Runnin’ Rebels stuns No. 25 New Mexico on the road, completes the season sweep

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UNLV No.5 Rob Whaley Jr. yells with excitement after getting an and-one basket against Southern University. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/DJ Cabanlong).

UNLV Men’s Basketball defeated No. 25 New Mexico on the road 80-77 in the final minutes to complete the season sweep to make its record 13-9 overall and 6-4 in conference play on Feb. 10. 

The Runnin’ Rebels came out strong with high-pressure defense and established dominance in the paint. 

This would be the key factor as they secured the last-minute 80-77 victory inside the sold-out Pit, spoiling the white-out night in New Mexico. 

The Runnin’ Rebels guards were essential as Justin Webster was limited minutes due to injury; Brooklyn Hicks has seen extra minutes and has been making the most of it, hitting big layups in crucial moments and knocking down jump shots. 

Dedan Thomas Jr. finished with a career-high 25 points, including the clutch free throws at the stretch to keep the Runnin’ Rebels lead intact. Thomas controlled the game’s pace at some of its most significant moments.

Two other Rebels scored double-digit figures: Rob Whaley Jr. with 16 points and two momentum-shifting blocks for the Runnin Rebels and Kalib Boone with 11 points and nine total rebounds. 

New Mexico had three scorers in double-digit points, Jaelen House and Donovan Dent scoring 20, with Jamal Mashburn Jr. adding 11. Dent was the main scorer to bring the Lobos back into the game late in the first, hitting tough shots while finishing at the rim.

Despite the high-scoring contest, the Runnin’ Rebels were able to play tight defense, disrupting pass lanes and being physical in the paint, scoring 13 points off of the 10 turnovers UNLV created. 

The Runnin’ Rebels would get the head start early, scoring the game’s first seven points and move on to a 16-4 scoring run within the first seven minutes of the game. The large lead allowed the Rebels to settle into a rhythm, quieting the New Mexico crowd.

New Mexico would keep it close, as the Lobos’ stagnant offense soon caught fire. An 18-7 run towards the back end of the first half put the Lobos on top by one point going into halftime, 40-39.

Dent picked up right where they left off, scoring the opening bucket of the second half for the Lobos. 

The Runnin’ Rebels responded fast with a jump shot from Thomas followed by 3-point play by Kalib Boone, giving UNLV the spark to go on a 9-2 run to start the second half taking the lead 48-42.

It was a back-and-forth game in the second half as the Lobos were able to keep the game close with Mashburn Jr. hitting a clutch 3-point shot followed by free throws to bring New Mexico within three points.

This momentum of offense by the Lobos carried to the defense, holding UNLV scoreless for nearly five minutes in the later stages of the second half. 

Brooklyn Hicks turned defense into offense, scoring after a steal to put UNLV up 59-58 with nine minutes remaining in the contest.

The final five minutes of the second half were a battle of free throws as both teams were put into the double bonus. 

Each team had players in foul trouble, with Boone, Hicks and Luis Rodriguez each having four fouls going into the final stretch of the game, while the Lobos also had three players; JT Toppin, House, and Tru Washington all with four fouls.

UNLV maintained a two-point lead before the Lobos were able to tie the game to 70-70 a piece after House drew a foul and made both free throws.

UNLV Head Coach Kevin Kruger called a timeout after Rodriguez secured a defensive rebound. The play Kruger drew up was to get the ball to Rob Whaley Jr. and he executed on the game plan scoring, putting Runnin’ Rebels up 72-70 with two minutes to go in the game. 

New Mexico found themselves at the line, knocking down free throws to put the game back into a tie 72-72.

Boone hit a tough floater to get the go-ahead bucket and contributed to the defensive stand holding off New Mexico, making the score 74-72 with a minute remaining in regulation.

In the closing seconds, the Lobos were forced to foul, sending Thomas and Boone to the foul line. Both were able to ice the game knocking down their free throws to secure an upset win on the road against a ranked opponent for the Runnin’ Rebels by a final score of 80-77.

Up Next

The Runnin’ Rebels are back on the road, traveling to Fresno, California, to take on the Fresno State Bulldogs on Feb. 14 at 8 p.m.

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