Conference woes continue for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels after the team dropped its third straight contest, this time on the road.
UNLV dropped a Mountain West contest against Utah State, 75-71, Tuesday, Jan. 17 from the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah. The Rebels have not beaten the Aggies on the road since 2016.
Its most recent loss sent UNLV to its third straight defeat and now the program is 2-6 in its last eight outings. This all comes after opening the year 10-0.
“There are no moral victories,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “We’ve made that clear. At UNLV, there are no moral victories but even in losses, there are things you catch from film of what you like.”
Overall, the team is now 12-6 on the year and 1-5 in the Mountain West. As it presently stands, the Rebels are slotted 10th in the conference. This is the worst start in the conference for the program since the 2014-15 season.
The brief two-game road trip will end Saturday, Jan. 21 when UNLV heads to Fresno State for a matchup with the ninth-place Bulldogs.
Despite the loss, the Rebels battled back to take the lead twice in the final 4:05 of regulation. But it was a made three-pointer from the Aggies that put the home team back ahead for good.
Coming into play, Utah State ranked No. 1 in the nation in three-pointer field goal percentage as well as being 24th in the nation in scoring. In this one, it shot 44% from three versus 33% for UNLV.
“If you’re going to have a chance to beat Utah State – especially here, you have to fight your tail off to keep the dribble in front of you,” Kruger said. “I thought in the first half we were just chasing way too much.”
The dagger came in the form of a free throw-line with the shot clock dwindling that put the Aggies up four with 21.9 left in the game.
UNLV had worked its way back into the game behind an 8-0 run to open the second half to cut the deficit to one. Prior to taking the lead, the Rebels had sliced the Aggies’ lead to one on three separate occasions.
Senior guard Luis Rodriguez helped take the first lead on the heels of a 6-0 run. Sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert secured a steal on the defensive end and pushed it to Rodriguez for the fast break dunk.
Rodriguez was held scoreless through halftime and more than two minutes into the second half. His first basket came at the 17:21-mark of the second half. He finished with eight points on 4-of-12 from the field.
Fifth-year guard Jordan McCabe cashed a three to give the Rebels their final lead of the game with about two and a half minutes to go. He also barely missed a steal with the team down two in the final seconds.
That McCabe three served as the last UNLV field goal of the game.
Freshman Keyshawn Hall scored a career-high 19 points to lead all scorers in his first extensive minutes of the season. He played a season-high 26 minutes after averaging about nine minutes of action in five games played this year.
“I can handle it when [the team] needs me to and I can post-up,” he said. “That’s why I call myself a mismatch-nightmare.”
Late in the first half, Hall gave UNLV its first lead in more than 12 minutes on a layup coming out of a timeout. He was whistled for charging with less than a minute to go in regulation and the Rebels down two.
Fifth-year guard EJ Harkless was plagued by foul trouble for most of the game beginning by picking up two fouls in the first four-plus minutes of the game. He picked up his fourth foul of the game with 10:18 to play in the second half, again with UNLV down two.
With 5:34 left to play, it appeared Harkless had fouled out and as he headed to the bench got into a verbal altercation with assistant coach John Cooper. The foul would be rescinded moments later and Harkless would be allowed to return to action.
He finished with just 12 points on 1-of-5 shooting in 12-plus minutes on the floor.
“He’s somebody we’ve leaned on to get good shots – especially, late in games,” Kruger said. “I would’ve loved to have him out there a little more but with the foul situation, it made it a bit difficult.”