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Rebels vs Cowboys

Steve Marcus

UNLV forward Keylan Boone (20) celebrates after making a basket and drawing a foul during the second half of an NCAA basketball game against Wyoming at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. UNLV guard Jackie Johnson III (24) looks on at right. STEVE MARCUS

  • What:
    UNLV vs. UNR
  • When:
    Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
  • Where:
    Thomas and Mack Center
  • TV:
  • Radio:
    1100AM, 100.9FM

Saturday night is shaping up to be one of the biggest games of the season for the UNLV basketball team, as they put a five-game winning streak on the line against visiting rival UNR (8:30 p.m., FS1).

Can Kevin Kruger and his resurgent squad keep climbing the standings with another victory? Three keys to watch:

Kruger puts perfect mark on the line

When evaluating a UNLV coach in any sport, one of the top criteria is “beat Reno.” Kruger has aced that part of the job, running up a perfect 4-0 record against the in-state rivals over his first two years.

As usual, Kruger downplayed his success against UNR when speaking to the media after Tuesday’s practice and put the focus on trying to win another game.

“Another very good team in the Mountain West,” Kruger said. “Should be another good rivalry game in a very competitive conference,”

Freshman guard D.J. Thomas was a little more vocal about his feelings on the rivalry. His father, Dedan Thomas Sr., played at UNLV from 1990-93, and ran up a 4-1 record against the Wolf Pack during that time.

The younger Thomas seems to have inherited his father’s hatred of the team up north.

“He hates Reno,” Thomas said.

Interior play

UNLV has been feasting inside lately, with starting big men Kalib Boone and Rob Whaley forming a formidable 1-2 punch under the basket. How will UNR stack up on defense?

The Wolf Pack feature one of the lengthier frontcourts in the conference, with 6-foot-10 center K.J. Hymes and 6-foot-8 forward Nick Davidson providing size on the interior.

Boone and Whaley have combined for 56 points over the last two games while shooting 21-of-36 from the field (58.3%). If UNR doesn’t slow them down, it’s advantage UNLV.

Standings watch

UNLV’s five-game winning streak has launched the team into a tie for fourth place in the Mountain West standings, and if the season ended today they’d get the tiebreaker over Boise State by virtue of winning at Boise earlier this year — the only scheduled meeting between the teams this season, due to the MWC’s unbalanced schedule.

A win on Saturday would not only move UNLV into third place, it would drop UNR to 6-6, a full two games behind UNLV and on the outside looking in when it comes to earning a first-round bye in the MWC tournament.

For a mid-February contest, those are pretty high stakes. 

Who: UNLV (14-9, 7-4 MWC) vs. UNR (19-6, 6-5 MWC)

When: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.

Where: Thomas & Mack Center


Radio: 1100 AM, 100.9 FM

UNLV leaders


D.J. Thomas: 12.4 points


Luis Rodriguez: 6.9 rebounds


D.J. Thomas: 5.9 assists

UNR leaders


Jarod Lucas: 17.0 points


Nick Davidson: 6.9 rebounds


Kenan Blackshear: 4.7 assists

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun