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Freshman guard giving short-handed Rebels a boost

Brooklyn Hicks, entering UNLV’s Tuesday game against Fresno State, had attempted seven 3-pointers this season.

The freshman guard made only three.

But Hicks was on the court for the Rebels as the Bulldogs attempted a late rally, because fifth-year guard Justin Webster was out with an ankle injury and junior guard Jackie Johnson was ejected for a flagrant foul.

The ball found Hicks open in the corner with under three minutes left. He didn’t hesitate. Hicks drilled his fourth 3-pointer of the season to give UNLV a 69-61 lead with 2:53 remaining. The Rebels won 78-69.

UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said he doesn’t know how long Webster will be out with a “severe ankle sprain.” What he does know is Hicks will continue to see the floor after playing a season-high 21 minutes against Fresno State.

Hicks’ next opportunity comes at 5 p.m. Saturday when the Rebels (11-9, 4-4 Mountain West) host Wyoming (12-9, 5-3) at the Thomas & Mack Center. It’ll be another chance to show off his full game rather than just his shot from distance.

“That’s what we loved about him during the recruitment process was his IQ and his ability to affect games without necessarily just scoring a bunch of points,” Kruger said.

Kruger said he’s looking forward to Hicks showing “more facets of his game” with more playing time. Hicks impressed as a high schooler playing in the Seattle area. His UNLV teammates now say they’re already seeing his strengths shine through at the collegiate level.

“(Hicks’) strengths — he wants to get out and run. Get to the basket. Put pressure and attack,” fifth-year forward Kalib Boone said.

“When he gets into the paint and plays off two feet, he could kick it out and get assists,” Boone added. “He’s really fast. He’s good on defense. What he’s doing right now helps us out so much on offense.”

Boone is another key player the Rebels are depending on with injuries affecting their lineup.

He leads UNLV in scoring with 13 points per game. His 62.2 field-goal percentage ranks 23rd in Division I entering Friday.

Kruger said after the win against Fresno State it’s important for the Rebels to get Boone touches in the paint. That helps UNLV move defenses around and create open shots.

“When everybody sinks into the paint, you think, ‘OK, where are my shooters?’ ” Boone said. “We can kick it out and get our shooters open, patient 3-pointers that they’ve practiced. It’s like an open shot for them every time.”

The Rebels, while looking to create open 3s on offense, will need to prevent them on defense against Wyoming. The Cowboys are shooting 39.8 percent from 3 this season, the eighth-best mark in Division I.

UNLV at least has some recent success to fall back on. The Rebels held Fresno State to 4 of 15 shooting behind the arc.

Boone said a key against the Bulldogs was guarding ball screens well, something UNLV will need to do again against Wyoming.

“We have to continue to grow on that and have the same impact and determination to get the job done on the ball screen,” Boone said. “Trust the communication is going to be good and the backside help is going to be there and finish with the rebound.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on X.

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