The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels honored the careers of Jordan McCabe, Cameron Burist, EJ Harkless, and Elijah Parquet on Senior Night during their final home game of the year on Wednesday. But the Utah State Aggies came into the Thomas & Mack Center and ruined the occasion. The Rebels finished their home schedule 9-7 with the 91-66 defeat to the Aggies. The Rebels’ record is now 17-12 overall and 6-11 in the Mountain West after the defeat.
Prior to their usual post-game press conference, Justin Webster issued an apology following their performance.
“As a leader of this team, we apologize for the way we presented ourselves tonight,” Webster said. “That was not UNLV basketball.”
Early on, Harkless sank a three-pointer to give the Rebels a 7-4 lead. The Rebels’ record for consecutive games with at least one made three is now 1,190 thanks to Harkless’ make. The Aggies then went on a 6-0 run to increase their lead to 12-9. With an “old school” three-point play, Keyshawn Hall tied the score at twelve. Jackie Johnson III followed up Hall’s three-point play by making his own three-pointer to give the Rebels a 15-12 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
The Aggies went on a 14-0 run to take a big 26-15 lead. With a layup, Luis Rodriguez stopped the Aggies’ momentum. The Aggies increased their lead to 31-17 in response, going on a 5-0 run as the half was winding down. An 8-3 run by the Rebels cut the Aggies’ lead to 34-25. The Aggies immediately answered with a 6-0 run to extend their advantage to 40-25. Harkless decreased the Rebels deficit to 44-32 with a three-pointer heading into half.
The Aggies were only able to make 33% of their three-point attempts in the first half thanks to the Rebels’ strong defense. However, the Aggies did manage to make 10 free throws and shoot 52% from the field. Additionally, the Aggies outrebounded the Rebels by eight.
The Rebels were fired up after the break and went on a 13-3 run to cut the Aggies’ lead to 49-45. Although they had the momentum, the Rebels were unable to capitalize on it. With 13 minutes remaining, the Aggies retaliated with an 8-0 run to extend their lead to 57-45. Hall’s made free throw ended the Aggies’ run, but the Aggies went on to extend their lead after that. The Aggies went on a 6-0 run following Hall’s free throw to extend their lead to 63-46.
McCabe said he felt that there was an energy shift once they cut the lead to four.
“On one side of the ball you had one team fighting for an NCAA tournament appearance,” McCabe said. “You felt that urgency shift into a team that felt like they needed to win to a team who would like to win.”
The Aggies wouldn’t relinquish this lead, so this separation turned out to be sufficient for them. The Aggies simply had more firepower than the Rebels, and the game quickly descended into ugliness before time ran out with a 91-66 final score. The Rebels’ 25-point defeat was their biggest defeat of the season.
The Aggies doubled the Rebels in points off turnovers and points in the paint. Additionally, the Aggies shot 62% from the field, 48% from beyond the arc, and 81% from the foul line. If opponents are going to shoot that well against you, you won’t be able to win many basketball games.
Despite everything, head coach Kevin Kruger appreciated both McCabe and Webster for taking accountability during their post-game presser.
“Nothing is going to get solved tomorrow by burying the game film, we’ve got things we need to talk about,” Kruger said. “Getting back tomorrow to try to find the rhythm and sync within the guys.”
- Guard Elijah Harkless led the Rebels with 20 points. He also added one assist and a rebound.
- Guard Shane Nowell finished the night with 10 points, nine rebounds, and two steals.
The UNR Wolf Pack, the Runnin’ Rebels intrastate rival, will be the Rebels’ final opponent of the year before the Mountain West tournament. Kruger’s winning streak against the Wolf Pack is on the line, in addition to gaining momentum heading into the conference tournament. The rivalry game takes place on March 4 and tips off at 2 p.m.
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