Runnin’ Rebels suffer third home loss of season, drop to 1-3 in the conference
The emotional high of beating a second ranked team this season, this time on the road, was short-lived as the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels came up short in their return home.
“It’s all about being a professional,” senior guard Justin Webster said. “It’s a long conference season [...] The game is over so when you go home, think about it for a little bit but it’s over.”
Boise State came into the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Jan. 11 and handed UNLV its fourth loss of the year, 84-66. Three of the team’s four losses this season have come at home.
“Just not really the night we were looking for,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “That’s about all I’ve got to say on that one.”
Overall, the Rebels are now 12-4 on the season and 1-3 in the Mountain West after starting the year 10-0. Currently, the team is eighth in the conference standings.
Playing the Broncos was the first part of a two-game homestand for UNLV that will conclude Saturday, Jan. 14 from the Thomas & Mack Center against the Colorado State Rams.
Tip-off is scheduled for 4 p.m.
Coming out of halftime against Boise State, UNLV fouled guard Chibuzo Agbo on three-point shots back-to-back times in the span of 42 seconds. To make matters worse, Agbo made both of the threes and one of the two free throw attempts to come away with seven of a possible eight points.
“It’s definitely something you want to avoid,” Kruger said. “Especially when he makes two of them. But I’d have to look at it.”
The Broncos went on a 14-3 run to open the second half to flip a two-point Rebel halftime lead into a nine-point lead for the visitors. Not long after, Boise State would extend the lead to 16 points.
“Coach [Kruger] came in and told us we slept-walked through the first half,” Webster said. “I think that carried over into the second half when they went on that 14-3 run. For us, we can’t allow those big time runs, we’ve got to go out and punch them in the mouth first – especially to start the game.”
UNLV didn’t go away easy, engineering an 8-0 run about midway through the second half to cut the deficit to eight. That run would eventually be stretched to 12-2 as the Rebels were able to trim it to six points but they were never able to get closer than that.
Boise State pulled away once again, even stretching the lead to 18, the largest of the game. Over the final three and a half minutes of the game, UNLV went without a point.
As a team, the Broncos shot 54% from three-point range. Both Boise State and San Diego State shot 50-plus% from deep in wins against the Rebels.
“It definitely hurts because that’s the one thing we try not to allow are catch-and-shoot three-point shots,” Webster said. “We try to get them out of their rhythm by getting them on the run but it’s just like Jordan said, ‘We gave them too many straight line drives,’ and they were able to zip past us and knock down open shots.”
On the other end, UNLV shot 6-of-19 from three.
Fifth-year guard EJ Harkless took a hard fall 28 seconds into the game and stayed down writhing in pain. He’d leave the game and return at the 16:39-mark of the first half.
A little over two minutes later he’d knock down a jumper on the fast break for his third and fourth points on the night. He’d be stuck at four points until about midway through the second 20-minute session.
Harkless finished with 12 points on 5-of-18 from the field including 0-of-4 from downtown. Despite averaging nearly 78% from the free throw line this season, he shot 2-of-5 from the charity stripe.
Fifth-year guard Jordan McCabe scored all nine of his points in the first half, five of which came in the absence of Harkless as he recovered from that fall.
“He did a really good job,” Kruger said. “He came in and provided a really quick spark. [The Broncos] got off to a quick start and Jordan was the reason why we were able to get out in front and have a lead at halftime.”
The nine points were three points shy of tying a season-high of 12 which McCabe has hit twice. McCabe has starred mostly in a lead guard role off-the-bench for UNLV this year after starting all 31 games last season.
“As a competitor, I wanted to impact the game,” he said. “I struggled early on to find where that would be in terms of my role. But I had to take a step back and look at [it like] it doesn’t matter if I’m playing 10 or 20 or 25 [minutes]; it’s about, ‘Can I have a positive impact on the game?’”
Sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert led the team in scoring with 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting. Webster added 13 points on 5-of-9 from the floor.
Senior guard Luis Rodriguez didn’t record his second basket of the game until more than five minutes into the second half. He ended the night with nine points on 3-of-11 shooting. This is the sixth time he’s been held to single-digit scoring in 16 outings.