UNLV beats Wyoming 62-48 with strong defensive effort

Kalin Sipes-The Sporting Tribune
UNLV makes it three wins in a row with a decisive 62-48 victory over Wyoming on Saturday.

LAS VEGAS — UNLV notched arguably their most impressive defensive effort of the season on Saturday night, tallying 10 steals and six blocks as a unit in a 62-48 victory over Wyoming at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Runnin’ Rebels successfully stretched their win streak to three games with the win, matching their season long. Leading into Saturday’s contest, UNLV’s only other three-game win streak came against Hofstra and two non-NCAA opponents.

The three-game win streak for the Runnin’ Rebels also comes directly after last week’s catastrophic loss to Air Force. Kevin Kruger said the following after the game regarding his team’s resilience in pulling that off:

”Eight of our nine (Mountain West games), we’ve been really competitive.” Kruger said. “I think the security of the group is what has kind of shown since Air Force.”

UNLV G Luis Rodriguez added, “We saw what the media was saying about us. It seemed like a lot of people gave up on us, but we didn’t give up on ourselves.”

The Runnin’ Rebels had a slow shooting the ball, but were able to overcome it rather easily on the back of their staunch performance on defense. Brooklyn Hicks and Rob Whaley got UNLV’s offense going after a 1/4 start from the field before Keylan Boone and Luis Rodriguez took over the reigns toward the end of the first half. DJ Thomas was of course impressive in the first half and throughout, but his highlights in the first half on Saturday came from primarily the defensive end as he had 3 steals in his pocket before half.

Wyoming had a nightmarish shooting half themselves in the first, going 9/28 from the field and 3/16 from three. Wyoming was unable to string together any meaningful stretch of momentum in the first half and throughout the game, either being stifled by UNLV’s activity on the defensive end and simply by their own ineptitude offensively.

UNLV opened the second half on an 11-0 run, with DJ Thomas scoring five of those eight points to put UNLV ahead 39-23 at the under-16. UNLV continued their suffocating effort on defense and Wyoming did little to help their case. The Cowboys nightmarish shooting continued, as they did not register their first second half points until over seven minutes passed. They opened the half 0/8 from the field and 0/4 from behind-the-arc after an already abysmal effort in the first half.

At halftime, I remarked on X that the game should not have been as close as it was at that point. The team’s effort in the second half made it clear they felt the same way. To follow up what was arguably their best defensive half of the season in the first half with the first 10 minutes of the second half was as an impressive of an effort as we’ve seen from the team in recent memory.

The reason I said the first 10 minutes of the second half is because things sort of began to unravel for UNLV after that defensively. A lapse in effort toward the midway point of the second half allowed Wyoming to inch back within 13 points when Mason Walters converted an and-one and the free throw to bring the score to 48-35 with just under eight minutes remaining.

All of a sudden, a situation that looked like it could blossom into a 30 point win ended up looking like a few games that the Runnin’ Rebels had given up this season to this point. Before things could get too catastrophic, UNLV got timely baskets from Luis Rodriguez and Keylan Boone to put them back ahead 18 points nearing the five minute mark.

The rest of the game was a disadvantaged battle of tug-o-war for Wyoming. With the game already decided, the Cowboys offense finally woke up in garbage time to make the final score closer than the contest itself was.

Keylan Boone and DJ Thomas led all scorers for the game with 14 points apiece. Both Boone and Thomas tallied double-digit scoring figures in the second half for the Runnin’ Rebels.