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UNLV fends off Fresno State with late run — PHOTOS

Updated January 31, 2024 - 7:54 pm

Fifth-year forward Kalib Boone was much more involved in UNLV’s offense in the second half after managing just two points in the first.

It was a good thing for the Rebels.

UNLV led by as many as 15 points against Fresno State on Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center. That lead almost disappeared after halftime, however. The Bulldogs cut their deficit to one point 9:04 into the second half.

Boone gave the Rebels an answer.

He followed a missed layup by teammate Rob Whaley Jr. and threw down a two-handed dunk. That started an 8-0 run that helped key UNLV’s 78-69 victory.

“You know there’s going to be a point where (Fresno State) puts two or three plays together in a row and make a run, make it tight,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said. “You know it’s coming, but the experience of our guys, being in those situations, nobody panicked.”

Boone finished with 21 points for the Rebels (11-9, 4-4 Mountain West) and added five rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Fifth-year forward Keylan Boone added 15 points and 13 rebounds for UNLV.

“When I made my first shot (in the second half), I said, ‘OK, I’m in a rhythm,” Kalib Boone said. “Then, it was just to continue to be the person that my teammates know I can be on the floor.”

Fresno State (9-12, 2-6) made one last late charge in the second half. Freshman Brooklyn Hicks knocked down a 3-pointer with 2:45 left to keep the Rebels ahead 69-61.

UNLV made enough free throws down the stretch to close out the game. Kalib Boone made five of eight field goals in the second half and was nine of 10 at the free throw line.

“(Kalib Boone) will end up being one of the most efficient players in college basketball. He’s on that level,” Kruger said. “Getting him touches is important.”

Freshman point guard Dedan Thomas Jr. finished with 12 points for the Rebels and had six assists. Fifth-year guard Luis Rodriguez added 12 points for the Rebels.

“We kept finding stops, guarding (Fresno State) in the half-court set. They’re a good team, but we stuck to the game plan,” Keylan Boone said.

UNLV set the tone to start the game with its defense. The Rebels forced six Fresno State turnovers and allowed just one field goal attempt in the game’s first three minutes.

UNLV built a 20-5 lead 9:55 into the game off a Whaley dunk. The Bulldogs fought back, but Keylan Boone hit a 3-pointer to send the Rebels into the break with a 37-28 lead.

Fresno State started to hit shots in the second half. The Bulldogs made five of their first 10 shots coming out of the break and held UNLV scoreless for over three minutes to cut the Rebels’ lead to three points.

Fresno State got its deficit down to one point, but then went scoreless the next four minutes. That’s when Kalib Boone started the run that won UNLV the game.

“They guys battled,” Kruger said. “They did a good job in the first half forcing turnovers, keeping (Fresno State) off the offensive glass and creating for each other. The beginning of the first half and the end of the first half, it kind of gave us the cushion that we needed to get the win.”

The victory reversed a recent trend for the Rebels, as they were swept by the Bulldogs last season and had lost three of the last four meetings entering Tuesday. UNLV’s next game is home against Wyoming at 5 p.m. Saturday.

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

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