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FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs UNR – Game 21

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (14-7 / 3-6) | Nevada Wolf Pack (16-6 / 6-3)

Franchise Sports Media

 

The Runnin’ Rebels took care of business against their rivals, defeating the Nevada Wolf Pack 68-62, improving to 3-6 in MWC play

 

UNLV vs UNR
Photo Credit: Shantalle Demirjian/Franchise Sports Media

Luis Rodriguez participated in practice earlier in the week, but Kevin Kruger did not give an update on his status. Rodriguez was seen warming up with the rest of the squad and was dressed for action. However, he did not appear in the game.

UNLV’s starting lineup vs. UNR was Keshon Gilbert, Justin Webster, E.J. Harkless, Eli Parquet, and Victor Iwuakor.

UNLV’s first possession went nowhere, as Harkless was stuffed on the drive. However, the Rebels were able to reign in the Wolf Pack off a beautiful defensive effort from Iwuakor, where he rejected a shot out of bounds. Despite their efforts on the defensive end, UNLV couldn’t get anything going on offense and found themselves down 5-2 with 16:36 left in the first half.

Harkless wouldn’t let that slide for long, as he showcased his playmaking ability, setting up Iwuakor for a pick-and-roll dunk. Kevin Kruger opted to make numerous subs early, bringing in Jordan McCabe, Keyshawn Hall, and Shane Nowell

It wouldn’t take long for Hall’s presence to be known as he was left wide open for an easy three. The kid is an offensive threat, a perfect combination of speed, power, and finesse. Nowell would have his highlight moment as he dropped his defender off of a spin move and made the layup to finish it off. UNLV held a shaky one-point lead at 12-11 with 11:41 left until halftime. Their defense continued to hold up, and their offense started to pick up. However, they’d need to kick it up a notch to stay ahead.

Webster would answer the call, hitting four out of five three-pointers within minutes of each other and securing a seven-point lead for UNLV. It was exactly what the Rebels needed and was missing. Though it’s no secret that Webster is the team’s best shooter, and he can be a bit streaky.

A bit weird here, as David Muoka finally entered the game. It’s just a bit awkward seeing our former starter fall from grace. There are not many red flags about his game, other than he’s an old-fashioned center. However, there’s always a spot for bigs like Muoka, and there are always uses for them. Though, Kruger has chosen to step away from what Muoka can offer.

With UNR closing the gap as the game headed into halftime, Gilbert made a huge defensive play, stripping the ball handler and going coast to coast for a one-handed flush. A much-needed play to keep the crowd’s spirits high and the squad’s higher.

 

At halftime, the score read UNLV 35, UNR 33. Four three-pointers in the half for Webster, who had a game-high 12 points. UNLV held UNR to 34.4% from the field while also forcing ten turnovers. 

 

UNLV vs UNR
Photo Credit: Shantalle Demirjian/Franchise Sports Media

UNR came into this game and ranked top 20 in the nation in protecting the ball, but UNLV already forced 13 turnovers. With 14:47 left in regulation, UNR took the lead off some free throws at 44-42. Their lead wouldn’t last long, though, as Parquet would step up and drill a three-pointer while Webster continued his elite showing with a layup in traffic. 

The MWC refs seemed as incompetent as the NBA referees as Jarod Lucas and Parquet got into it. However, Lucas would undoubtedly flop into Parquet, and of course, the gullible MWC referee would call the foul on Parquet

Harkless and Iwuakor would connect for another big-time play. As Iwuakor cut the screen, Harkless fed it to him inside, and the forward slammed the ball through the hoop with authority. The move from Muoka to Iwuakor was troubling, but now we see the vision of Kruger. Harkless continued to show off his playmaking ability as he set up Nowell for a clean look from three. 

As talented as the big guard Hall may be, he’s still a bit inexperienced, and it was on full display as he threw an errant pass out of a double team. However, he did show that he’s a quick learner, as in the very next play, the same situation happened, and this time he was able to deliver on the pass.

The Rebels would then begin to lose their grip on the game, as offensively, they started to struggle. However, that wouldn’t last long when they’ve got Harkless on the court. UNLV hung on by a thread to lead 60-57 with 5:18 left to play. McCabe made a beautiful defensive play that prevented an inside look for the Wolf Pack, which led to a shifty bucket on the offensive end by Harkless.

Harkless went into takeover mode. Not only did he take on the task of guarding Kenan Blackshear, but he also shouldered the offensive load as he scored again off a smooth left-handed layup. It was seemingly a pivotal moment late in the game. As Lucas went to drive inside but didn’t know where he was going exactly, he ran straight into Harkless for an offensive foul. At this point, there was no coming back for the Wolf Pack, as UNLV prevailed 68-62.

 

Runnin’ Takeaways

 

UNLV vs UNR
Photo Credit: Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Webster torched UNR for five triples on eight attempts, totaling 17 points. Harkless did his usual thing, finishing with 18 points (5-15 FGs, 0-5 3PMs), nine rebounds, five assists, and two steals. Nowell played some valuable minutes, and he had eight points (2-3 3PMs) and five rebounds.

Lucas led UNR with 15 points. Blackshear had 14 points (6-17 FGs, 0-3 3PMs), five rebounds, six assists, and two steals. Darrion Williams finished with 13 points and four rebounds. Nick Davidson and Tyler Powell combined for 13 points off the bench.

It’s been a while since we’ve played with that security and confidence,” Kruger said after the game. Kruger on the crowd, “There are no words to put into how great it was to see that. I know the guys appreciate it. To have that buzz of a rivalry game. There was no doubt the crowd was a huge reason why we kept that security and confidence.”

 

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 Colorado State Tuesday, January 31st, at 6:00 pm PT. The game will be available on the Mountain West Network.

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-Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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