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FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Wyoming – Game 20

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (13-7 / 2-6) | Wyoming Cowboys (6-14 / 1-7)

Franchise Sports Media

 

The Runnin’ Rebels snapped their four-game losing streak after defeating the Wyoming Cowboys 86-72, improving to 2-6 in MWC play

 

UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Luis Rodriguez suffered a groin injury against Wyoming. Kevin Kruger told reporters that he’s “day to day.” Rodriguez started the first 19 games. However, his streak would end here as he wasn’t active for this one and didn’t even warm up.

UNLV’s starting lineup vs. Wyoming was Keshon Gilbert, Justin Webster, E.J. Harkless, Eli Parquet, and Victor Iwuakor. Parquet replaced Rodriguez in the starting lineup, with the former being the first player warming up three hours before tip-off.

Parquet seemed rejuvenated as he hit a fall-away jumper and used his braced knee to land. Some may deem it insignificant but having the confidence to use an injured leg still goes a long way concerning a player’s health. However, Parquet may still not be in peak shape as he air-balled a three.

UNLV, as a whole, felt recuperated. It may or may not have been because they were in their home arena. Still, regardless the Rebels needed to pick themselves up, and if there was any team to do this against, it’d be Wyoming, the team they were tied with for last place in the Mountain West heading into this game.

The Rebels had a different energy about them, as Harkless blocked a jump shot, enabling Gilbert to score a tough transition layup. However, Wyoming countered quickly with a 5-0 run, cutting UNLV’s lead to 21-20 with 7:30 left in the first half.

Jordan McCabe got to work on the offensive end, as he passed through a tight window to Parquet for a score inside, then drained a contested three that should’ve been an and-1. Shane Nowell, who more than likely benefited from Rodriguez being inactive, made his time count with a spot up three.

Gilbert’s confidence seemed to be replenished, as he had a mismatch with Nate Barnhart switched onto him. All Gilbert had to do was walk him down and swish the three. Before the halftime buzzer, McCabe buried a long three.

 

At halftime, the score read UNLV 41, Wyoming 31. McCabe had 10 points off the bench while Gilbert had a game-high 12. UNLV’s new-look defense got the job done. With less switching and fewer bad matchups, Wyoming shot 40.0% overall because of it.

 

UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Heading into the second half, the Rebels came out focused again, as they shot out of the gates with an 11-6 run. Nowell continued to get his chance to shine. However, he squandered it this time as his failed attempt at a charge awarded Wyoming with an and-1 opportunity.

Webster was having himself a solid outing as he found himself wide open for a three. For a team to leave their opponent’s best deep shooter alone tells a lot about either the players or the coaches. Nowell was doing his best, and he wanted his talents on full display as he spotted up for another three, thanks to a beautiful setup by Gilbert.

McCabe was cooking as he faked a defender into the air and blew past for a smooth mid-range jumper. Unfortunately for Wyoming, Hunter Maldonado took a hard fall after going up for a rebound. Expectedly, he exited the game to the locker room.

Xavier DuSell made an absolute prayer of a three over Parquet, which cut the Rebels’ lead to six at 60-54 with 10:28 left in regulation. Then, Iwuakor got reckless, as he usually does, and he fouled Hunter Thompson on a three-point attempt. 

With Wyoming inching closer to the Rebels, UNLV needed to get something going fast. So, without a doubt, they went to Harkless, who awarded the team’s trust with a spot up three. Harkless hasn’t been the best from deep all season long, but the man can hit the tough shots when needed.

Keyshawn Hall had stayed relatively quiet in this one until he took advantage of a mismatch between him and Thompson. Hall channeled his inner LeBron James, putting his head down, and going straight at Thompson for the and-1. Hall wouldn’t stop there, coming back on the very next possession for back-to-back buckets. The kid has a lagoon of potential.

Even after Wyoming called a timeout, Hall went straight back at Thompson for his third straight bucket. Package that with Harkless scoring an and-1 of his own, and now all of a sudden, UNLV has become so much more dangerous on offense than before. Hall tried to continue his hot streak and nearly did, but he lost control of the ball on what could’ve been his best highlight of the night. 

Noah Reynolds and DuSell seemed to be UNLV’s most significant problems. The former hit a tough contested three to cut the lead to seven at 76-69 with 4:41 left to play. Reynolds seemed completely in the zone as he came back down and drained another three. Harkless wouldn’t let Reynolds hold the spotlight for long, as the former would convert on an and-1 mid-range jumper to keep the Rebels ahead with a comfortable eight-point lead. 

After Harkless drew a foul on DuSell on a three-point attempt, Wyoming head coach Jeff Linder was irate, arguing with the referee and earning himself a technical. This is something, as a coach, sometimes you have to do to showcase that you’ve got your players’ back. There’s no doubt Linder was angry, but things like these are sometimes all for show. This game was over, and the final score read UNLV 86, Wyoming 72. UNLV grabbed their first win since Jan. 7

 

Runnin’ Takeaways

 

UNLV vs Wyoming
Photo Credit: Trisha LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Harkless scored 20 points in the second half (28 total), along with tallying eight rebounds. Gilbert and McCabe both added 12 points with a combined 4-7 from three. Hall totaled 10 points (4-4 FGs).

Reynolds had 23 points and seven rebounds. DeSell totaled 18 points (6-9 3PM) and six rebounds. Maldonado finished with 11 points (5-7 FGs) and four assists.

During UNLV’s four-game losing streak, all four opponents shot better than 50% from the field and 40% from three-point range. Wyoming still shot 42.4% (14-33) from three, but UNLV held them to 40.7% (24-59) overall.

Kevin Kruger, after the game, said, “Better overall game. It’s easy to say we have to get more confidence. When you lose it it’s hard to get back. I thought tonight was a great step in the right direction. We were much more in tune with each other than we were lately. A step in the right direction.”

 

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 UNR at the Thomas & Mack Center, Saturday, January 28th, at 7:00 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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