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Forward returns, provides ‘incredible spark’ as Rebels extend season

Updated March 25, 2024 - 10:58 am

Kalib Boone wanted to get back on the court despite a gimpy ankle.

The fifth-year forward was looking for one last chance to play at UNLV with his twin brother Keylan. The two will get to stay teammates a little bit longer because of it.

Keylan Boone had 19 points and eight rebounds and Kalib Boone added 16 points and six rebounds to help the Rebels beat Boston College 79-70 at the Thomas &Mack Center on Sunday night and advance to the National Invitation Tournament quarterfinals.

UNLV (21-12) will play top-seeded Seton Hall (22-12) at 4 p.m. Wednesday in South Orange, N.J. The winner will advance to the semifinals in Indianapolis.

Kalib Boone warmed up and dressed for each of the Rebels’ last two games but was too injured to make an impact.

He played just a minute in UNLV’s overtime loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West quarterfinals. He then didn’t see the court in his team’s win over Princeton in the first round of the NIT.

Boone entered Sunday’s game less than three minutes into the first half.

He made an immediate impact. He drew a foul his first offensive possession and hit a free throw. He hit a jumper on a post move two possessions later.

Boone finished 7 of 11 from the field and added three blocks in 23 minutes.

“He was an incredible spark,” said guard Justin Webster, who had 12 points and four assists. “He’s an offensive threat and really helps us out on the glass. His presence was much needed. You can tell we missed him, especially in that San Diego State game.”

Boone was unavailable for comment after the game. His brother Keylan, who also finished with three blocks, said he was happy the two won a postseason game together.

“He played great. It was like he never left,” Keylan Boone said. “It was just great to see him back out there. We all want to play with each other a little more and I’m pretty sure coaches want to coach us up a little more. It worked out for everybody. He played well and we expect that from Kalib. Now we just keep moving forward.”

The impact of both Boones kept UNLV’s season alive. The Rebels’ offensive efficiency helped as well. They had 17 assists and just one turnover.

“That’s pretty rare and no question that made a difference in the game and gave us more opportunities to get quality shots,” coach Kevin Kruger said. “Then when we really needed a quality stop, we got it. When we really needed a good look, we got it.”

Freshman point guard Dedan Thomas Jr. deserves much of the credit.

He finished with 17 points, five assists and zero turnovers despite having the ball in his hands on almost every offensive possession. It was a strong bounceback performance after Thomas scored just five points against Princeton.

“I think it just shows the type of player he is, and we have a lot of those guys on this team,” Kruger said. “When guys have struggled, they’ve usually bounced back pretty well.”

UNLV jumped out to a 19-11 lead 7:33 into the game but Boston College battled back to draw even at halftime.

The Eagles (20-16) hit seven 3-pointers in the first half to tie things up 37-37.

Boston College took a 54-52 lead with 11:25 remaining after a free throw from junior guard Jaeden Zackery. The Rebels then used an 11-0 run to take control of the game.

Junior guard Jackie Johnson III hit back-to-back shots in the lane. Junior forward Rob Whaley Jr. had a steal and a layup. Kalib Boone blocked a shot and Keylan Boone hit a 3-pointer. Kalib Boone got a defensive rebound and then finished in transition off a feed from Thomas.

The Rebels’ had a lead they wouldn’t relinquish once it was over.

“It’s a game of runs, and when you have two teams that want to play as much as our guys did and as much as their guys did, it’s going to be about who has that better stretch and can turn a 6-0 into an 8-0 or in this case, an 8-0 into an 11-0 and provide a bit of a cushion,” Kruger said. “They showed they want to keep playing, and I know we’ll be excited to get back on the plane tomorrow and keep playing.”

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on X.

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