Fans inside the Thomas & Mack Center were loudly booing UNLV with nine minute to go, as UC Santa Barbara extended its lead to 69-47. For those that stayed, the boos reemerged at the end of the Rebels’ embarrassing 86-65 home loss to the Gauchos on Tuesday night.
Alan Williams, one of the top forwards in the Big West, shot 9-of-19 from the field for 21 points, nine bounds and two blocks while Kyle Boswell added 19 points. Dave Rice played 12 players on Tuesday night, as the team shot 37 percent from the floor with none of his starters cracking double figures.
Jamal Aytes put UNLV up 13-11 with more than 12 minutes to go in the first half. The Rebels would hold that lead for 48 seconds before the Gauchos reclaimed the lead off a Taran Brown 3-pointer. From there UC Santa Barbara built a 16-point lead heading into halftime. It didn’t get much better in the second half, as the Gauchos got the lead as high as 26.
Rice has a roster that’s filled with talent, but it’s new talent playing together after seeing Anthony Bennett leave for the NBA, Anthony Marshall graduate and Katin Reinhardt and Mike Moser electing to transfer.
Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones, who combined for 13 points, six rebounds and five assists on Tuesday, return as starters while Roscoe Smith — plagued with first half foul trouble against UC Santa Barbara — is eligible after sitting out last season. Deville Smith and former McDonald’s All-American Jelan Kendrick fill out the roster. So, the talent is there, but first, that talent needs to mesh together on the floor.
The Rebels have not had an ideal month to kick off the season. Remember on Nov. 1, the Rebels lost a 71-70 exhibition game to Division II Dixie State. November can be even more unkind to UNLV when Jahii Carson and Arizona State come to Vegas, followed by a game against Illinois coming up the week after. Before those games against power conference teams, the Rebels host Nebraska-Omaha on Friday.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.