A rare loss to San Jose State to open conference play provided a salty start to the Mountain West season for UNLV after its best non-conference win percentage in 32 years.
After an extra five-minute overtime period, the Runnin’ Rebels were downed by the Spartans, 75-72, Wednesday, Dec. 28 from the Provident Credit Union Event Center. Both losses for UNLV this season have been by a combined five points.
This matchup marked only the second true road game of the season so far for the Rebels.
For San Jose State, the win had historic implications as it will go down as the first win in a conference opener for the program since joining the Mountain West in 2012-13. Moreover, the Spartans had lost 10 straight to UNLV before this overtime outcome. The last time the team had beaten the program was February of 2011.
Now sitting at 11-2, the Rebels will turn their attention to a home date with the San Diego State Aztecs Saturday, Dec. 31. Tip-off is scheduled for 1 p.m.
Down two points, UNLV stole the inbounds pass from San Jose State and had two tries at the basket but couldn’t find the bottom of the rim. Prior to that, the team had a chance to tie the game with less than a minute left but fifth-year guard EJ Harkless lost the ball resulting in the team’s seventh turnover of the game.
Turnovers proved to be a downfall for the Rebels after playing the majority of the game near-mistake free. Late in the second half, UNLV had recorded just three turnovers but the team matched that number in the last minute and a half of regulation.
On the flip side, they were only able to force the Spartans into 12 the other way. Coming into play, the Rebels were forcing opponents into more than 21 turnovers per game.
In addition, San Jose State grossly out-rebounded UNLV, winning the final margin by 14. This included winning the offensive rebound category, 16-8.
The game only went into overtime behind a double-digit comeback from the Rebels in the second half.
Holding UNLV scoreless for more than four minutes near the end of the first half, San Jose State went on a 14-0 run to take a lead as large as 11 points. That lead eventually was extended to 13 in the second half.
However, Harkless provided a second half spark, scoring all 20 of his points in the second 20-minute session after being held scoreless before halftime.
Harkless was at the heart of a 13-0 Rebel run about midway through the second half where the team shot 6-of-6 from the floor, eventually tying the game at 58 apiece. This game featured 10 ties and 13 lead changes.
A bucket from Harkless with just under six and a half minutes to play gave UNLV its first lead since the 4:52-mark of the first half. He broke another tie at 62 on a made three-pointer.
To close the game, Harkless scored 13 of the last 17 Rebels points including a six-point stretch where he was the team’s lone scorer.
Senior guard Justin Webster was the only other UNLV player in double figures with 11 points with three made threes.
Sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert did not start for the first time this season after arriving late to San Jose after experiencing flight delays in St. Louis where he spent the Christmas holiday.
Gilbert played 36 minutes and scored six points on 3-of-13 shooting.