LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — For the first time in eight seasons, the UNLV basketball team has notched a home victory against a ranked opponent.

EJ Harkless had a game-high 24 points and Keshon Gilbert added 16 as the Rebels (3-0) beat No. 21 Dayton 60-52 on Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“Obviously, a highly emotional game with a lot of energy, and couldn’t be more proud of them. The two days of prep, they were locked in and ready,” UNLV coach Kevin Kruger said.

UNLV’s last victory against a ranked nonconference opponent at home was Dec. 23, 2014, a 71-67 upset versus No. 3 Arizona.

Kruger said he wished his staff had a bit more time to prepare for the Flyers (2-1), but lack of preparation — especially defensively — didn’t appear to be an issue.

The Rebels did not allow a basket over the final 6:45, and they held the Flyers to a dismal 25% shooting in the second half, 36.4% overall (16-for-44).

Kruger has said his team is poised to make foes work for any offense they get, and that was the case for Dayton.

UNLV erased a 10-point halftime deficit with its defense, allowing just 20 points after intermission. Leading 50-47 with 6:46 left, the Rebels held Dayton to 0-for-5 shooting and forced five turnovers to finish the game.

“That’s something that we worked on all summer,” Harkless said of the defensive pressure. “We talked about that at halftime. They had offensive rebounds that got them going. That was the thing we stopped.”

Kruger didn’t seem surprised his team rallied after the halftime break.

“I think we faced a double-digit deficit twice, and both times we just came back swinging,” Kruger said of the intermission deficit. “But that’s what these guys have done, and that’s what they do in practice every day. They just compete like crazy.

“It was just great to see it pay off for them.”

Harkless made 9 of 19 shots and also had six rebounds and three assists. Gilbert shot 6-for-9 with three assists and three steals.

Kobe Elvis had 16 points and Mike Sharavjamts 14 for Dayton.

Tuesday night’s victory marked the Rebels’ first against any ranked team since last season when it beat No. 22 Colorado State on the road on Jan. 28.

UNLV finishes its season-opening four-game homestand Friday (Nov. 18) against High Point. Tipoff is 7 p.m.