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UNLV vs Utah State

Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels forward Kalib Boone (10) reacts after being called for a foul on Utah State Aggies forward Great Osobor (1) during the final seconds of the second half of a NCAA basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

Kevin Kruger was at a loss for words through much of his postgame press conference after UNLV was stunned by Utah State on Saturday, 87-86.

When asked what he saw on Utah State’s final possession — a rare five-point play to take the lead with eight seconds remaining — Kruger kept it short.

“I saw everything. We’re going to move on from it,” he said.

Did he think his team, which led by double digits for parts of the second half, did enough on offense to seal the game?

“Yeah. Up four with 14 seconds left, you’re going to win most of those games.”

The third-year coach’s clipped responses were understandable, coming just moments after perhaps the most shocking loss of his tenure. Instead of knocking off the No. 20 team in the country and securing a second straight impressive home win, the Scarlet and Gray were left wondering what went wrong — and where they go from here.

UNLV should have come away with the win. After leading from the opening tip, Luis Rodriguez made two free throws with 14 seconds left to give his team an 86-82 advantage. But Utah State quickly inbounded to Darius Brown, who raced across halfcourt and pulled up for a long 3-pointer from the right wing

Brown made the shot, but the real action occurred away from the ball. While the shot was in the air, Aggies big man Great Osobor was fouled by Kalib Boone as they battled for positioning for the potential rebound. Under college rules, the 3-pointer was counted and Osobor was awarded two free throws.

Osobor came into the day as a 66.7% free-throw shooter but sank both to put Utah State ahead.

With no timeouts remaining, UNLV inbounded to freshman point guard D.J. Thomas, who drove and pulled up for a 14-foot jumper. Thomas got a good look, but his shot was a bit long, bouncing off the back iron as the buzzer sounded.

UNLV did not make any players available for comment, a departure from the standard postgame procedure and a signal of just how hard they took the loss.

Kruger said his locker-room address didn’t do much to assuage the players’ dismay.

“There’s nothing to say to the guys after a game like that,” Kruger said. “There’s nothing you can tell an athlete and a player after that. You’ve just got to tell them you love them, and they’ve got to keep working hard. Nothing makes you feel better after that.”

Up until the final sequence, UNLV had played one of its best games of the season, claiming a 47-40 lead at halftime thanks to stellar play from Rodriguez and junior reserve big man Rob Whaley. They pushed the lead as high as 13 points in the second half before Osobor and guard Ian Martinez brought Utah State back from the brink.

Osobor finished with 24 points and 14 rebounds while Martinez canned six 3-pointers and finished with 24 points of his own. Osobor made 12-of-13 free throws.

Five UNLV players scored in double figures, led by Rodriguez’s 23 points and nine rebounds. Thomas posted 10 points and 11 assists, while Whaley had 11 points and eight boards.

UNLV doesn’t have much time to dwell on the loss, no matter how heartbreaking. Kruger will take his team on the road for two tough matchups next week, first traveling to face Boise State on Tuesday and then continuing on to a showdown at Colorado State on Friday.

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun