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Runnin’ Rebels return home with narrow win over Zips

After a week away from competitive gameplay presented a refreshed UNLV Runnin’ Rebels team that returned to the Thomas & Mack Center with its defense back intact.

For the first time in 17 days, UNLV played inside the T&M Center, hosting and defeating Akron, 72-70, Tuesday, Nov. 28. The win snapped a short stretch of back-to-back losses for the program.

With the victory, the Rebels return to .500 on the year at 3-3 on the season. Another week of preparation lies ahead for the team as it prepares for a road test at Dayton against the Flyers. That game is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 6 with tip-off slated for 6 p.m.

The Zips had a chance to tie the game or take the lead with less than thirty seconds left. Akron opted for a three-pointer that would’ve given it the lead but it clanked off the rim with less than five seconds remaining in regulation.

Two missed free throws from freshman guard Dedan Thomas Jr. immediately following left the door ajar slightly for the opponent. With no timeouts left in tow, the Rebels wouldn’t let the Zips get the full-court heave off.

UNLV built several double-digit leads throughout the game only to have the visitors claw their way back into the contest, coming within a basket of tying or taking the lead on more than occasion. In the first half, the Rebels went up by 10 points about halfway through the first half on the heels of holding the Zips without a point for six and a half minutes. Soon after, the home team would still see its once double-digit lead trimmed to two.

The second half brought more of the same in much bigger fashion. At one point of the second 20-minute session, UNLV went up 18 points on Akron behind a continued strong defensive effort before the late near collapse. Over the final 6:35 of the game, the Zips outscored the Rebs, 16-7.

Akron would never come closer than two points in the second half and would only lead by two points for 47 seconds early in the contest.

While the team defense stayed constant through the vast majority of the game, UNLV was treated to a balanced scoring effort that saw the team pump out four different players with 10 or more points.

Fifth-year guard Luis Rodriguez led all Rebel scorers with 13 points on 50% shooting to go along with six rebounds, three assists, two steals and two blocks. He’s reached double-figure scoring in five of the team’s six points.

Fellow fifth-year player Kalib Boone filled the stat sheet with 12 points on 6-of-9 shooting, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and four blocks. He led the team in rebounds and blocks while sharing in the team-lead in steals.

As a team, UNLV 12 steals and seven blocks on the way to forcing 18 turnovers on defense.

Thomas added 12 points of his own coupled with six assists and four rebounds. He has tallied five or more assists in five of the first six games of his freshman season including a career-high nine against Stetson.

Additionally, Thomas was one of three players with at least two made three-pointers along with Rodriguez and fifth-year guard Justin Webster as the Rebels went 9-for-20 from deep as a team. This includes six straight misses from long range to close the game.

Junior guard Jackie Johnson III was the final UNLV player in double-figures with 11 points and three steals off the bench.

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