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UNLV forward dodges serious injury, will play against Wyoming

Rob Whaley Jr. had to call his father as soon as he could after UNLV’s 66-60 home win over Colorado State on Saturday. There were “about 47 text messages” from his father, Whaley said.

The Rebels’ junior forward sprained his left ankle with 18 minutes left. He was carried off the Thomas & Mack Center floor, without putting any weight on his ankle, and didn’t return to the game.

Fortunately for UNLV and Whaley, he had good news for his father.

“It’s my ankle. I’m good. It hurts, but I’m good,” Whaley said of his phone conversation with his father. “I’m going to try my hardest to play Tuesday and see what it is.”

UNLV (16-10, 9-5 Mountain West) plays at Wyoming on Tuesday at Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. Whaley was a full participant at practice Monday and will play against the Cowboys (13-14, 6-8).

The Rebels’ win over then-ranked No. 22 Colorado State was their seventh victory in eight games.

“It hurt a lot. I wanted to be out there bad,” Whaley said. “I was asking the doctors to let me go back out there and play, but I’m glad my guys got it done. I trust them 100 percent.”

Much of the Rebels’ recent success has come from Whaley helping them with inside scoring and controlling the rebounding battle. In his four games before Colorado State, he was averaging 14.8 points and 4.8 rebounds.

But with Whaley out almost the entire second half against Colorado State, UNLV went to redshirt sophomore Isaiah Cottrell, who had played more than eight minutes just twice during Mountain West play.

“There wasn’t any panic,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said.

The 6-foot-11-inch forward gave the Rebels 10 key minutes and helped them defensively limit Colorado State late.

“Isaiah Cottrell goes in and plays an unbelievable second half and steps up as needed,” Kruger said. “That’s what good teams and good players do. And (Cottrell) did it. He had great minutes in that game.”

Cottrell had started 11 of UNLV’s first 12 games. But with the emergence of Whaley and fifth-year forward Keylan Boone becoming eligible in December, Cottrell has been used sparingly during conference play.

“(Cottrell) had huge minutes,” Whaley said. “I hugged him and said ‘you played great. Way to step up. Way to be ready.’”

Kruger said Cottrell was still focused in practice.

“It’s also nice to know that everybody’s mentally ready right now,” Kruger said. “They’re focused, they’re locked in. Had he not been prepared, he wouldn’t have been able to have that big of an impact against such a good team.”

Wyoming leads the Mountain West in 3-point percentage, shooting 37.1 percent. The last time the teams played — a 62-48 UNLV win Feb. 3 — Wyoming shot 4 of 25 on 3s.

Kruger said he doesn’t expect Wyoming to have another poor shooting effort Tuesday.

“(The win over Wyoming earlier this season) was a great example of our guys working their tails off to guard them,” he said. “But it’s going to take that and a little bit more to do it up there.”

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

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