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Runnin’ Rebels Advance to NIT Quarterfinals Inside Thomas & Mack Center

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (21-12) extended their first postseason run in over a decade with a 79-70 win against Boston College (20-16), in front of their home fans inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

The team clinched a quarterfinal spot in the 2024 National Invitation Tournament with the win.

Head coach Kevin Kruger noted the eye-popping stat of the night to lead postgame comments. 

“One turnover, 17 assists,” Kruger said. “They did what they needed to do, when they needed to do it.” 

Timely shot making and defensive activity won the game for UNLV, withstanding seven ties and nine lead changes on the night. 

Fifth-year forward Keylan Boone scored the Rebels’ first points from beyond the arc. He would finish with a team-high 19 points, including five triples. 

On the defensive end, the Runnin’ Rebels caused havoc in spurts - highlighted by a shot clock violation in the game’s first ten minutes.

UNLV finished with seven blocks and five steals, compared to just three blocks and one steal for the visiting Eagles.

“That’s kind of been the story of the season,” said Kruger regarding the defensive spark tonight.

Reserve guard Jackie Johnson III is responsible for a share of that spark. The senior buoyed the second unit, and was +11 on the floor in just 13 minutes.

“I’m just so happy for these seniors,” Kruger later added. Coach was admittedly joyful in the postgame as well.

“There’s a lot going through my  head,” he responded when asked about UNLV’s most recent prior tournament success, when coach Kruger himself was a player and his father, Lon Kruger, the head coach.

Freshman guard Dedan Thomas Jr. and fifth-year forward Kalib Boone chipped in 17 and 16 points respectively. The latter’s status was an uncertainty leading up to game time. 

“He just went out for warm-ups and stayed out there,” said Keylan Boone about his brother’s return to the floor after missing round one against Princeton. 

It was also a lopsided finish from the free throw line, with Boston college converting five of seven attempts while UNLV scored 11 of their 15 free throws.

For the Eagles, Center Quinten Post scored a game-high 22 points, to go with nine rebounds and all three Boston College blocked shots. 

His dunk with 3:24 remaining cut UNLV’s lead to just four points. One minute later, a three-pointer courtesy of fifth -year guard Justin Webster would calm all fears of a comeback.

The Runnin’ Rebels are the last remaining men’s team from the Mountain West Conference in the postseason, alongside San Diego State (26-10) who also advanced to the NCAA tournament Sweet 16 on Sunday. 

Up next for UNLV, a trip back to New Jersey, this time to face Seton Hall (22-12) following their 72-58 victory over UNT (19-15).

That game is set for Wed. March 27th. 

There, the Scarlet & Gray will continue their quest for the team’s first NIT Championship in program history.


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