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UNLV Rebels vs Akron Zips

Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels guard Dedan Thomas Jr. (11) takes the ball upcourt against the Akron Zips during the second half of an NCAA basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023.

The UNLV basketball team is back on its home court for the first time in nearly a month, as they host Hofstra at the Thomas & Mack Center in the penultimate non-conference contest on Thursday (7 p.m., Mountain West Network/Silver State Entertainment).

It was an up-and-down time away from home, with tough losses, a tragic cancelation and a potential season-defining win all thrown into the mix. Now, can the Scarlet and Gray notch a quality victory in their return to the Mack?

Three keys to watch:

Rebounding woes

Even in UNLV’s thrilling win over No. 8 Creighton on Dec. 13, rebounding was an issue, as the Blue Jays collected 11 offensive rebounds and posted an offensive-rebound rate of 33%. It got even worse in Saturday’s loss to Saint Mary’s.

The Gaels pulled down a staggering 33 offensive rebounds, which means they grabbed more of their own misses than UNLV did (29 defensive rebounds). They scored 31 of their 69 points on second-chance opportunities. It’s impossible to win that way.

UNLV is in a tough spot, as senior forward and leading rebounder Jalen Hill is out for a while with a broken wrist. Without Hill’s 6.8 boards per game, head coach Kevin Kruger said the rest of the team needs to chip in.

Senior wing Luis Rodriguez said allowing so many second-chance points is frustrating to the defense, so it’s of paramount importance to win defensive rebounds.

“We got killed on the boards against Saint Mary’s in the last game,” Rodriguez said. “A big emphasis this week is blocking out, hitting guys, going up to grab it with two hands and just finishing the play with rebounds.”

Last (real) non-con

If the Scarlet and Gray want to add a nice win before the start of Mountain West play, this is their last chance. The New Year’s Eve game against Carroll College is a mere tune-up, leaving Hofstra as the final legitimate opponent between now and the Jan. 6 MWC opener at San Diego State.

The Pride (7-4) have won 20-plus games each of the last two years under head coach Speedy Claxton and were picked to win the Colonial Athletic Association this year. They are currently No. 98 in the KenPom ratings, so they are more than capable of coming to Las Vegas and knocking off UNLV, which is No. 101 in the ratings.

The senior backcourt of Tyler Thomas and Darlinstone Dubar will pose problems, as they combine to average 40.7 points per game while making 6.7 3-pointers at 39.9% clip.

“This is a very tough game,” Kruger said. “Speedy has done an unbelievable job there. They share it, they shoot it incredibly well. It’s going to have a lot of different challenges.”

Boone walks

Tuesday was a big day for Keylan Boone. After practice at the Mendenhall Center he showered, put on his cap and gown and headed over to the Thomas & Mack Center to graduate.

It’s been a long collegiate road for Boone, who spent his first three years at Oklahoma State with his twin brother, Kalib, before transferring to Pacific. After one year there, he transferred again to UNLV in the offseason and just became eligible to play last week.

Kalib already graduated from Oklahoma State last year, so Keylan was excited to finally nab his degree in communications from UNLV.

“It’s a blessing,” Keylan said. “It feels amazing. I’ve been working so long for this. First-generation graduates, me and my brother.”

With his eligibility concerns settled and a diploma in hand, Keylan should be able to settle in and provide some serious production the rest of the season.

Who: UNLV (4-5) vs. Hofstra (7-4)

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: Thomas & Mack Center

TV: Mountain West Network/Silver State Entertainment (Cox 125, antenna 5.2)

Radio: 1100 AM, 100.9 FM

UNLV leaders


D.J. Thomas: 13.6 points


Jalen Hill: 6.8 rebounds


D.J. Thomas: 6.0 assists

Hofstra leaders


Tyler Thomas: 22.9 points


Darlinstone Dubar: 6.6 rebounds 


Jaquan Carlos: 7.3 assists

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun