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UNLV blown out on home court: ‘We came out flat and soft’

UNLV coach Kevin Kruger struggled to find the right way to describe the Rebels’ 90-58 loss against Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Center on Tuesday.

“We’ll try to find exactly why,” Kruger said. “It’s hard — there’s a million things going through my brain right now.”

His players found their own words to describe the defeat.

“We didn’t play our basketball,” junior forward Rob Whaley Jr. said. “We didn’t play the way we usually do. We didn’t play hard. We came out flat and soft.”

Added fifth-year forward Keylan Boone: “We just didn’t play hard tonight. So that was the result.”

Air Force shot 50 percent from 3 to snap its eight-game losing streak and hand UNLV (9-9, 2-4 Mountain West) its largest margin of defeat this season. The Falcons (8-10, 1-5) made six of their first seven 3-pointers to build a quick lead the Rebels couldn’t overcome.

“There’s a pit in your stomach because you never want to be playing catch up against Air Force,” Kruger said. “But we dug a hole and we never dug out of it at all.”

Fifth-year guard Justin Webster scored 14 points for the Rebels, but went down with over 14 minutes left in the second half with an apparent left ankle injury. He was helped off the floor and didn’t return.

Kruger did not have an update on Webster’s status after the game. Kruger said he would know more after Webster was evaluated Wednesday.

Boone and Whaley each scored 11 points for UNLV.

Air Force junior guard Ethan Taylor led the Falcons with 22 points. Sophomore forward Rytis Petraitis added 18 points for the Falcons, who shot 55.4 percent for the game.

“(Air Force) made us look like we didn’t practice for two days,” Kruger said.

UNLV trailed by double digits most of the first half and entered the break down 39-24. The Rebels tried to chip away at their deficit when play resumed, but the Falcons’ strong shooting continued.

Air Force made nine of its first 13 field-goal attempts in the second half to grow its lead to 66-36 with 10:09 remaining. The Falcons shot 60 percent from the floor after the break.

UNLV’s offensive struggles prevented the team from making any attempt at a comeback. The Rebels made one of their 11 3-point attempts in the second half and shot just 30.8 percent from the floor.

“As a team, we didn’t take (Air Force) seriously at all and that was our fault (as players),” Boone said. “We didn’t come out with the right mentality or mindset. It’s not just one day, but the whole prep. We could have been better in our prep, getting ready for it and competing.”

The result is disappointing for UNLV, which has lost three of its last four games in Mountain West play. The Rebels’ next game is at 6 p.m. Saturday at San Jose State.

“I don’t think this is a group of guys that are going to forget it,” Kruger said. “As coaches, we certainly won’t. We’ll meet and try to figure out what we can do to be better for an incredibly challenging conference every night out.

“If this doesn’t motivate everyone, then we’ve got other issues we’ve got to address.”

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

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