Runnin’ Rebels fall in stunning fashion to rival Nevada Wolf Pack

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Runnin' Rebels huddle during time out against University of Nevada Reno. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/DJ Cabanlong).

In stunning fashion, the UNLV Men’s Basketball team fell to the Nevada Wolf Pack 69-66 at the Thomas & Mack Center as Reno drained clutch free throws to lift them past UNLV for the first time in five meetings on Feb. 17.

The Rebels lead came into the game after winning the last four matchups against the Wolf Pack. UNLV still leads the Silver State Series 54-28 all time.

“Every loss hurts,” UNLV Head Coach Kevin Kruger said. “We can let it beat us twice, or we can do what we need to do to get ready for another title.”

The Rebels top scorer, Dedan Thomas Jr., had 19 points and eight assists.

Rob Whaley Jr. and Keylan Boone shined for the Rebels despite the loss, both scoring in the double-digits.

Nick Davidson was sensational for the Wolf Pack, scoring 19 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.

The Clash of the Silver State Series started with a bang. A 3-point shot by Keylan Boone put UNLV up 3-2 early with 18:45 left.

UNLV’s electrifying defense led by a steal and two blocks by Rob Whaley Jr. helped the Rebels maintain the lead in the front end of the first half. 

The Wolf Pack’s high powered offense, led by Jarob Lucas, gave the Wolf Pack early momentum. Lucas scored the Wolf Pack’s first eight points to give Reno an 8-6 lead.

Defense stepped up for UNLV early; multiple missed shots by the Wolf Pack led to two baskets by Kalib Boone and Jackie Johnson III.

Whaley Jr. continued to dominate, grabbing an offensive rebound and a putback layup to give the Rebels a 16-14 lead. Reno’s Keenan Blackshear made two free throws to tie the game up with 10:14 left.

A flashy pass by Deden Thomas Jr. led to a Whaley slam dunk, energizing the Rebel faithful crowd, leading 20-19 with 8:32.

UNLV continued to pick up steam. Staggering defense led to a 3-pointer by Thomas Jr., forcing the Wolf Pack to call a timeout with under six minutes.

Reno would keep the game close; an 8-0 run gave the Pack the lead with 3:02 left.

Constant backcourt pressure and double teams by UNLV forced multiple turnovers to end the first half. UNLV ended on a 9-0 run to give the Rebels a 36-28 lead heading into halftime.

The Rebels defense was efficient throughout the first half, holding the Wolf Pack to 33% shooting and forcing nine turnovers.

The Rebels came out of halftime relentlessly attacking the basket. Luis Rodriguez spun off the smaller Lucas to score a layup, followed by a 3-point play by Whaley Jr.

The Wolf Pack showed fight in the front end of the second half. K.J. Hymes scored two quick layups and a free throw to cut the deficit to five with 16:06 left.

Rebel faithful erupted after a put back dunk by Kalib Boone to make the score 47-41 with 14:04 left.

Reno’s offense committed multiple turnovers that led to fast break points for the Rebels. Karl Jones finished off a ferocious alley-oop dunk, giving UNLV a six-point lead midway through the second half.

Thomas Jr. continued to be a spark for UNLV, drilling a 3-point play and giving the Rebels a 54-43 lead.

Reno continued to chip away at the lead. Nick Davidson led the charge, contributing to a Wolf Pack 7-2 run to cut the deficit to five with 7:13 left.

The Rebels offense continued to dominate late in the second half as Johnson III drilled a 3-pointer, and Kaylen Boone slithered down the lane to draw a foul with 3:53 left.

The Rebels relentlessly attacking the basket caused Hymes to foul out, giving UNLV momentum for the remainder of the game.

Reno overcame adversity and fought back. Multiple clutch baskets by Blackshear and Daniel Foster cut the Rebel lead to one with just under two minutes to play.

With 1:30 to play, Thomas Jr. drained a midrange jumper to give UNLV a 64-63 lead. The Wolf Pack responded with a floater by Foster to regain the lead.

With just twenty seconds left, Thomas had the opportunity to give the Rebels the lead but missed both free throws, forcing UNLV to foul Lucas. The Rebels were given one last opportunity to tie the game to force overtime, but the defense by the Wolf Pack forced a tough shot for Keylan Boone, stunning the Rebels 69-66.

“Just kind of got timid, and you know, we fouled just fouled too much,” said Kruger. “We just need to keep that aggressiveness and that same level of intensity.”

Up Next

The Rebels are back on the road to take on the Air Force Falcons on Feb. 21 for a one game road trip. Tip-off will begin at 8:00 p.m.

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