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‘Officially ran out of gas’: UNLV’s season ends in NIT quarterfinals

Updated March 27, 2024 - 8:15 pm

UNLV’s second trip to New Jersey in a week proved far less successful than its first, as its National Invitation Tournament run came to a screeching halt.

The Rebels struggled to find their legs early, and by the time they settled into the game, Seton Hall had a second wind that proved far too much for UNLV in a 91-68 defeat Wednesday at Walsh Gymnasium in South Orange.

“I think we officially ran out of gas,” assistant coach Barret Peery said during a postgame radio interview.

Seton Hall (23-12) advances to play Georgia in the NIT semifinals Tuesday at Indianapolis, while the Rebels (21-13) saw their season come to an end.

It was still a successful tournament for UNLV, which went on the road to beat Princeton on March 20 before returning home and winning a second-round game against Boston College on Sunday.

The Rebels turned the ball over just one time in that win over the Eagles, but looked like a completely different team Wednesday after flying across the country again.

UNLV had four turnovers, including three by star freshman Dedan Thomas Jr., before the first media timeout as the Pirates opened an 11-2 lead.

The Rebels finally started to settle into the game and were within six points when Rob Whaley scored in the lane with 7:54 left in the first half during a stretch in which they held Seton Hall scoreless for nearly three minutes.

Justin Webster and Keylan Boone missed 3-point attempts that could have made it a one-possession game, and Boone missed another jumper before Seton Hall finally ended the drought with a jumper from first-team All-Big East performer Kadary Richmond.

UNLV never got that close again.

The Pirates eventually ended the half on a 7-0 run for a 44-26 lead, then Al-Amir Dawes hit three straight 3-pointers to open the second half to extend the run to 16 straight points and grow the lead to 27.

The Rebels never got closer than 19 points again.

“Just a tough day at the office,” Boone, a senior forward, said. “Both teams showed up to work, and a lot of plays went their way.”

UNLV did salvage the program’s 3-point streak when Webster hit one from the left wing early in the second half after the team went 0-for-9 over the first 22 minutes to provide anxious fans on social media some tense moments. The Rebels finished 5-for-21 from long range and have now made a 3-pointer in 1,227 straight games.

It’s a small consolation for a team that had won 12 of its last 15 games and believed it could win the NIT.

“This was my first year being in the postseason in my five-year college career,” Webster, a senior guard, said. “I just attacked every day with the mindset of trying to make the NCAA Tournament. We didn’t, but we were able to make the NIT and keep playing basketball with the guys I love. I’d like to keep playing, but no team I’d rather have done it with than these guys. We all love each other up and down the roster.”

UNLV got 16 points from Keylan’s twin brother, Kalib Boone, in an 8-for-10 shooting performance. Webster added 11 points and four assists, while Whaley had nine points and seven rebounds.

Freshman Brooklyn Hicks was a bright spot with nine points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.

Dawes had 21 points for Seton Hall, which shot 56.5 percent from the field and went 11-for-25 on 3-pointers.

Richmond finished with 16 points and 10 assists for the Pirates, who had five players score in double figures.

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

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