. “Largely because we are continuing to learn each other.”

Key Performers 

  • Guard Elijah Harkless had a game-high 24 points. He also added six rebounds, three assists and a steal.
  • Guard Keshon Gilbert finished the night with 16 points, two rebounds, three assists, and three steals.
  • Center David Muoka only had one point but was a defensive monster as he finished with nine rebounds, two blocks, and four steals. 

On Nov. 18, when they host the High Point Panthers, the Runnin’ Rebels will try to complete an undefeated homestand. They then travel to Southern California to participate in the SoCal Challenge Tournament.

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