University of Nevada, Las Vegas(7-1)
Location: Las Vegas, NV
Mascot: Hey Reb
Conference: Mountain West Conference
Last season: 18-15 (8-10)
Coach: Dave Rice – 4th season
The Runnin’ Rebels of UNLV travel to the chilly midwest for a showdown against Wichita State in the MVC/MWC Conference Challenge Series. UNLV sits just outside the AP top 25 with enough votes to rank them 28th in the country. The Rebels will have a shot at ending a couple of home winning streaks tonight. Charles Koch Arena has seen 34 straight wins at home, and 33 consecutive home non-conference wins. The last time Wichita State lost at home to a non-conference opponent, was when VCU walked out with a 1 point victory on a late free-throw in 2011. That Ram squad went on to an eventual Final Four that year.
Wichita State will be tested in all facets of the game tonight. The Rebels are a tall and athletic team with a fleet of talented underclassmen. 6’7″ sophomore guard Patrick McCaw leads all Rebels in scoring for the year, averaging 18.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 3.1 steals per game. Three other Rebels are averaging in double digits points per game this season; 7’0″ freshman center Stephen Zimmerman is averaging 10.3 points, 6’7″ freshman forward Derrick Jones is averaging 11.4 points, and 6’1″ senior guard Jerome Seagears is averaging 12.1 points per game. Stephen Zimmerman at 7’0″ will pose a challenge to the Shocker front court. Zimmerman is averaging nearly a double-double per game this season. Turnovers and ball security will be a key deciding factor to a victory for the Shockers tonight. UNLV is a turnover causing machine and like to score in transition. VanVleet will be tasked with taking care of the ball tonight in his second outing since injuring his hamstring in November.
The big news of the day is that Conner Frankamp has been cleared for play and will suit up against UNLV. Frankamp adds another layer of security at the point guard position with Landry Shamet out with a stress fracture. Conner’s presence on the court will open the floor for other shooters, mainly Ron Baker who is already averaging 17.4 points per game.
Wichita State is coming off their first win since beating Emporia State back in November. The Shockers dismantled Saint Louis on the road in one of the best outings of the year. VanVleet was not 100%, but he was healthy enough to play. Fred logged just 5 minutes in the first half, but finished with 18 minutes on the court in the game.
Zach Brown, Shaq Morris, and Rauno Nurger stepped up big against Saint Louis. Morris notched his 2nd double digit point total of the season, scoring 12 in the game. Brown scored 14 points, while Nurger scored 6 points on 12 minutes in his 2nd game of the season. With Anton Grady sidelined recovering from his spinal concussion, the young front court will have their hands full. For the Shockers to battle with UNLV’s bigs, one or two underclassmen will need to step up against 7 footer, Stephen Zimmerman. If the Shockers can’t contain Zimmerman, it could be a long night in the paint.
This is the 4th meeting between Wichita State and UNLV. The Shockers lead the series 2-1, and are 2-0 in Wichita. The last meeting between the Rebels and the Shockers in 2011, Wichita State won decisively, 89-70. Joe Ragland went off for 31 against the Rebels, scoring 8 three pointers in the game.
Wichita State hosts #25 Utah at Intrust Bank Arena on Saturday. The Shockers will play 5 of their next 6 games in Wichita after not playing at home in 18 days.