Runnin’ Rebels win SoCal Challenge title after beating Minnesota 71-62

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UNLV guard Keshon Gilbert runs the offense during the Runnin’ Rebels season opening win against Southern on Nov. Photo by Paxtyn Graham.

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels won their sixth straight game of the season against Big Ten Minnesota 71-62 Wednesday night in San Juan Capistrano, California to win the SoCal Challenge. 

“I thought that our guys did a really good job,” head coach Kevin Kruger said. “A lot of deflections, a lot of turnovers that were untimely for them, which allowed us to run out. Overall, I thought we had an unbelievable effort and it was a good way to finish the trip.”

UNLV came out to the court and stepped up its offensive game with four players scoring in double digits for its best offensive showing of the season.

Sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert stole the show, leading the Rebels in points, steals and assists. Gilbert scored 17 points, 12 of which were scored in the first half of the game. 

Gilbert’s high-scoring game included four assists and three steals. Fifth-year guard EJ Harkless also added 16 points for the Rebels. 

Luis Rodriguez followed behind his teammates as one of the team’s lead players with another solid offensive showing, scoring 15 points for the Rebels. The fifth-year guard also added nine rebounds. 

Sophomore Jackie Johnson III was another key contributing player for the Rebels off the bench. He scored 13 points and made four of his seven 3-pointers.

Collectively, the Runnin Rebels forced double-digit turnovers against Minnesota for the sixth consecutive game. UNLV forced 17 turnovers, 11 came in the first half.

However, it was UNLV’s offense that showed up in the first half. The Rebels used a 19-4 run in the final eight minutes of the first half to take a 38-24 lead into the locker room.

The Rebels held onto that lead throughout the second half, as they led by as many as 22 points. 

With the win, the Rebels have their best start to the season in nearly five years.

Runnin’ Rebels rally past Southern Illinois

UNLV started the SoCal Challenge with a 56-49 win over Southern Illinois in a nail-biting matchup Monday night. 

UNLV started the night off slow, but continued to show defensive strength in the first half against the Salukis. The Rebels couldn’t keep up offensively during the half and fell behind with a four-point deficit by the end of the half.  

The Salukis took the majority of the shots during the half with more than 63% shot attempts over UNLV who shot 34.5% during the game. 

The Runnin’ Rebels came back in the second half after some halftime adjustments and found themselves in the lead.  

For nearly eight minutes in the half, the Rebels used a 9-0 run to gain a five-point lead against the Salukis.  

The Rebels were able to gain an offensive shot lead in the half with over 59% of the shots taken over Southern Illinois who shot 28.6% during the second half.  

The Rebels jumped from a four-point deficit of 30-26 at the end of the first half to hold onto a 56- 49 win by the final buzzer.  

UNLV sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert led the team with 18 points. Gilbert was followed by fifth-year guard EJ Harkless who added 16 points. The duo has established themselves as the top-scoring pair for the Rebels.

Joining them was Ole Miss transfer guard Luis Rodriguez, who was also a key player for the Rebels with 14 points.  

For Southern Illinois, forward Marcus Domask was the only player for the Salukis to score in the double digits with 21 points.  

UNLV forced 21 turnovers against Southern Illinois. The Rebels proved yet again that their highly skilled defense is something for teams to look out for this season. 

Up Next

UNLV returns to the floor after a week-long break on Dec. 3 to play the University of San Diego Toreros in San Diego at 7 p.m.

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