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UNLV vs Colorado State

Steve Marcus

UNLV Rebels guard Luis Rodriguez (15) leaves the court after the Rebels beat the Colorado State Rams in an NCAA basketball game at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024.

Laramie, Wyo. — 

UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger is fond of saying that Luis Rodriguez will do whatever it takes to win.

Sometimes, that manifests itself in mundane ways, like when Rodriguez calmly made 6-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final minute to clinch Saturday’s win over No. 22 Colorado State. Not flashy, but effective.

On Tuesday, Rodriguez went the highlight route to put UNLV in the win column, completing a jaw-dropping behind-the-back pass that led to a game-sealing dunk in overtime as the Scarlet and Gray escaped at Wyoming, 75-69.

UNLV has now won eight of its last nine games, improving to 17-10 overall and 10-5 in Mountain West play.

The rave reviews for Rodriguez’s helper poured in after the game.

Senior center Kalib Boone, the recipient of the pass, could only liken it to a video game, while Kruger called it the game-deciding play.

“That’s elite,” Boone said. “That’s some 2K pass right there.”

“’Stones’ is about all I can say there,” Kruger said. “It was an unbelievable pass, an unbelievable play.”

UNLV probably shouldn’t have needed Rodriguez’s heroics, as some sloppy play in the final seconds allowed Wyoming to close regulation on a 4-0 run to force overtime. But once the extra period began, the visitors regained their composure and worked the ball inside, carving out a 70-67 lead with less than a minute to play.

With the shot clock winding down on the game’s key possession, freshman guard Brooklyn Hicks drove looking to make something happen. He dished to Rodriguez, who was moving across the paint outside the restricted area. Rodriguez caught the ball and in one motion flipped a bounce pass to Boone, who cut along the baseline for a two-handed slam just before the buzzer sounded.

The poetic play (and some late free throws) sealed the win for UNLV, allowing the Scarlet and Gray to move into a tie for third place in the conference standings, just a game out of first place with three contests remaining in the regular season.

Rodriguez finished with two assists on the night, and it was almost only one, as his first instinct in overtime was to shoot. But when he saw a Wyoming help defender leave Boone out of the corner of his eye, he changed course and dropped the dime of the season.

“It was really the only way I could get it to him,” Rodriguez said. “I was going to go up, but I knew it would be kind of a bad shot, so I just threw it behind the back and it worked out.”

Rodriguez picked a good target; Boone was a workhorse under the basket all night, finishing with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.

And most importantly, Boone stayed alert with the clock winding down and made himself available for the pass.

“I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t even know what he was doing on that play,” Boone said with a smile. “I saw Lu driving. I don’t remember if he pump-faked or not. All I remember is he jumps up and I see him go from [a shooting motion] to putting the ball behind him. I was like, there ain’t no way he’s about to throw me this ball. Once I got the ball, I said I’ve got to go dunk this.”

The rest of Rodriguez’s stat line was nothing eye-opening: Three points on 1-of-5 shooting, five rebounds, a block and a steal in 33 minutes. But to Kruger’s point, UNLV was plus-7 in the time Rodriguez was on the floor.

Kruger praised Rodriguez’s on-ball defense for driving UNLV to a season sweep of Wyoming, as he helped hold Cowboys guards Sam Griffin and Akuel Kot to a combined 7-of-25 shooting in Tuesday’s victory.

“Lu is a guy, he’s always going to play a ton of minutes if he’s not in foul trouble, because even if he’s not making shots or not doing a ton of things offensively, he is our defensive leader through those guard spots. And he does an unbelievable job.”

Rodriguez’s calling card has always been his defense. And after that overtime connection, UNLV fans will recognize him as a guy who can thread the needle, too.

“I don’t do it often, but I believe in myself,” Rodriguez said. “I know I’m capable of making that pass.”

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

Article written by #LasVegasSun