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UNLV Rebels head coach Kevin Kruger watches as the Rebels play against the Southern University Jaguars during the second half of an NCAA basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023.

After evening their conference record with a blowout win over New Mexico on Tuesday, the Scarlet and Gray have an opportunity to really make a statement on Saturday, when they host No. 20 Utah State (12 p.m., CBS Sports Network).

Three keys to watch:

Perception is reality

This game is important not just for UNLV’s place in the conference standings, but because of the perception of the two programs.

Kevin Kruger is currently in his third year as head coach and struggling to get his team over the hump to contend in the Mountain West. Meanwhile, Danny Sprinkle is in his first year at Utah State, had to recruit an entirely new roster, and already has the Aggies at 15-1 and ranked No. 20 in the nation.

If Utah State comes into the Thomas & Mack Center and beats UNLV, it’s going to look good for Sprinkle and bad for Kruger, and it would undoubtedly prompt people to ask why it’s taking so long to build a winner at UNLV.

It’s going to be tough to topple the Aggies, who rank 47th in offensive efficiency and 20th in assists.

Kruger called Utah State “the most confident team in the country,” a nod to how well they share the ball and execute their offense.

“You can tell they’re in sync,” Kruger said. “They run their sets really well, but at the same time you can tell they’re on the same page. If somebody goes to make a play, they adjust accordingly and create for each other. They’re fun to watch.”

Boones better together

It took half the season, but the Boone twins are finally both in the starting lineup, and the early returns are spectacular.

Kalib Boone started at center against New Mexico and scored 29 points — all of them coming from the paint. Keylan Boone made his first start as well, and he chipped in 17 points, with all five of his makes coming from beyond the 3-point line (5-of-11.

Kalib Boone’s interior presence has been established for most of the season. Now that Keylan is helping to spread the floor, UNLV’s offense looks a lot more balanced.

“Keylan’s length and ability to shoot from the perimeter is something that was really good for us last game,” Kruger said.

Kruger confirmed he will stick with both Boones in the starting lineup against Utah State.

Big man, great impact

Utah State has produced some good bigs recently, but the latest edition isn’t just good — he’s Great.

Great Osobor played his first two years at Montana State under Sprinkle, then followed his coach to Utah State this year. Osobor checks in a 6-foot-8, 245 pounds, and so far very few have been able to stop him in the paint, as he’s averaging 18.6 points and 9.4 rebounds.

Isaiah Cottrell missed UNLV’s last game due to a foot injury, so look for Kalib Boone and Rob Whaley to draw the task of leaning on Osobor. Whaley in particularly did a good job against San Diego State center Jaedon LeDee, so he could be a key matchup piece off the bench.

Who: UNLV (8-6, 1-1 MWC) vs. Utah State (15-1, 3-0 MWC)

When: Saturday, 12 p.m.

Where: Thomas & Mack Center

TV: CBS Sports Network

Radio: 1100 AM, 100.9 FM

UNLV leaders


Luis Rodriguez: 12.6 points


Keylan Boone: 6.7 rebounds


D.J. Thomas: 6.3 assists

Utah State leaders


Great Osobor: 18.6 points


Great Osobor: 9.4 rebounds 


Darius Brown: 7.6 assists

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun