UNLV set to open MW conference tournament vs. Wyoming in ‘neutral’ setting at the Mack

Posted: March 13, 2014 in General

The Runnin’ Rebels hope they’re No. 1 after Saturday’s championship game, in the Mountain West Tournament.

No. 5 Wyoming (18-13 overall, 9-9 MW) vs. No. 4 UNLV (19-12, 10-8)

WHEN: Thursday 2:30 p.m.

TV: CBS Sports Network

RADIO: ESPN Radio 1100/98.9 FM

SEASON SERIES: UNLV won the lone meeting, 48-46, on Feb. 8 in Las Vegas, improving to 33-15 in the all-time series.

KEY PLAYERS: UNLV: F Khem Birch 11.8 ppg., 10 rpg., 3.8 bpg., F Roscoe Smith 11.0 ppg., 11.0 rpg., G Bryce Dejean Jones 13.4 ppg. WYO: G Josh Adams 12.5 ppg., G Riley Grabau 10.7 ppg. G Nathan Sobey 9.5 ppg., 3.4 rpg.

KEY FACTOR in this game for UNLV: Roscoe Smith suffered a concussion in the Rebels’ 93-67 win over Air Force on March 1, and subsequently missed the team’s next two games – both losses. Smith, who ranks fourth in the nation in rebounding (11.0 rpg), is expected to return for this game. Smith had eight points and nine rebounds in UNLV’s 48-46  win over Wyoming on Feb. 8.

KEY FACTOR in this game for Wyoming: In the Cowboys’ loss to UNLV last month, forward Larry Nance Jr. recorded a game-high 12 points in the low-scoring game. But Wyoming will be without his services for this game, as he tore his right ACL in Wyoming’s victory against Fresno State on Feb. 18. Nance was the Cowboys’ leader in scoring, rebounds, blocks and steals.

NOTABLE: UNLV, which has an all-time record of 55-17 (.764) in conference tournament play, is 22-3 all-time against the Pokes at home, including 18-2 all-time at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV has won five straight against the Cowboys, nine of its last 10 and 13 of 15. The Runnin’ Rebels are also 3-0 versus Wyoming in MW Tournament play. With Nance sidelined, the spotlight has shifted to Nathan Sobey, who registered a career-high 33 points against Colorado State on Senior Day last Saturday. Though Sobey averages just 9.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game, he’s scored in double figures in five of the team’s last six games. After a 22-point performance against the Rams, Josh Adams has now posted three straight 20 point games. He has averaged more than 23 points over the last three contests; his 12.7 points and 2.9 assists per game lead Wyoming.

UNLV COACH DAVE RICE: On Wyoming – “We’re very concerned. They played extremely well in their last home game against Colorado State. Sobey and Josh Adams, who were both already very good players, they played at an extremely high level, they shoot the ball extremely well. Derek Cook is protecting the rim and we know how hard they’ll play and how well they execute on the offensive end.

On Roscoe Smith’s return – “Roscoe was a full-go the last two days. He will be with us, he’s a full-go. He practiced the last two days, he’ll come off the bench for us, but he’ll definitely play major minutes.”

Finishing the season, heading into the tournament – “Last week was tough, we missed Roscoe’s experience and his energy. I thought we competed in both games and we have a full roster now, and we know the challenge of playing against Wyoming. We also know the opportunity that we have this week. We look forward to playing hard and see what happens.”

Thomas and Mack Center – “It’s a neutral court. UNLV hasn’t won the tournament since 2008. It’s a new season and a great opportunity. If anything, it’s sometimes a little bit of a distraction that you’re actually at home and not on the road, from the standpoint of making the guys understand that it is a neutral court. We’re trying to make our routine as close to like we’re on the road as we can.”


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