FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Southern Mississippi – Game 12

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (11-1 / 0-0)  | Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (11-2 / 0-0)

Franchise Sports Media


UNLV bounced back from their last game with an impressive performance in the second half to defeat Southern Mississippi 74-63


UNLV vs Souther Mississippi
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

UNLV’s transfer from Colorado, Eli Parquet (knee), is expected to miss another 4-6 weeks, per Kevin Kruger. Parquet only averages 5.1 PPG but is a key on-ball defender for the Runnin’ Rebels. All the while, Isaiah Cottrell was still in a walking boot with no idea when he’ll return to action.

It was a big game for UNLV, and Southern Miss was ranked 22nd in NET coming into this one. This was the non-conference finale for the Scarlet and Gray. USM’s Felipe Haase (17.4 PPG, 7.1 RPG) and Deandre Pinckney (11.4 PPG, 6.7 RPG) came in as the main threats for the Rebels.

UNLV’s starting lineup vs. Southern Mississippi was Keshon Gilbert, Justin Webster, E.J. Harkless, Luis Rodriguez, and David Muoka. It was the second straight game for these starters. Without Parquet, they’re still learning how to play together, as they’ve only logged around 3 minutes per game together this season.

The Rebels started this game by going nearly three minutes without any buckets until Rodriguez was able to convert a three, which was now an NCAA record 1,173 straight games with a made 3-pointer. They struggled early on but were finally hitting their stride as Harkless drilled a three of his own to take their first lead of the night at 9-8 with 15:26 left in the first half.

Southern Miss wasn’t going to let the Rebels off easy, though, as they went on a 6-0 run. UNLV went right back at them, with Victor Iwuakor and Jordan McCabe responding with back-to-back buckets to spark a 7-0 run of their own and to ensure that this one wasn’t going to get out of hand early.

It was a weird first 11 minutes, as UNLV missed several layups, and Southern Miss was fortunate only to have nine turnovers because several Rebel pass deflections ended up out of bounds.

Pinckney was caught for a flopping call, as nobody was going to believe that Harkless was able to push him down. It’s a controversial call in general, but flopping should be called at every level in any contact sport. At times, it can be genuinely game-wrecking.

Keyshawn Hall checked in with less than five minutes remaining in the first, which was an interesting decision by Kevin Kruger to make him the primary “big man” on the court since he’s considered a guard and has an excellent skill set. He didn’t do much other than give the other guys a breather. Gilbert got his first make of the game off some beautiful ball movement from the Rebels that got him open for a three. After a Rodriguez putback layup, UNLV was ahead at 32-28 with 2:25 left in the first.


At halftime, the score read Southern Miss 33, UNLV 32. The Rebels forced 12 turnovers on defense and held Southern Miss to 1-9 from three-point range, but the Eagles were 12-of-17 inside the arc. Rodriguez had 11 points (3-5 from three), but UNLV committed ten turnovers of their own.


UNLV vs Souther Mississippi
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Heading into the second half, a scary moment for Rebel fans as Gilbert and Iwuakor collided in mid-air, and both landed awkwardly. Yet, the two came back up just fine and continued per usual. What wasn’t usual was UNLV finding themselves down 41-36 with 15:57 remaining. Granted, they still played solid defense, but it was visible that they missed the ability of Parquet. On the offensive end, they started the second half 2-8 from the field and 0-3 from three.

Gilbert reverted to his usual self as he converted a flashy and-1 layup underneath a USM defender, something he’s done all season long. That play sparked a quick 5-0 run for UNLV, capped off with another three from Rodriguez, to take the lead at 48-43 with 12:31 left.

The Rebels’ defense began to smother Southern Miss, as they were held scoreless for nearly six minutes until Denijay Harris finally got a layup to fall for USM, and that started a 6-0 run to bring the game within six. However, UNLV had still outscored the Eagles 15-6 over those last seven minutes. Rodriguez put a stop to that USM run with yet another three, he’s been solid all year, but he took a step forward in this one.

Webster finally made his first three of the game when it mattered (after missing his first four attempts) to take an eight-point lead. The crowd reached their peak when Harkless converted an and-1 layup in transition, which had the Rebels up 67-56 with 3:17 left to go.

One of the larger reasons for UNLV pulling away was their ability to draw the foul and convert the free throws, as in the second half alone, they were 15-22 so far. It wasn’t efficient, but it was the rare case of quantity over quality, and it put the Rebels in the driver seat with USM in the trunk.

In a final play that summed up the night, Austin Crowley went in for a layup, tried to pass out of it but was deflected, and Harkless saved it from going out of bounds. The first half was close, but the Rebels turned it around and sailed to victory over Southern Miss 74-63.


Runnin’ Takeaways


UNLV vs Souther Mississippi
Photo Credit: TQ/Franchise Sports Media

Harkless scored 15 of his team-high 19 points in the second half. Rodriguez scored 18 points on an insanely efficient 5-8 from three. Gilbert was stifled in this one with only seven points but led the team with ten rebounds and added four steals.

Pinckney finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds. Haase, despite being USM’s leading scorer, was held to just one point but did his damage in other areas with nine rebounds and six assists. Crowley put up 18 points but committed seven turnovers.

The Rebels won despite shooting 33.3% (21-63) from the field and three (8-24) while holding USM to a horrible 10.5% (2-19) from three. UNLV was also outrebounded 46-39 and outscored in the paint 32-22.

Harkless told reporters after the game, “Don’t ever let your offense affect your defense because if you always defend, you always have a chance,” after forcing USM to commit 25 turnovers, they turned that into 33 points to avoid a second consecutive loss. Southern Miss only averaged 11 turnovers a game coming into this one.

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


The Runnin’ Rebels will now begin conference play and travel to San Jose, California, to take on San Jose State Wednesday, December 28th, at 7:00 pm PT. The game (at the time of writing) has no available options for viewing.

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-Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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