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Florida State edges UNLV in first game of Sunshine Slam

Back-to-back wins by the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were short-lived after a loss recently in the program’s first neutral site contest of the season.

In the opening game of the Sunshine Slam, Florida State got the better of UNLV, 83-75, from Daytona Beach, Florida Monday, Nov. 20. Last season, the Rebels won the SoCal Challenge.

Now sitting at 2-2 on the season, UNLV will now await the winner of Colorado/Richmond. The loser of that matchup will meet the Rebels Tuesday, Nov. 21 with tip-off scheduled for either 1 p.m. or 3:30 p.m.

“It’s a quick turnaround,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “We’re going to watch right now to watch who we’re going to play tomorrow and get the guys back together when we get back. First time so it’s a little unique, we’ve got to start preparing immediately,”

A slow start coupled with a deficit as large as 16 points still couldn’t prevent UNLV from making several comeback attempts at various points of the contest. With the Noles up five, the team hopped into a full-court press that shook up any offensive fluidity for the Rebels.

That 16-point lead was built on an 8-0 run by Florida State late in the second half before UNLV closed the game on a 12-4 spurt. Earlier in the half, the Rebels used a 9-0 run to get back into the game, cutting to five points at the time.

To start the game, UNLV fell behind 7-0 in the early going while struggling to get anything going on offense. The team’s first made field goal came at the 17:20-mark of the first half on the way to a 13-point hole in the first 20-minute session.

“They jumped out to a big lead,” Kruger said “And that kind of ended up being the difference probably in the game.”

On two separate occasions the Rebels went on runs just before halftime to trim it back to single digits, first a 12-4 run and then a 7-0 response just before heading into the locker room.

Despite the loss, UNLV shot 57% from the field but was blistered by a 63%-mark from Florida State on the other end. The Seminoles held the edge in terms of bench points (26-21) but the Rebels grabbed the advantage in the paint, (54-46).

“It’s going to be really tough to win a game when a team shoots 63%,” Kruger said. “We shot 57% so I thought we did a great job sharing it, getting the ball where it needed to be and taking good shots and playing strong. But unfortunately tonight, it was on the other side that kind of hurt us.”

While the turnover output was about even as well, the production off the turnovers ultimately made the difference. Florida State nearly doubled UNLV nine fast break points with 18 of its own in addition to finishing +4 in the points off turnovers category.

Fifth-year forward Kalib Boone led the team in scoring for the second straight game with 15 points on 7-of-11 from the floor and five rebounds. Over the last two games, he’s racked up 34 points on 76% shooting.

A trio of players added 13 points apiece including fifth-year players Jalen Hill and Justin Webster along with freshman guard Dedan Thomas Jr. on a combined 14-for-24 from the field.

“I saw a lot of good things [from Thomas Jr.],” Kruger said. “Somebody who's carrying the load offensively in ball-handling and had a lot of really good moments. He’s going to keep getting better, he’s going to keep growing.”

Fifth-year guard Luis Rodriguez was the final Rebel player in double-figures with 12 points on 50% shooting.


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