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Late game executions produces third ranked win of season for Rebels

Another opportunity to avenge late game miscues, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels rebounded to take their third ranked win of the year capped off by a series of made free throws.


The resume-building win came in a 66-60 win over the Colorado State Rams Saturday, Feb. 24 from the Thomas & Mack Center. It's the first time since 2013 that UNLV has earned three Top-25 wins in a single season.


“Great fight,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “They continue to amaze me in a good way with the way they just continue to figure things out. They continue to work and they continue to be ready.”


The team has now won seven of its last eight and are currently 9-4 at home with two more home games left to go. Overall, the team is now 16-10 on the season and one back in the loss column of first place in the crowded Mountain West standings. The top seven teams in the conference are separated by two and a half games.


With a road trip to Wyoming for a date with the Cowboys next on the schedule, the Rebels have a chance to make more ground in the standings. That contest will take place Tuesday, Feb. 27 with tip-off at 6 p.m.


Freshman guard Dedan Thomas Jr. iced the game with a pair of free throws just seven days after missing two in a three-point loss. The Las Vegas native rebounded to go a perfect 12-for-12 from the charity stripe on his way to a team-high 23 points.


UNLV’s last 10 points came from the free throw line with Thomas and fifth-year guard Luis Rodriguez doing the work. Rodriguez went 8-for-8 on the night, finishing with 14 points.


As a team, the Rebels shot 26-for-31 from the free throw line in a game that featured 10 lead changes and nine ties.


Thomas outdueled Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens, who finished with a team-high 18 points and six assists. Late in regulation, he cashed in on a deep three-pointer to tighten the deficit for the Rams.


“We just wanted to make the shots as difficult as possible,” Kruger said. “You’re not going to take away all of them, you’re not going to make them miss – that’s kind of ‘coach-speak’ but players look at you’re an idiot when you say it.”


UNLV scored the first bucket of the game then would go without one for nearly three minutes as CSU raced out on an 8-0 run. Just before halftime, the Rebs would respond with a 10-0 run of their own punctuated by a three from Rodriguez while scoring 17 of 21 points during that stretch.


Early in the second half junior forward Rob Whaley Jr. went down favoring his left ankle and would be helped up to his feet before heading straight to the locker room. He would not return to the contest.


Whaley was a force as he has been since being inserted into the starting lineup, tallying two monster dunks one of which was on the backend on an alley-oop.


“The story of tonight is going to be Rob goes out early in the second half,” Kruger said. “He’s been such a focal point and such an impactful player and [junior Isaiah Cottrell] stays ready, hasn’t played much in the last couple of games and steps up and plays huge minutes.


“That’s what these guys have done. I’m just really happy for them because they deserve it.”

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