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Rebels win again, keep pace in crowded Mountain West standings

Overtime was needed for the eighth win in nine tries for the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels to keep the team in the thick of things in the crowded Mountain West.


UNLV dropped Wyoming, 75-69, Tuesday, Feb. 27 from the Arena Auditorium. The victory makes it the fifth straight conference road win for the Rebels which is the best for the program since the 2005-06 season.


“This is a veteran group,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “They know how hard it is to win road games, period. And road games in the conference especially and how important they are and the weight of each one.”


Coming into the contest, UNLV was tied with intrastate rival Nevada – Reno for fourth in the Mountain West with a 9-5 conference record. Now the team is locked into a three-way tie for third place in the conference with the aforementioned Wolf Pack and San Diego State Aztecs.


Overall, the team is now 17-10 on the year with its final homestand of the regular season. Saturday, March 2 the team will host the San Jose State Spartans inside the Thomas & Mack Center with tip-off squared away for 7 p.m.


Fifth-year forward Kalib Boone had a monster dunk to put the team up five points with just under 50 seconds in the overtime session. That dunk helped punctuate a 24-point, 12-rebound double-double in a vital win for the program.


Boone converted a wild circus shot late in regulation during a major comeback effort by the Cowboys.


“We did a really good job for majority of the game,” Kruger said. “They fought for a couple of minutes to tie it. The mood in the huddle was great going into overtime because we did a really good job for the majority of the game.”


Twin brother, Keylan, cashed in on a crucial three-pointer to put the team up five points after picking up his fourth foul of the game. Earlier in that second half, he converted on just his second made field goal of the game after battling foul trouble for the vast majority of the game.


Keylan would eventually foul out of the game with eight points. Needing points in a big way, freshman guard Dedan Thomas Jr. continued his tremendous first-year collegiate campaign with a clutch jumpshot to give UNLV a four-point edge.


“[Thomas] did a good job,” Kruger said. “He quarterbacked another road win. At the end of the day, point guards are measured by wins and losses. And there he is with another tough road win.”


That shot would be responded to by Wyoming with four straight free throws to send the game into overtime. By the final buzzer, UNLV had led for more than 37 minutes of the 45-minute ball game. The team even held a lead as large as 10 points in the second half.


In the first half, both teams combined to make just 14 field goals in a defensive struggle while racking up 14 total turnovers. Both teams shot at least 48% from the field in the second half led by 51% from the Rebels.


Junior forward Rob Whaley Jr. played despite being a game-time decision for most of the time leading up to tip-off. He made his presence felt immediately with an early pass out of the double team inside the post to an open Thomas for a made three-pointer.


Whaley picked up a fourth foul about midway through the second half and would compete the rest of the game without earning a disqualifying fifth foul. In fact, he scored seven of his nine points in overtime including a posterizing dunk plus the foul.


“Once he woke up a little bit in our first few minutes he was great,” Kruger said. “I think he was a little timid fully trusting the ankle and how much could be done, which is completely normal.


“He fought out there, he competed. He made some huge plays obviously and some huge free throws.”

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