Runnin’ Rebels even season series against Air Force with dominant road victory

UNLV No. 0 Isiah Cottrell dribbles the ball agaisnt Fresno State. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press / DJ Cabanlong.)

UNLV Men’s Basketball defeated the Air Force Falcons by a final score of 72-43 on Feb. 21 at the Clune Arena in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Overall, the Falcons held an  8-16 record this season and the worst Mountain West conference record at 1-11. Air Force entered play on a six-game losing streak, with its last win against the Rebels on Jan. 23. With the win, the Rebels move to an overall record of 15-10 and 8-5 in the conference.

Many players could be highlighted as standouts in the contest, but the stat that ruled above as else throughout the game was the 40 points scored by the Rebels in the paint, led by Rob Whaley Jr. with 12.

The Runnin’ Rebels entered the matchup after a loss against in-state rival, the Reno Wolf Pack, by a score of 69-66.

The starting five for the Rebels as the game commenced with a tipoff at center court consisted of Whaley Jr., Dedan Thomas Jr., Luis Rodriguez, and the Boone twins Keylan and Kalib. 

Both sides of the court struggled to control offensively early in the game, exemplified by the fact that neither side held a point through the first minute and a half of play. 

The first points were put on the board on back-to-back possessions from both sides as a layup by Whaley Jr. opened up the game, but was quickly answered by Ethan Taylors’ 76th 3-pointer of the season, giving the Falcons the lead 3-2 with 18 minutes remaining in the first half. 

After the basket by Whaley Jr., the Rebels went on an 8-2 point run, giving the Rebels a 10-5 lead with 15 minutes remaining in the first half, led by the Boone Brothers with two baskets and Whaley Jr with a strong finish at the rim. 

However, the Falcons would not go away quietly as at the halfway point of the half, the Falcons pulled back to within three points, 17-14, led by the shot made from beyond the arc in the opening minutes as UNLV struggled from deep. 

After another cold stretch from both teams that took the game clock down to seven minutes, UNLV once again grabbed control of the game’s pace with a 10-2 run, making the score 27-16.

Strong defense by the Rebels, which had been a factor in their previous two games when the offense had struggled, continued to emerge as a bright spot in the game, generating five turnovers to this point in the contest. 

This run also sparked one-half of the Runnin’ Rebels’ Boone twins as Keylan began to knock down every shot that he floated up, finishing with seven points in the final six minutes of the half. Kelan Boone’s scoring run included a 3-pointer from deep downtown.

As the half came to a close, UNLV held a 37-24 lead as the Falcons only finished two possessions in the final five minutes of play with points as the Air Force bench struggled to find openings in the Rebels’ defensive scheme. 

The second half of the game opened up similarly to the close of the first as Whaley Jr. found his fourth basket of the game after cleaning up a layup opportunity on the Rebels’ first possession and his 10th point of the game from the free throw line to make the score 40-26.

After baskets for both teams, fouls came in waves for both sides as at 17 minutes, the Rebels recorded four team fouls, and the Falcons had reached the three-foul mark despite the score only moving by four points, 42-28. 

After a minute of a scoring drought in Colorado, Whaley Jr. continued to show off his skill in the post, drawing an and-one foul and converting at the free-throw line to make the score 45-28, the Rebels’ largest lead of the night to that point.

Six minutes into the second half, the largest statistical standout was in the board battle metrics, as UNLV had out-rebounded Air Force 30-11, showing their strong performance inside the paint on both ends. 

The Rebel offense did not slow down as Brooklyn Hicks knocked down a pair of free throws after drawing a foul just inside the arc, making the score 52-32 with only 12 minutes remaining in regulation.

After a media timeout at the 10-minute mark, a 6-2 UNLV run was fueled by two missed three-point attempts from the Falcons, who, after starting off hot from beyond the 3-point line, had now made four of  its 22 shot attempts across the entirety of the game making the score 58-34.

With a media timeout called with seven minutes remaining in the game, the score stood at 62-36 as the Falcons had only converted successfully on one possession since the 11-minute mark of the second half.

The score remained the same until three minutes remained in the game as Rodriguez knocked down his first 3-pointer of the evening to extend the lead to 65-36.

As the clock ticked down and the buzzer sounded in Colorado, UNLV officially claimed its 15th win of the season with a final score of 72-43.

Up Next

With the win, the Rebels will head home to take on the Colorado State Rams on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 5:00 p.m. inside the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rams currently sit with a record of 20-6 overall and 8-5 in conference play.


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