Runnin’ Rebels conclude Jack Jones Classic defeating No. 8 Creighton

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UNLV No. 11 Dedon Thomas Jr. drives into the paint against Creighton. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/DJ Cabanlong).

The UNLV Men’s basketball defeated the No. 8 ranked Creighton University Bluejays 79-64 at the Dollar Loan Center in the Jack Jones Classic to improve its record to 4-4 on Dec. 13.

“The tone was set early and I’m just really proud and happy for them, because with a lot of the things that they’ve dealt with in terms of injuries and availability and asking guys to do certain things,” UNLV Head Coach Kevin Kruger said. “For them to come out and get this type of win over a top 10 team, they deserve it.”

The Rebels were led to victory by a couple key performers including the first start for UNLV forward Keylan Boone, one of the top transfers to the university during the offseason from Oklahoma State. Keylan Boone finished the game with a stat line of ten points, six rebounds and an assist. 

UNLV No.20 Keylan Boone drives to the basket in his season debut against Creighton. (Scarlet & Gray Free Press/DJ Cabanlong).

“I was just living in the moment man,” Keylan Boone said. “I was happy to be able to help these guys, I’ve been practicing with them everyday and I know they are all hard workers.” 

The top UNLV point scorer came in the form of Keylans’ twin brother Kalib Boone who finished the contest with 25 points, seven rebounds and also garnered an assist. 

Meanwhile freshman and Las Vegas native Dedan Thomas Jr. finished with 16 points, six rebounds and nine assists. 

The Bluejays entered the Dollar Loan Center on BetMGM as 12.5 point favorites but fell short as the Rebels were powered by a strong crowd presence despite the game being played in a neutral site arena. 

Kruger spoke in the press conference about the determination and mindset of his locker room entering this matchup against a top 10 opponent. “I told the guys, I thought, the buy-in was clear and obvious from the moment we met getting ready for Creighton and just understanding their firepower and how they are just one of the best teams, if not the best offensive team.”

Creighton struggled offensively with only three players scoring in the double-digits. One of the bright spots for the Bluejays was Ryan Kalkbrenner who totaled 22 points and eight rebounds.A major reason for the Rebels success in this game began with smart play with the basketball early on in the game. 

In the first half UNLV applied pressure that the Bluejays were not expecting on the defensive side of the ball resulting in eight points off of four turnovers in the first half. 

The Rebels finished the game in total with 13 points off of Creighton turnovers, five of which coming via the fast break. In addition to the creation of scoring opportunities off of turnovers the Rebels shot the ball effectively and efficiently in the first half with shooting 15-of-27 from the field and 4-of-9 from beyond the arc. 

Meanwhile on the other side of the court Creighton struggled to find its rhythm, only posting a total of 8-of-29 from the field and four three-point buckets on 16 attempts totaling a season low 27.59% from the field in the first 20 minutes of play.  

At halftime the Rebels led the game by a score of 36-28 in a fast paced opening frame.In the second half the Rebels did not take a step back as they continued to hit from downtown totaling a stat line of 6-of-13 in the second half. 

The Bluejays still pushed to make the game competitive as every possession seemed to end in points for either team. Creighton made over half its shots in the second half but the Bluejays still struggled from downtown shooting 4-of-16.

The Creighton struggles from beyond the arc prevented them from a second half comeback and the Rebels won 79-64. 

The Rebels will now move to play Saint Mary’s on Dec. 16th on the road in Phoenix, Arizona looking to begin a new win streak. 

“We are going to get everybody’s attention with this win, but we have to understand that the work to get better starts tomorrow morning to get ready for Saint Mary’s,” Kruger said.

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