LAS VEGAS–It was a nice, albeit necessary recovery for Kevin Kruger and the Runnin’ Rebs on Saturday. With 1990 Final Four MOP Anderson Hunt on hand for his jersey retirement, UNLV actually showed up to the gym this time out and looked like the team it was advertised to be all off-season.
While the school is long past the Golden Age that Hunt was such an integral piece of, it’s moments like Saturday that keep the tie between Las Vegas and its once A-list program intact.
“Obviously a much better night. Much better intent from the start”, Coach Kevin Kruger told reporters following the win. “We weren’t passive at all. We were very assertive and aggressive on the defensive end”, he continued.
“We shared the ball and tried to make plays for each other, but defensively we clearly had a mentality to help each other and I think it showed”
How it happened
Trailing 10-9 just over seven minutes into the game, Luis Rodriguez hit UNLV’s first 3-pointer of the night. The shot sparked a 14-3 run consisting of five consecutive made shots, four of which came from beyond the arc. It also stretched the Runnin’ Rebels all-time NCAA record for most consecutive games with a made three-pointer to 1,195.
UNLV parlayed the momentum from the run into a 15-point halftime lead, shooting nearly 40% from the field for the half and 37.5% from behind the arc. UNLV’s bench outscored Stetson’s 25-6 in the half.
The halftime cushion ended up proving quite valuable, as UNLV only ended up outscoring Stetson 35-34 in the second half. Granted, the score became closer in the final minutes of the game as the outcome had already been made apparent.
The Runnin’ Rebels three point percentage dipped back down to 26.7% in the second half, in no small part due to Luis Rodriguez trying to shoot through a cold streak. While they gave themselves enough cushion to survive this on Saturday, these types of droughts could very well end up being their downfall. It was against Southern.
Luis Rodriguez led UNLV in scoring with 15 points on 5-15 shooting, going 2-9 from three-point range. Rodriguez went 0-4 from three in the second half. Jalen Hill added 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Runnin’ Rebels on 5-8 shooting. Kalib Boone made his debut for the Runnin’ Rebels after missing the season opener due to suspension.
Stetson’s Jalen Blackmon led all scorers with 18 points in the loss.
UNLV travels to Malibu next Friday for their first road game of the season at Pepperdine. They go over two weeks without a home game after this, not returning to the Thomas and Mack Center until 11/28 for a showdown against Akron.