UNLV vs New Mexico

FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs New Mexico – Game 15

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (12-3 / 1-2)  | New Mexico Lobos (14-2 / 2-2)

Franchise Sports Media


The Runnin’ Rebels achieved their first Mountain West win at The Pitt, upsetting the New Mexico Lobos on the road 84-77


UNLV vs New Mexico
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

UNLV’s starting lineup at New Mexico was Keshon Gilbert, Justin Webster, E.J. Harkless, Luis Rodriguez, and David Muoka. That unit has only logged 16 total minutes together in Mountain West Conference play.

UNLV started the game out flat, quickly giving up an 8-0 lead within the first two minutes of regulation. They must’ve been feeling the effects of the Pitt, which recorded a sellout crowd of 15,000+ for the first time in the building since 2015.

Harkless finally got the Rebels on the board with his signature pivot spin shot, although it did look a bit wonky, and it took over three minutes for them to finally score. UNLV continued to struggle, shooting just 1-6 from the field and 0-3 from three while allowing the Lobos to shoot 62.5% overall.

Jordan McCabe made the first three of the game for the Rebels, which was a much-needed score to cut the lead to 10-7 with 14:20 left in the first half. In addition, Gilbert wasn’t doing much to help UNLV out, as he clanked both of his free throw attempts and had two turnovers already. It also didn’t help that Jaelen House was raising hell on Gilbert, scoring in transition, and picking off a pass from the latter.

Gilbert responded nicely with a lob and dunk to Muoka, but Jackie Johnson III killed that momentum with another offensive foul against UNLV. KJ Jenkins had the first three to fall in just three attempts as a team for the Lobos. As the shot clock was expiring, Webster bailed out the Rebels with a quick pull-up three but was countered by another three from Jenkins.

Gilbert finally started to find his rhythm with back-to-back layups, though it took him 13 minutes to do so. Gilbert would’ve had a huge crowd-silencing three-pointer but was somehow called for flopping as he fell on the defender’s close-out. Debatable call, however, there should always be ample landing space for the shooter, and the defender was dangerously close to Gilbert’s right foot. Questionable call to say the least.

The Rebels were fighting a losing battle, as the Lobos seemed high off the crowd’s energy, and it reached its peak after Javonte Johnson threw down a crowd-erupting dunk. Kevin Kruger knew that he had to keep his guys focused and remained adamant about getting Webster the ball, and it paid off as he buried a three to cut the lead to five at 32-27 with just 3:50 left in the first.

UNLV was working their way back into this game and came within two points, but Muoka got a bit antsy on defense, fouling Morris Udeze and giving up the and-1. McCabe had Muoka’s back, though, and splashed home a three to get the crowd to pipe down. Combining that with another three from Rodriguez, Lobos’ head coach Richard Pitino knew that he needed to call a timeout to attempt to kill the Rebels’ momentum.


That timeout worked, as it was a disastrous finish to the half for UNLV. The Rebels tried to hold for the final shot, but McCabe’s pass was intercepted, and the Lobos ran it down for a huge Udeze alley-oop as time expired. The score read 43-38 in New Mexico’s favor at halftime.


UNLV vs New Mexico
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Entering the second half, Gilbert started it off right with a steal and transition layup. Harkless finally got it going with his first three to tie the game for the first time, and Rodriguez followed that up with a putback dunk to take the first lead of the game for UNLV. Before you knew it, the Rebels had a four-point lead after kicking off the second half with a 9-0 lead. The difference between how UNLV looked early in the game compared to this point was night and day.

Rodriguez hustled and kept a possession alive, enabling Harkless to score the second-chance points. Despite the Lobos fighting back into it, Harkless had it going and scored a tough turnaround jumper.

Gilbert pulled out a veteran move that most hoopers should hate as he pump-faked Jamal Mashburn Jr. into the air and threw his body into the latter to draw the foul. The crowd didn’t like the call, but that gave Mashburn his third foul of the game. UNLV obtained their largest lead of the game of six points after Harkless nailed another turnaround jumper. The man has honed his craft.

With just 10:06 remaining in regulation, UNLV led the Lobos 60-55. House got dinged for a flopping call as Harkless shrugged him off and assisted Victor Iwuakor for a dunk, which upset the crowd, but another three from Jenkins had the crowd back in high spirits.

Mashburn got a free layup as Gilbert collided with another player and fell to the floor, cutting UNLV’s lead to just three points. McCabe made a tremendous defensive play to get a steal but got too fancy trying to get out of the backcourt and ended up dribbling out of bounds. Luckily, the Lobos couldn’t capitalize. 

This time around, House was able to draw the offensive foul on Harkless, which got the latter heated at the referee. All Harkless did in response was score an easy blowby layup. But UNLV got too aggressive trying to force a turnover, leading to a three by Johnson to cut the lead to just two points with five minutes remaining.

After Udeze earned and made two free throws, the lead was just one point for the Rebels. Fortunately and unfortunately, UNLV got some second-chance points from Iwuakor, but he fouled out on the very next defensive possession, prompting the Lobos’ crowd to sing goodbye to him. 

Harkless nearly had a highlight play, as he diced through two defenders, but was fouled as he was hit in the face. Rodriguez had a crucial stretch, drawing Mashburn’s fourth foul and converting an and-1 opportunity to give the Rebels a seven-point lead at 78-71 with 1:48 remaining.

The Lobos wouldn’t be discouraged, fighting back to cut the lead to four after Mashburn burst to the rim for an easy lay-in. Harkless nearly made a colossal mistake, as he lost his dribble and almost turned it over, but he was able to retrieve the ball and throw up a wild floater to save the possession.

Harkless was adamant about throwing this game away, though, as he touched the ball as it was on its way out of bounds, and he fouled Mashburn on a three-point attempt, which all started because UNLV couldn’t inbound the ball in time. As a result, that foul was Harkless’ fifth, kicking him out of the game. Luckily, Mashburn only made one of three free throws, keeping the Rebels ahead by three. But that was all she wrote for this one, as the final score read UNLV 84, Lobos 77.


Runnin’ Takeaways


Harkless went nuclear in the second half, scoring 21 of his 25 total points, along with six rebounds and five assists. Muoka posted 11 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks. Gilbert bounced back with 14 points on 5-7 shooting, five assists, and four steals. McCabe’s 12 points on 2-4 from three were invaluable. Rodriguez had 12 points and six rebounds.

Udeze did all he could with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and three steals. Mashburn put up 19 points, and House was held in check with just 12 points on 4-13 shooting. Fun fact, UNLV has played two ranked teams this season. They were both ranked 21, and they defeated both of them.

Don’t forget to go out and support the Runnin’ RebelsClick here to get your UNLV Runnin’ Rebels tickets! 


The Runnin’ Rebels will now take on Boise State Wednesday, January 11th, at 8:00 pm PT. The game will be available on the CBS Sports Network.

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-Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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