Aggies ruin Senior Night for Runnin’ Rebels
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels suffered their largest defeat of the season Wednesday, March 1as they lost 91-66 to the Utah State Aggies inside the Thomas & Mack Center.
“To everyone out there, as a leader of this team, we apologize for the way we presented ourselves tonight,” senior guard Justin Webster said. “That’s not basketball. That’s not UNLV basketball. It starts with us as leaders of this team and we’ll take the burden.”
UNLV honored four seniors Wednesday night on its annual Senior Night. Guards Jordan McCabe, EJ Harkless, Elijah Parquet and Cameron Burist were all honored and recognized for their contributions to the Runnin’ Rebel program.
Harkless was one of two Rebel players in double figure scoring and led the team with 20 points. The only other Rebel to crack double figures was sophomore guard Shane Nowell who finished his night with 10 points and nine rebounds.
Because of how the standings sit in the Mountain West, the Runnin’ Rebels will not grab a top five seed in the standings. This means that UNLV will be playing on the opening day of the conference tournament, something it has not done since the 2020-21 season when they beat Air Force in the opening round 80-52.
“Of course it’s not great,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “As much as anything, whether it was Nov. 10th or March 1st, it never feels good to have a game like that.”
After Wednesday’s loss, UNLV is now 17-12 on the season which includes a 6-11 mark in conference play, good for seventh in the Mountain West standings. This is the highest that UNLV can finish the regular season at before the conference tournament starts next week.
“We didn’t come out and compete,” Webster said. “That was the main thing that Coach Kruger talked about is that we didn’t come out and compete and it showed. I’ve never really been a part of a game where we all just never came in here and competed so as far as effort and execution wise, we didn’t do any of those things.
“For me, this is one of the worst games I’ve been a part of.”
Webster finished the game with one point on 0-for-3 shooting from the field. He did chip in with two assists and a steal as well.
Wednesday’s game wrapped up the home slate of the UNLV schedule. The team will have one more game left to finish out the regular season as they head up north to play the Nevada Wolfpack on Saturday, Mar. 4 at 2 p.m.
The second half was the difference maker as UNLV shot 26 percent as a team from the field while Utah State shot over 71 percent from the field including 66 percent from three compared to 27 percent from three for the Rebels in the final 20 minutes of play.
After coming into the second half trailing by 12 points, a pair of three-pointers from sophomore guard Jackie Johnson got the deficit down to four points for the Rebels which prompted a Utah State timeout with just under 16 minutes to go.
The Aggies responded to this run from UNLV with a 16-3 run of their own which lasted nearly five minutes and put the Aggies up 17 points with 10:46 to go, a run that would put the game in Utah State’s control.
“I think what it felt like was an energy shift,” McCabe said. “On one side of the ball, you had a team fighting for a NCAA tournament appearance trying to get into the field. That’s what you felt. You felt that shift to a team that needed to win and a team that would like to win.”
McCabe concluded his senior night game with three points on 1-of-5 shooting from the floor which included 1-for-4 from three to go along with one assist and one block.
As a team, Utah State shot over 61 percent from the field which included a 47 percent mark from three-point land.
Ball movement was another deciding factor in this one as the Aggies racked up 16 assists on 34 made field goals compared to only six assists for the Runnin’ Rebels.
Utah State beat UNLV in points off turnovers 32-15 to go along with a 42-20 advantage when it came to points in the paint.