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UNLV vs Utah State

Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels guard Justin Webster (2) celebrates a play against the Utah State Aggies during the first half of a NCAA basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

Boise, Idaho — 

Every UNLV player and coach walked off the floor at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday believing they should have won.

They didn’t have to wait long for a second chance to prove themselves right.

Three days after blowing a four-point advantage on the final possession in an 87-86 loss to Utah State, the Scarlet and Gray found themselves in the same position again. This time, the execution down the stretch was perfect as UNLV closed out an impressive 68-64 victory at Boise State.

The win not only snapped UNLV’s eight-game losing streak to Boise State, it also ended the Broncos’ 22-game home winning streak at ExtraMile Arena.

Senior guard Justin Webster played the role of closer, scoring UNLV’s final six points, including a perfect 4-of-4 showing from the free-throw line in the last 30 seconds.

Head coach Kevin Kruger praised his squad for shaking off the disappointment they felt after Saturday’s controversial defeat and responding with a terrific all-around effort against a tough Boise team.

“It’s just been one of those seasons so far, when whatever can go wrong has kind of found a way [to go wrong],” Kruger said. “But to see that ball go in, they deserve it. They deserve to have a big road victory, especially off the bounce-back from Saturday.”

Webster finished with 15 points, busting out of his own personal slump in a big way. The team’s starting shooting guard had gone scoreless in two of the past four games and managed just one field goal in the loss to Utah State, but when it came time to finish off Boise State, he stepped up.

With a minute to play and UNLV clinging to a 61-59 lead, Webster beat the shot clock with a pull-up jumper from the baseline to make it 63-59. Boise State forward Tyson Degenhart scored a driving layup to pull within 64-62 with 22 seconds left, and UNLV immediately went to Webster on the inbound. He was fouled and calmly sank both free throws to restore the four-point lead.

Max Rice made two free throws with eight seconds left to get the deficit to 66-64 and UNLV again went straight to Webster on the inbound. Bursting with confidence, Webster raced the length of the court and stood at the free-throw line, waiting for the officials to hand him the ball.

Webster devotes a lot of time to practicing foul shots, and it showed at the most critical point in the game.

“That’s what I work on, day in, day out, knocking free throws down,” Webster said. “Just take my time, do my free-throw routine that I do every day. I just went up there with some poise and I was able to knock them down.”

Webster indeed came through again, to the surprise of none of his teammates.

“I knew he was gonna make ‘em,” junior forward Rob Whaley said. “I had no doubt in my mind. That’s what he does. He makes free throws, he makes big shots, that’s what Web does.”

Webster extended UNLV’s lead to 68-64 with six seconds left, but, as anyone who witnessed the final sequence against Utah State could attest, that didn’t mean the Scarlet and Gray were home free. Utah State was able to make a 3-pointer while a foul away from the ball got them an additional two free throws, using the five-point possession to steal the win.

UNLV was determined not to let it happen again. The defense backed off, allowing Rice to attempt a long 3-point heave, and it bounced off the rim as time expired.

Webster said UNLV’s defensive approach was simple.

“Just don’t foul,” Webster said. “Just not fouling. Trying to keep everything in front and finishing with a rebound.”

Whaley finished with a team-high 18 points in 29 minutes off the bench.

UNLV is now 9-7 on the season and 2-2 in conference play. With victories over Creighton, New Mexico and now Boise State, it’s safe to say the Scarlet and Gray have found their stride and can compete with anyone in the Mountain West.

“It’s been 120 minutes of really good basketball,” Kruger said. “We’ve just got to keep building on that.”

UNLV will stay on the road and head straight to Fort Collins for a road date 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