The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were tasked with capping off a basketball double-header, which began with the Lady Rebels beating UNR earlier in the day.
The Runnin’ Rebels were greeted with their largest home attendance of the season, rewarding fans with a 68-62 victory to send the Wolf Pack home with two losses in the day.
“There’s no words that can describe how great it was to go out there and see that,” coach Kevin Kruger said postgame. “It had that buzz of a rivalry game.”
Elijah Parquet scored the first points of the game for either side. Despite starting Saturday, Parquet only notched 18 minutes. Parquet finished with six points on 2-4 shooting from the field. Following Parquet’s basket, UNR would gain the lead with a 3-pointer from Darrion Williams. The Wolf Pack held the lead for six minutes, losing the lead on a Shane Nowell layup. Nowell provided an efficient eight points and five rebounds during his 23 minutes of game-time action.
The Runnin’ Rebels maintained the lead for the rest of the second half. UNLV’s largest lead was 10, which they gained with seven minutes left in the first half. UNLV’s 10 fast break points in the first half greatly contributed to the success.
“When we get a miss, guys do a really good job of running out, spreading out the floor, and attacking for each other,” coach Kevin Kruger stated postgame. “The last handful of games offensively, that’s been our best approach. After a missed shot, getting it and going.”
The Wolf Pack went on a 7-1 run to begin the second half, regaining the lead less than a minute in. Parquet’s 3-pointer with 14:30 left in the second gave the Runnin’ Rebels the lead once again. UNLV held that lead for just over eight minutes, coughing it up on a Williams turn-around shot with just over six minutes left in play.
Oklahoma transfer E.J. Harkless swiftly retook the lead with a layup. The Runnin’ Rebels maintained that lead throughout the final five minutes to secure their second straight win.
UNLV’s stellar defense came up big late, as the Runnin’ Rebels held UNR scoreless the final 3:44 of play.
“This was the first game in a while where we felt confident that defensively we were going to make them earn it late,” Kruger stated postgame. “In all the games we’ve won going down the stretch, if they’re going to get a bucket, we’re going to make them earn it.”
Harkless led both teams tonight in scoring, finishing with 18 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Harkless also provided the game’s biggest moment, drawing an offensive foul on Jarod Lucas with 37 seconds left. With UNLV up three, this moment forced UNR to foul, practically ending the game prematurely.
“To have that be the deciding point of the game is kind of fitting for this group,” Kruger stated post-game.
Justin Webster added 17 points of his own, a season-high. He shot 6-11 from the field and remains a vital point of UNLV’s system.
“He was huge in the first half with creating that spark,” Kruger said postgame. “It was great to see him shoot those tonight with a ton of confidence.”
For UNLV, this win not only marks their third-straight win over in-state rival UNR, but it also marks the Runnin’ Rebels beginning to right the ship, following a 1-6 start in Mountain West play.
“Feels good to beat a team that’s hot while we were kind of fractured,” E.J. Harkless stated postgame. “We had a good outcome against Wyoming. Glad to stack another game against a really good team in Nevada.”
UP NEXT: The Runnin’ Rebels head to Fort Collins, Co., to face the Colorado State Rams Tuesday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m.