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UNLV Rebels vs Fresno State Bulldogs

Steve Marcus

UNLV forward Keylan Boone (20) takes a shot over Fresno State center Eduardo Andre (35) during the second half of an NCAA basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024.

When freshman guard D.J. Thomas swished a 3-pointer from the right wing six minutes into the second half of UNLV’s win at Fresno State a week ago, you could almost hear the collective exhale from the Scarlet and Gray faithful all the way in Las Vegas.

It was UNLV’s first made 3-pointer of the game, and as it turned out, the only triple the team converted that night. For most programs, it would have been a statistical oddity in today’s 3-happy game. For the UNLV fan base, it was reason to fret.

That’s because UNLV owns the nation’s longest streak of consecutive games with a made 3-pointer, which now sits at 1,217 after the Runnin’ Rebels hit 5-of-18 Saturday in their loss to UNR.

The streak is a point of pride for the program. It speaks to the forward-thinking approach of Jerry Tarkanian, whose teams embraced the deep ball from the beginning: Since the NCAA instituted the 3-point shot in 1986, UNLV has made at least one in every game it has played.

Coach Kevin Kruger is aware of the streak — UNLV announces it over the PA system after the team’s first made 3 in every home game — and he even extended it a few times himself during his playing days.

In a lighthearted conversation before the UNR game, Kruger said he realized how passionate UNLV’s fans were about the streak.

“I’m torn, honestly,” Kruger said. “If we haven’t made one and we’re not necessarily on the good side of the scoreboard, I might actually take a second and be like, ‘Oh, this could be double bad.’”

But when it comes to choosing which is more important, extending the streak or winning the game, Kruger was adamant: Winning above all else.

“I know UNLV fans are going to hate to hear me say this,” he said. “I hope they know I love them all. But there is not a coach in the country that would not trade a streak for a win, if it came down to that decision.”

So why all the close calls recently? In an era where 3-pointer has taken over basketball at all levels, the 2023-24 Scarlet and Gray are finding team success by going old-school and pounding the ball inside.

Bully ball on the interior has helped lead UNLV to a 7-5 record in conference play, but it has come at the cost of 3-point attempts. UNLV attempted just eight in back-to-back games at New Mexico and Fresno State while piling up 86 points in the paint. UNLV won both games while making just two 3’s against New Mexico and Thomas’ one against Fresno State.

For the season, UNLV is attempting 20.7 3-pointers per game and making 6.8, at a rate of 33.0%. The Scarlet and Gray are shooting 54.6% from 2-point range.

“We’re a team that’s clearly a paint-driven, rim-attacking team,” Kruger said. “That’s become the identity of this group offensively.”

And if it continues to produce wins, Kruger is going to prioritize that over extending the streak.

“I’d hate to see that streak end,” he said, “but if it came with a win, especially against a rival, would it be the worst thing in the world?”

UNLV was one of the first college programs to utilize the 3-point shot as a weapon, with players like Anderson Hunt and Freddie Banks doing major damage from beyond the arc.

Hunt is the program’s all-time leader in made 3’s with 283. Banks holds the school record for most 3-pointers made in a season with 152 and ranks second all-time in made 3’s with 229. In the 1987 Final Four, Banks made 10 triples in a loss to Indiana, setting a tourney record.

The streak connects the UNLV program of today with those 80’s and 90’s powerhouses, so it makes sense that fans are invested in keeping it going.

Thomas is a Las Vegas native and the son of former UNLV guard Dedan Thomas, so he understands the importance of the streak better than most. He said he and his teammates are aware of it and want to keep it alive.

“It’s just a really cool thing to have, and for us to keep that going is pretty cool,” Thomas said.

At the time, Thomas didn’t realize how critical his 3-pointer at Fresno State was, but in retrospect he joined the fans in celebrating No. 1,216.

“After the game they told me about it. They were like, ‘Yeah we only made one 3 in the game.’ I was like, ‘Really? Good thing I made that to keep the streak alive.’”

So while UNLV has cut it close lately, there’s no need to panic just yet. The players want to keep it going, and the coaches want to keep it going. Kruger even said he’d endorse jacking up some 3’s if UNLV needed one to extend the streak, assuming the game didn’t hang in the balance.

“If the game was decided, yes we would absolutely make sure to shoot one,” he said. “Let’s make one.”

Kruger then reiterated. “If the game was decided.”

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun