Runnin’ Rebels advance to Round of 8 with nail-biting win over Boston College

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UNLV No. 10 Kalib Boone dunks the ball against Boston College. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/DJ Cabanlong).

UNLV Men’s basketball (21-11) defeated the Boston College Eagles (20-16) 79-70 in the Round of 16 at Thomas & Mack Center to advance to the Round of 8 of the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) on March 24.

The Rebels entered the game riding a monumental win against No. 2. seeded Princeton Tigers in the Round of 32.

“We’ve had really good defensive possessions that’s led to good offensive possessions,” UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger said. “There’s no doubt tonight that a lot of those good offensive possessions came from just really good defensive possessions.”

Dedan Thomas Jr. was sensational tonight, scoring 17 points, five assists, and shooting 64% from the field.

The Boone brothers also dominated in the win tonight, both scoring double digits and accounting for 14 total rebounds.

Justin Webster also shined for the Rebels, scoring 12 points and four assists.

Mason Madsen started the game off hot for the Eagles, scoring the game’s first points with a 3-pointer. Keylan Boone retaliated on the other end, cashing in on his first 3-pointer.

UNLV’s juggernaut of a backcourt featuring Thomas and Webster torched the Eagles defense early on with 16:50 left.

Kalib Boone thrived in the post, scoring his fourth point with a post hook shot to give the Rebels a 16-11 lead with 13:25 left.

“[Kalib] played great, he was a spark like he never left,” UNLV forward Keylan Boone said. “It’s just good to see him back out there.”

Rebel faithfully ignited throughout Thomas & Mack Center after a 3-pointer by Keylan Boone. The Eagles responded with Claudell Harris Jr. knocking down a shot from beyond the arc to cut the Rebel lead to 19-14 with 12:06 left.

Jackie Johnson III provided a spark off the bench, securing a steal on the defensive end and scoring a layup in transition to extend the lead to 23-18.

The Eagles offense caught fire, knocking down two consecutive 3-pointers, and cashed in on two free throws to give the Eagles their first lead of the game at 26-25 with 5:52 left.

Both offenses continued to throw haymakers at each other, with both teams making a combined seven of nine shots from the field, making the score 37-33 in favor of the Eagles with 2:25 left.

Through the closing minutes of the first half, Thomas took the reins, scoring a pull-up jump shot. On the next possession, he drove down the lane and dished a pass to Shane Nowell for a ferocious dunk. The Rebel defense ended the half by holding the Eagles scoreless for the last three minutes to make the score 37-37 going into halftime.

The Rebels ability to take care of the basketball was pivotal in the first half, accounting for eight assists and zero turnover. The Rebels defense also forced four steals and three blocks.

“Without having to watch anything on film, no question that’s what made the difference in the game,” Kruger said. “Giving ourselves more opportunities to get good quality shots up.”

Thomas started the second half strong, scoring a 3-pointer to open the half. On the next possession, he hit another pull-up jump shot for his 13th point of the game to tie the game at 44-44 with 17:47 left.

Boston College’s blistering defense battle tested UNLV throughout the front end of the second half, but the Rebels continued to battle, with Webster hitting his third jump shot. The Rebels next possession involved Kalib Boone working in the low post and converting a score to cut the Eagles lead to 49-48.

Out of a media timeout, the Rebels continued to fire at all cylinders, with Keylan Boone delivering another from downtown. UNLV forced a stop on the other end, which led to free throws for Karl Jones.

The Eagles stayed in the game with Jaeden Zackery soaring through the lane and converting on a 3-point play to give the Eagles a 54-52 lead with 11:25 left.

Rebel faithful rose to their feet after two monumental stops on the defensive end that turned into a layup for Rob Whaley Jr. and a step-back 3-pointer for Keylan Boone to give the Rebels a 61-54 lead.

The wizardry of Thomas continued to dazzle for the Rebels, dishing a no-look pass to Kalib Boone for an emphatic dunk, forcing Boston College to call for a timeout.

Harris ended a four-minute cold spell for the Eagles, cashing in on his third 3-pointer of the game to cut the lead to 63-57.

Throughout the backend of the first half, momentum swung for Boston College after stringing multiple stops that led to five quick points for Quinten Post.

The Rebels capitalized on multiple stops in the closing minutes of the second half, forcing the Eagles to foul. 

The Rebels cashed in on six free throws to close out the game to defeat the Boston College Eagles 79-70.

Up Next

The Rebels play in the Round of 8 of the NIT Tournament at the Prudential Center to take on the No. 1 seed Seton Hall Pirates.

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