Runnin’ Rebels Take Down No. 22 Rams At Home

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UNLV No. 5 Rob Whaley Jr. slam dunks the ball against Colorado State University. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/DJ Cabanlong).

UNLV Men’s Basketball defeated the Colorado State Rams by a final score of 66-60 on Feb. 23 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Coming into the game, the Rams held a record of 20-7 this season and a Mountain West conference record of 8-6 while being the No. 22 nationally ranked college team. 

Colorado State entered play after a road loss against New Mexico inside the “Pit.” With the win, the Rebels moved to an overall record of 16-10 and 9-5 in the conference. 

After suffering a narrow defeat to the Rams earlier in the season, the Rebels made history with the win Saturday night, as this was the first time since 2013 that the Runnin Rebels had eclipsed the 16-win mark. 

Many players were standouts in the contest, but the stat that meant the most down the stretch was the Rebel’s free throw shooting as Luis Rodriguez and Dedan Thomas Jr. combined for a perfect 20 for 20 from the line. 

As Tipoff commenced, it was Thomas Jr. who began the scoring in the game, hitting a jumper, but the Rams would answer back quickly, establishing an 8-2 lead. 

Thomas Jr. then hit a three to make it 8-5, but the Rams’ own Nique Clifford made a layup extend the lead back to five points for the Rams heading into the game’s first media timeout three minutes in. 

Coming out of the break, Rob Whaley Jr. slammed one down at the rim, making the score 12-7, but the Rams once again responded with an Isaiah Stevens layup and a Jalen Lake three-pointer, making the score 17-7 with just over seven minutes gone on the clock.

However, the Rebels continued to fight back as Kalib Boone would convert on an and-one play to put the deficit to seven. Still, after Joel Scott returned fire, draining one of two from the line, Kalib Boone would continue his streak, completing an alley-oop dunk to cut the Rams lead to 18-12.

Fast-paced play continued, but the Rebels took control for the first time in the game as the team combined for a 10-3 run, establishing a 22-21 lead with just over four minutes remaining in the half. 

The Rebels would extend the lead off Kalib Boone’s third dunk of the night, but the Rams answered as a Clifford three tied the game 24-24.

In the waning moments of the first half, Patrick Cartier continued a 5-0 Rams scoring run with a layup in the paint, giving the Rams a slim 26-24 lead as the horn sounded for halftime. 

Out of the break, Scott helped the Rams offense get started as he hit a layup to make it a four-point game, but Rodriguez hit a three to make it 28-27. 

During the play, Whaley Jr. went down with a knee injury and was helped off the court by coaches and training staff; he did not return to the game.

The Rams would come out of the first timeout of the second half with a bucket from Isaiah Strong, but on the other end of the court, Thomas Jr. would draw a foul from beyond the arc and eventually convert on all three attempts from the line making the score 33-32.

With less than 15 minutes to go in the second half, the Rams would take the lead off two makes from the line from Mbemba and a Stevens layup 36-34. 

Thomas Jr. continued to have a successful offensive game plan deep into the second half as he converted on a layup off a drive to the basket and finished two free throws on the next possession to give the Rebels a 42-40 lead.

In a close game, the pressure didn’t affect Jackie Johnson, who would splash one from deep, giving the Rebels a 45-41 lead.

In a game of momentum swings, the Rams began to silence the home crowd, as a layup from Cartier and a three-pointer from Clifford would give the Rams the lead back at 46-45 with less than 10 minutes to go in regulation.

Threes became part of the game plan to turn momentum against each team down the stretch as Kelan Boone drained his first from beyond the arc to give the Rebels the lead once again at 48-46.

The Rebel’s hard work on the glass in the final frame of play continued as Brooklyn Hicks drew a foul and made one of two from the line, but in a blink of an eye, it was Scott who had been the spark plug for the Rams offense who capped off a three-point play to tie the game 49-49.

After multiple empty possession for both teams, Keylan Boone would drain a three to give the Rebels the lead, and Thomas Jr. would make both from the line on their next drive upcourt to extend the lead to 54-49 with a few minutes left. 

The Rams would attempt to claw back again as Stevens drained two foul shots for the Rams to cut the lead to 54-51. 

Thomas would respond with a layup to make it 56-51, but a Strong three made it a two-point game with less than two minutes to go. 

In the dying moments, the Rams were forced to foul, and Thomas Jr. drained two from the line to make it a four-point game; Rodriguez would also put up two after an empty Rams possession, scoring 60-54.

With under a minute left, a three from Stevens made it a 3-point game, but the veteran Rodriguez would drain two more from the line to give the Rebels a five-point lead.

On the game’s final possession, Thomas would draw the last foul, making both free throws for the Rebels victory by a final score of 66-60.

UP NEXT

The Runnin Rebels take on Wyoming on the road on February 27th. Tip-off is at 6:00 p.m. PST.

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