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Zoe Malen/The Nevada Sagebrush

The Nevada men’s basketball team rallied back from an 11-point deficit in the second half to defeat their in-state rival, the UNLV Rebels, 69-66 on Feb. 17. The win moves the Wolf Pack into a tie for sixth place in the Mountain West, with an overall record of 20-6 and a conference record of 7-5.

Nevada beat UNLV for the first time since the 2020-2021 season, snapping a four-game losing streak to the Rebels.

Jarod Lucas, Nevada Guard, got off to a hot start offensively, scoring eight points on 3-3 shooting, to give the Wolf Pack an 8-4 lead with 16:28 remaining. 

Following two made free-throws from Luis Rodriguez, UNLV guard, and a three-pointer from Keylan Boone, UNLV forward, the Rebels would take a 9-8 lead with 13:53 to go in the first half.

Nevada and UNLV traded buckets back and forth until a layup from Rob Whaley Jr., UNLV forward, kicked off a 7-0 run for the Rebels, who held a 27-20 lead going into the final six minutes of the half. 

Down by seven, Nick Davidson, Nevada forward, rallied the Wolf Pack back into the game, scoring six points on an 8-0 run that was capped off by a slam dunk from Davidson to retake the lead 28-27 with 3:08 left.

As time winded down in the first half, UNLV capitalized off three Nevada turnovers that brought momentum to the Rebels. Another successful three-pointer by Boone ended a 9-0 run that left the Wolf Pack at 26-28, a bitter end to the opening half.

Kenan Blackshear, Nevada guard, got the Wolf Pack started in the second half, scoring on a mid-range jumper to narrow the gap 36-30 with 19:16 to play.

Blackshear’s fast start led to the Wolf Pack going on a 13-7 run, highlighted by a Lucas three-pointer. Nevada pulled within two at 43-41 with 15:31 remaining.

The Rebels put a quick stop to any momentum gained by the Wolf Pack. In familiar fashion to the first half, Rodriguez sunk two free-throws that kickstarted an 11-2 run. This scoring surge allowed UNLV to take an 11-point lead, their largest advantage of the game, at 54-43 with 11:24 left in the second half.

After an exchange of free-throws, back-to-back layups from Blackshear and Davidson saw the Wolf Pack fight their way back into the game, trailing 56-49 with 8:21 to go.

More free-throws would be exchanged from both teams, before a three-pointer from Jackie Johnson III, UNLV guard, saw the Rebels go up by nine, taking a 62-53 lead into the final 5:31. 

Davidson would be fouled on the Wolf Pack’s next play, which allowed him to cut the score 62-55 at 5:06. Rodriguez would turn the ball over on the Rebel’s next possession, allowing Daniel Foster, Nevada guard, to hit a layup that brought momentum to the Wolf Pack.

With momentum shifting back to the Pack, Blackshear and Davidson scored the next six points in the game en route to a 10-0 run to give Nevada its first lead since the opening half. The lead would not last for long, as the Rebels responded with a layup from Dedan Thomas Jr., UNLV guard, to make it a one-point game at 64-63 with 1:16 left.

Down by one with the clock nearing triple zeros, Davidson tried for a three-pointer that did not land. Davidson hustled for the offensive board, however, and dished the ball back out to Foster who laid it in to give the Wolf Pack the lead at 65-64 with 0:47 to go.

With limited possessions remaining, Thomas Jr. drove to the paint in search of a foul. The Rebels got what they wanted, as Foster was called for a foul. 

With 0:20 on the clock, Thomas Jr. headed to the line to shoot a pair of free-throws. Given the opportunity to tie or take the lead, to the home crowd’s shock, he missed both of them.

Blackshear snagged the defensive rebound. Following late fouls from UNLV, Nevada would win by a final score of 69-66.

“We just made good play after good play in the last three minutes,”  Steve Alford, head coach of the Nevada men’s basketball team, said in a post-game interview after the win. “We’re down seven, and to win that last part of the game by eight, nine, or ten points, speaks volumes of our guys. We’ve got a lot of experience and that showed tonight.”

Nevada’s offensive trio of Blackshear, Lucas and Davidson went off in the come from behind win. The trio collectively scored 49 points on 50 percent shooting. The Wolf Pack outrebounded the Rebels 41-20, a significant improvement from their previous game against New Mexico, where they were out-rebounded 36-31. The Pack also overcame a -7 turnover ratio that saw them commit 17 total turnovers compared to their season average of 10.

“We dialed everything down and came together to execute the way we know we can.” Davidson said. “We’re a confident group, we can beat anyone, and I think we’re a problem.”

The Wolf Pack’s next challenge will come at home as they take on the Wyoming Cowboys (13-12, 6-6 MWC) for the second time this season on Tuesday, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m.
James Wolfgang Perez can be reached via email or via Twitter @JamesWPerezUNR

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