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FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs San Jose State – Game 13

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (11-2 / 0-1)  | San Jose State Spartans (10-4 / 1-0)

Franchise Sports Media

 

UNLV struggled early on but battled back to force overtime. However, they failed to close the game out and fell to San Jose State 75-72

 

UNLV vs San Jose State
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Some of the UNLV players had holiday travel issues. One player, in particular, Keshon Gilbert, who traveled to St. Louis during the short break, was not on the flight to San Jose. He planned to meet the rest of the Runnin’ Rebels in California. However, there were concerns that Gilbert could even make it to the game.

Luckily Gilbert arrived in San Jose. Coach Kevin Kruger looked relieved to welcome him. Gilbert had to drive to Denver, flew from Denver to San Francisco, and finally took a rideshare to San Jose.

The starting lineup for UNLV at San Jose State was Jordan McCabe, Justin Webster, E.J. Harkless, Luis Rodriguez, and David Muoka. Gilbert didn’t start after his travel delay caused him to miss the practice before this game. This unit has played just three minutes together this season.

UNLV forced a turnover on the Spartans’ first possession, they’re leading the nation in that category, and it’s their strongest trait. Muoka had started the scoring for UNLV, receiving a lob pass and throwing it down, something he’s been thriving off of all season long.

A rarity for UNLV, Alvaro Cardenas had a wide-open lane for an easy layup. Justin Webster drained a three in response, which continued UNLV’s NCAA record of 1,174 straight games with a made 3-pointer.

An unfortunate sequence, as Harkless attempted a three and tried to draw the foul but was called for flopping. He also earned a tech for arguing the call, which gave the Spartans a chance at some free points.

With 11:27 left in the first, UNLV had a slim lead at 17-16. In large part to their surprisingly shaky defense early. They had already forced four turnovers but allowed the Spartans to shoot 50% (6-12) from the field. UNLV was catching a break, though, as the Spartans were shooting a porous 20% (2-10) from three.

On the bright side, Spartans guard Omari Moore got off to a quick start with seven points. In contrast, the Rebels had trouble protecting the defensive boards. SJSU had five offensive rebounds through 11 minutes of play, with the Rebels also getting killed on the defensive glass, losing the overall rebounding battle 12-9.

The Spartans had transitioned to a zone 1-3-1 defense, and the new look caught the Rebels off guard. It took a while, but UNLV got it going again when Webster drained another three in the corner.

Back-to-back threes from Trey Anderson took the lead for San Jose State at 34-28 with 2:49 left in the first half. It’s always commendable to celebrate making two threes in a row in any high-level basketball game, but he was a bit too energetic for someone who was practically wide-open for both makes. UNLV was just gifting the Spartans with good looks.

Harkless didn’t make things better when he would turn the ball over, leading to an and-1 finish to freshman Garrett Anderson. After another score, this time by another freshman, JT Elder, the Spartans were on a 17-3 run to secure an 11-point lead.

 

At halftime, the score read San Jose State 41, UNLV 30. The Rebels were a step slow on defense, as SJSU shot 48.4%, totaling eight second-chance points. On the offensive end, there were only two points on 1-13 shooting for the trio of Harkless, Gilbert, and Rodriguez.

 

UNLV vs San Jose State
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Harkless had a chance to start the second half on a good note, but he missed the transition layup, sapping some of the momenta Kruger may or may not have built up in the locker room before coming back into this one.

Harkless continued to try to get it going and whipped out his signature turnaround jumper but clanked it. Luckily, Iwuakor was there for the rebound and got sent to the free-throw line. Gilbert wasn’t feeling it either, as he missed back-to-back jumpers on the same possession.

Harkless reverted to what any hooper would do in that situation and went straight to the rim. He did so, unsurprisingly made the layup, and drew the foul for the and-1 opportunity. UNLV just needed one or two other players to step up. Rodriguez answered the call, as he made his first points of the game, and his 20th three of the season, to cut the lead to nine. 

The Rebels had only caused a season-low seven turnovers so far. Omari Moore was the best point guard they’ve faced all season, and it showed. Moore had seven assists and zero turnovers in 25 minutes of action. It was 58-45. UNLV was outrebounded by San Jose State 36-20.

The Rebels rallied to go on a 7-0 run in under two minutes to cut the Spartans’ lead back down to single digits, which featured a fading transition three from McCabe, a circus shot from Rodriguez, and another score for McCabe. After a putback from Harkless, UNLV only trailed 58-54 with 8:38 left in regulation.

The Rebels battled back and showed a ton of heart. As that aforementioned 7-0 run ballooned to 13-0, which turned into UNLV’s largest lead of the game at 62-59. Harkless continued his impressive second-half performance, with all 18 of his points (including the three he would make to retake the lead) coming in this period.

Harkless would attempt to play hero ball once more but lost his dribble and was lucky that the Spartans could not capitalize. Harkless would get the ball again, but he would turn the ball over in a similar fashion to the prior possession. As much as he got UNLV back into this one, it didn’t look like he was going to be the one to close it out, as he was pretty much handing the game back to the Spartans.

Cardenas had a chance to take the lead but missed the free throw. Kruger opted for Gilbert to have the ball in his hands, but it still found its way into Harkless’ possession, who missed a three badly. Fortunately, UNLV retained possession, and Rodriguez was the one to sink the potential game-winner. However, it was deemed a shot clock violation. Moore had his chance to win it but missed, and the score was all tied at 65-65 as they headed into overtime. It was four empty possessions in a row for UNLV to end regulation.

Webster showed up in overtime, making a contested three in the corner. Somehow, Moore had enough energy left in the tank to drive baseline and throw down a vicious one-handed dunk to take a one-point lead.

Gilbert would put the Rebels back on top with a smooth floater, but it didn’t matter as they gave up a three to Sage Tolbert III, and Harkless would airball a jumper. Once again, Hark was selling this game back to San Jose State. UNLV would regain possession as Gilbert would bail them out by forcing a turnover on Moore.

What happened next was borderline insanity. Harkless would, of course, end up with the ball again, only to turn it back over to San Jose State. He flamed out dramatically as he totaled three turnovers and two airballs down the stretch. One has to pressure Kruger on why they continued to trust Harkless. UNLV fell to San Jose State 75-72.

 

Runnin’ Takeaways

 

UNLV vs San Jose State
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Despite the late-game shenanigans, Harkless still totaled 20 points in the second half and overtime but was a horrible 1-7 from three and coughed up four turnovers. Webster contributed 11 points on 3-4 from three. No other Rebel made a significant impact on the stat sheet. Rodriguez and Gilbert disappointed with just 11 total points on a combined 5-18 from the field.

Moore led the way for San Jose State with 15 points and seven assists. Tibet Gorener totaled 11 points and five rebounds. Robert Vaihola controlled the glass with 13 rebounds and nine points with two blocks.

The Rebels lost the rebound battle, 49-35, while giving up 16 offensive rebounds. The Spartans were 21-30 (70%) from the free-throw line due to UNLV fouling 20 times. 

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

 

The Runnin’ Rebels will continue conference play and travel back home to the Thomas & Mack Center to take on San Diego State Saturday, December 31st, at 1:00 pm PT. The game will be available on CBS.

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-Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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