FSM Essential Recap: UNLV vs Fresno State – Game 23

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (15-8 / 4-7) | Fresno State Bulldogs (8-14 / 4-7)

Franchise Sports Media


The Runnin’ Rebels had their three-game winning streak snapped after losing to the Fresno State Bulldogs 82-79, falling to 4-7 in MWC play


UNLV vs Fresno State
Photo Credit Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Kevin Kruger told reporters at practice that Jordan McCabe was questionable with back flare-ups. McCabe missed Tuesday’s game against Colorado State. McCabe was dressed and went through warm-ups before the game. However, he didn’t make an appearance.

Fresno State’s Anthony Holland (illness) was out against UNLV.

UNLV’s starting lineup vs. Fresno State was Keshon Gilbert, E.J. Harkless, Eli Parquet, Luis Rodriguez, and Victor Iwuakor. Justin Webster was sent back to the bench.

The Rebels wasted no time on their first possession as Harkless darted toward the rim for an acrobatic finish. Shane Nowell, who entered the game as the first substitute, spotted up and hit a contested three. It’s been a delight to see Nowell flourish and battle his way into the rotation. Though he has benefited from specific injuries to his teammates, nobody can deny that he has been producing.

At the first timeout, UNLV trailed 9-8 with 15:32 left in the first half. Their offense started slow, and their defense had just begun to pick it up. Keyshawn Hall entered the game, and he made himself known early, bullying his way into the paint and scoring an easy bucket. Hall still has a ways to go on the defensive end, as he committed an avoidable shooting foul.

Fresno State made the Rebels work on defense, as both Jemarl Baker and Isaiah Hill splashed contested threes in the face of a Runnin’ Rebel. The Bulldogs as a team were red hot. Their percentages were 70% (7-10) from the field and 75% (3-4) from three. UNLV needed to find a way to slow them down. Otherwise, they were going to drown. The Rebels aren’t a team that can outgun their opponents.

While the Rebels struggled to contain Fresno State’s outside shooting, they did a solid job locking the paint down. Eduardo Andre had a tough time operating down low, as the Rebels clamped down on him every time he touched the ball in the post.

Hall and Iwuakor both got tagged with their second fouls of the game, which led to more minutes for David Muoka, who has fallen down the ladder a bit in terms of Kruger’s rotation. Muoka’s impact, however, is still unquestioned. He provides a solid presence down low. If he’s not blocking shots, he’s altering them. 

Muoka also proved that he’s got value on the offensive end, as he went one-on-one with Andre in the post and spun on by for an and-1 finish. That possession is key to highlight, as the Rebels seemed out of sync. Gilbert took a screen from Muoka beforehand but just ran right into him. Gilbert then passed out to Harkless, who was standing right next to Webster. UNLV has a flashy offense, but they’re too prone to stall out.

Andre appeared annoyed with UNLV’s stalwart defense inside as he threw Harkless to the ground. There wasn’t any malicious intent, and it was a pure frustration foul. Though that’s what these Rebels can do to any team, it’s been their bread and butter all season long.


At halftime, the score read UNLV 43, Fresno State 37. Muoka closed out the first half with five points, two rebounds, and a block. It’s good to see him thriving once again. Harkless and Gilbert have 12 points apiece.


UNLV vs Fresno State
Photo Credit Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Entering the second half, the Bulldogs blinded the Rebels and went on a 7-0 run. Rodriguez thankfully ended that run as he drilled a corner three. Harkless seems to have an innate talent to get under the skin of his opponents, as he drew an offensive foul on Baker, where the latter just buried his shoulder into Harkless.

Hall can be an offensive force, but sometimes he can be a bit erratic, as he committed an offensive foul, leading to even more minutes for Muoka. Webster had remained relatively quiet throughout this game, starting 0-3 from the field, but he finally got it going with a sweet jumper from the charity stripe. That forced Fresno State into a timeout, as UNLV led 55-51 with 12:20 left in regulation.

The next four to five minutes were riddled with fouls, with multiple players from both sides getting sent to the line. A multitude of fouls was called throughout the game, with the only player from either side not to register a foul being Webster.

Fresno State locked in, while the Runnin’ Rebels seemed to be running on fumes. With 5:55 left to play, the Bulldogs led at 65-64. Harkless was trying to do too much, attempting to play hero ball, which led to him turning the ball over, and that enabled Leo Colimerio to throw down an emphatic two-handed flush in transition, capping off a 13-3 run.

Kruger called a timeout, which any sane head coach should do in that situation, in an attempt to reel in his guys and rally them toward a victory. It may have worked, as Harkless made an excellent pass to Rodriguez on the break for an and-1 finish to cut Fresno State’s lead to three. Despite Webster having a tough start, he’s a man who’s bound to light it up whenever, and he delivered for the Rebels with a contested three from the corner, his first made three of the game. 

With a chance to cut the lead to one, Harkless pulled up from the free throw line, it was a solid look, but he was off. On the other end, Harkless and Isaih Moore got tangled up, which ended with both falling to the floor. A minor altercation ensued, and a technical foul was called on both. With that, both were also expelled from the game as they both had totaled five fouls.

With Harkless gone, Gilbert took over. He attacked the paint, went straight at Andre, and delivered with an and-1 bucket. That play kicked Andre out of the game as well as he had acquired his fifth foul. At this point, UNLV had to test their luck and hope Fresno State would miss their free throws. 

The Rebels had multiple chances to convert and tie the game, with their best look coming from Webster beyond the arc, but they just couldn’t make it count. They did get bailed out as Gilbert was sent to the free-throw line, and he made both free throws. With just 7.1 seconds left, UNLV still had life while only being down by one point.

Fresno State was fortunate enough to have Hill sent to the line, as he made both of his free throws. On their final possession, with a chance to tie the game up, Gilbert couldn’t even get the ball over half-court before turning it over. The final score read UNLV 79, Fresno State 82. 


Runnin’ Takeaways


UNLV vs Fresno State
Photo Credit Kyla LaCoste/Franchise Sports Media

Harkless dropped 27 points, four rebounds, and four assists. Gilbert added 19 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Rodriguez had nine points and five boards. Nowell, Webster, and Muoka combined for 16 points off the bench. 

Hill had 22 points on 4-6 from three. Baker totaled 23 points on 4-5 from three. Moore had 11 points, eight rebounds, three assists, and two steals off the bench. Fresno State as a whole shot 49% overall and 52.9% from three. 

Kruger, after the game, said, “Gotta get back to work. Feels like the second time where we’ve had a little momentum and just didn’t have that fire tonight that we had on the road.”


Don’t forget to go out and support the Runnin’ RebelsClick here to get your UNLV Runnin’ Rebels tickets! 


The Runnin’ Rebels will now head on the road and take on Wyoming Wednesday, February 8th, at 7:30 pm PT. The game will be available on FS1.

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-Jake Ideguchi-Furukawa – Franchise Sports Media

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