Runnin’ Rebels continue worst Conference start in school history

EJ Harkless shooting a 3-pointer. Harkless finished the game with 15 points. Photo courtesy of UNLV Athletics.

The Runnin’ Rebels lost 76-63 at Fresno State on Jan. 21 extending their losing streak to four.

UNLV starts Mountain West play with a 1-6 record, their worst start to conference play in school history. 

“Yeah, there’s frustration of course,” coach Kevin Kruger said postgame. “Not much we can do but get back in the gym tomorrow and try to figure it out.”

Isaiah Hill led the Bulldogs with a career-high 28 points on 7-12 from the field. He also notched five assists in the win. 

“He’s a tough guy to guard,” Kruger stated postgame. “He did a really good job getting his rhythm early. Anytime you’ve got a guy like that able to get in a rhythm it can be tough.”

Oklahoma transfer E.J. Harkless led UNLV in scoring with 15 points but shot 3-13 from the field in the loss. Harkless added seven rebounds and four assists.

UNLV produced two more double-digit scorers, Keshon Gilbert and Keyshawn Hall. Gilbert’s 11 points were coupled with three assists and two rebounds while Hall secured five rebounds. 

The 6-7 guard notched his first start tonight following a 19-point performance in UNLV’s previous game vs Utah State. David Muoka only tallied four minutes.

Elijah Parquet returned from injury, notching 31 minutes of action in his first Mountain West game. Parquet missed eight straight games following a knee injury against Washington State. 

“EP [Elijah Parquet] had some good minutes tonight,” coach Kruger said postgame. “He’s getting back into the flow of things after being out for the past six weeks.”

UNLV’s struggles to guard the three remains evident, allowing at least 44% from the three in their last four contests. Mountain West opponents shoot 6.4 percentage points better from three vs UNLV this season.

“We’ve got to adjust some things,” Kruger said. “We gotta get that edge back again, and it’s hard to do when you’re struggling. It’s hard to find that edge and that chip [on your shoulder].”

UNLV held the lead for the first four minutes of the game, with their largest lead being a 6-2 lead off a Victor Luwakor dunk with 18:05 left in the first half. Fresno State’s Isaiah Hill took the lead with 15:51 left off a 3-pointer. Fresno would hold on to that lead for the remainder of the game. 

Coach Kruger recognizes the importance of collectively upending this losing streak.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve all been through it, as players and coaches,” Kruger said. “This is going to be a collective effort from coaches and players. We can’t be timid, it’s not going to change if we are. We’ve gotta go swinging until it turns.”

UNLV began the season 10-0, their best start since the 1993-1994 season. At its peak, UNLV entered the receiving votes category in both the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll. While UNLV has dropped seven of their last nine, coach Kruger is convinced UNLV will right the ship.

Kruger said, “We’re going to get through it, we’re going to be fine, we’re going to get better and we’re going to continue to work.”


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