Aggies ‘gift-wrap’ overtime win for Rebels, 79-77

After losing six of their previous seven games, including five that went down to the final possession, the UNLV Rebels were in need of some good fortune.

They got it at the end of overtime from Utah State freshman forward David Collette Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

It was Collette who inexplicably reached in and fouled Cody Doolin after a rebound of a Jojo McGlaston missed 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left in OT that helped the Rebels to finally get over the hump with a 79-77 Mountain West victory.

Doolin calmly sank both free throws to win a game that saw UNLV (11-9, 2-5) rally from a late five-point deficit at the end of regulation on a long 12-foot floater by Patrick McCaw to force overtime and then come back from a six-point deficit in the extra period to pull out the victory.

“Obviously that’s a terrific – yes, I said terrific – win for our team,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “That’s as good as it gets in terms of resilency and coming off some very difficult losses. … It’s a huge deal for our program to get that win.”

Rashad Vaughn scored a career-high 31 points and also grabbed nine rebounds and had three steals to lead the Rebels while Christian Wood, who raised a few eye-brows with a tweet beforehand (SEE BELOW) promising his team wouldn’t lose again this year, added 11 points and seven rebounds and Jordan Cornish came off the bench to score 11 points, including three pressure-packed free throws late in regulation.

They might still be playing if not for Collette’s inexplicable foul on Doolin, who was cradling the ball and seemed content to head to double-overtime.

“I was (surprised),” Doolin said.

“I knew it was over after that,” added Vaughn.

Utah State coach Stew Morrill told the Salt Lake Tribune afterward he had no explanation why Collette, who scored 24 points on 12-of-16 shooting and was the Aggies’ best player during the contest, decided to reach in and foul Doolin about 75-feet from the UNLV basket.

“There is no explanation for the play at the end of the game,” Morrill said. “We should have gone to double-overtime. I have no explanation for that. I don’t understand that at all and I’m sure (Collette) doesn’t understand it, either.”

“We had a chance to win the game about five times. But we just gift-wrapped it and gave it back to them (with) crazy fouls and missed free throws.”

Utah State, which shot 48.1 percent from the floor including 7-of-17 3-pointers, connected on just 18-of-29 free throws (62.1 percent) including 10-of-17 in the second half when they had several chances to seal the game.

“Once in awhile you gift-wrap one and give it to the other team,” Morrill said. “That’s not taking any credit away from them. But that’s the way I feel about it. We gift-wrapped it.”

UNLV now faces a quick turnaround and travels to Reno on Tuesday night for a rematch with in-state rival Nevada (6-12, 2-4), which edged the Rebels, 64-62, in the first meeting on Jan. 7 in the Thomas & Mack.

PHOTO BY JEREMY RINCON

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