LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Keshon Gilbert’s career-best 25 points and timely defensive work kept UNLV among the ranks of college basketball’s unbeaten teams Saturday.
The Rebels won their 10th game in their best start since 1990 by edging Washington State 74-70 in the Las Vegas Clash doubleheader at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
EJ Harkless added 20 points as the Rebels ended the game as one of seven undefeated major college teams.
Rebels coach Kevin Kruger said Washington State did a good job of controlling the game’s pace. “But I thought we did a good job of creating enough momentum swings in our direction to where we had favor in the way the game was going,” he said.
An 18-0 run by the Rebels in the first half was one of those momentum swings, as well as an 8-0 run with about 12 minutes remaining in the game that gave UNLV the lead for good. A jumper Jackie Johnson capped the second-half run and pushed the Rebels’ advantage to 57-47.
Washington State (4-5) had a better shooting percentage (54.2%) and a 30-19 edge in overall rebounding. But the Rebels won the battle of mistakes, getting 12 steals among 22 turnovers by Washington State. The Rebels got 31 points off turnovers.
UNLV had seven turnovers.
Washington State was down 12 with 7:08 to play and pulled within three points twice inside the final minute. UNLV answered by making 3 of 4 from the line.
TJ Bamba, who led Washington State with 20 points, hit a 3 and scored eight points down the stretch.
Kruger thought the Cougers did a good job with ball movement on offense and said it could be a valuable lesson for his team’s defense.
“Washington State shot the ball really well, and they do a really good job of finding the open guy and when you’ve got that many that can make plays and shoot it and make some of the shots they did today, that’s what’s probably going to happen,” he said. “We just have to continue to get better in those situations and watch the film to see how a step here or a step there could make our life a lot easier or potentially a lot harder.”
Gilbert scored 17 points and Harkless had 15 as UNLV shot 54% (14 of 26) in the second half.
Washington State also was hot from long range, making 13 of 23 3-pointers. Justin Powell added 15 points and DJ Rodman had 14 for the Cougars.
UNLV’s 1990-91 team won its first 34 games before losing to Duke, the eventual champion, in the NCAA’s Final Four.