UNLV provides more questions than answers after another home loss

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Picked to finish in a tie for second place in the preseason Mountain West coaches poll, Dave Rice’s UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were clearly expected to contend for a conference title. While there certainly were some adjustments to be made given the number of newcomers inheriting key roles, there’s enough talent to make UNLV a factor in the Mountain West and at the very least earn another trip to the NCAA tournament.

In the aftermath of UNLV’s disappointing performance in a 74-71 home loss to Nevada on Wednesday night, with the final margin being that close thanks in large part to the Wolf Pack’s struggles to put the game away, it seems pretty clear that UNLV is a team in search of answers. And they don’t look all that equipped to provide the answers needed to turn things around, which is highly concerning with road games against New Mexico (January 15) and No. 13 San Diego State (January 18) next on the schedule.

And for a team that up until the last week proved to be solid defensively, those home losses to Air Force and Nevada are especially concerning in that regard.

After allowing the Falcons to score 1.16 points per possession on Saturday the Runnin’ Rebels weren’t much better against their in-state rivals, with Nevada scoring an average of 1.10 points per possession. Nevada was able to do that despite shooting just 6-for-19 from beyond the arc, with the guard tandem of Deonte Burton (29 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Michael Perez (18 points, seven rebounds and three assists) doing just about whatever they wanted offensively.

Nevada made 52.3% of its shots inside of the arc, as they were able to find ways to attack UNLV’s defense off the dribble on many occasions (and a few backdoor cuts from Perez for good measure) with little resistance to be found. Burton sat a portion of the first half due to foul trouble, but once he was able to get rolling in the latter stages of the half UNLV had no chance of slowing him down.

The reasons for the loss are many and will be discussed ad nauseam by the fans who, like the team, have a week to stew on this two-game losing streak before back-to-back trips to New Mexico and San Diego State starting Wednesday. There may be no better place to start than how excited Burton was to see Kendall Smith guarding him to start the game.

“I was surprised about it,” Burton said. “We just have to exploit the mismatches, and that’s what we did.”

Asked if he was pleasantly surprised, Burton grinned.

“Yes.”

But to limit UNLV’s issues to the defensive end of the floor would be a mistake, especially when considering the fact that they shot just 35% from the field. UNLV got the ball inside but they couldn’t convert at a decent rate, with Khem Birch (3-for-10 FG), Bryce Dejean-Jones (4-for-14) and Kendall Smith (3-for-11) all struggling to knock down shots. Add in Jelan Kendrick’s benching due to his being late to a practice and the problems were plentiful for UNLV.

Now comes the most important six days in the season for the Runnin’ Rebels, and they won’t play a single game during this stretch. For a team that lacked focus, and Birch even noted that players are “emotionally and physically tired” according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, it’s imperative that Rice’s squad uses this time off to get on the same page.

UNLV may be playing better basketball away from Thomas & Mack this season (five of their six losses have come at home), but if they don’t find a way to right the ship those games at The Pit and Viejas Arena will get ugly.

Buffalo sophomore arrested, charged with strangulation, witness intimidation

City of Tonawanda Police
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Buffalo sophomore Quate McKinzie is facing a litany of charges stemming from an incident in which he allegedly attempted to strangle a female acquaintance.

McKinzie, who is 20 years old, was later handed more charges after he made threatening phone calls to his accuser from jail.
From the Buffalo News:

The original charges placed against the UB sophomore were second-degree strangulation, a D-felony; misdemeanor counts of criminal obstruction of breathing, assault, menacing, harassment; and stealing the victim’s vehicle.

The latest charges are third-degree witness intimidation and first-degree criminal contempt, both E-felonies; and two misdemeanors, aggravated harassment and disobeying a court mandate, according to Tonawanda Police Patrol Capt. Fredric Foels.

“University Athletics is aware of the alleged incident and is in communication with university and local authorities,” Buffalo released in a statement. “Quate McKinzie is currently enrolled at the University at Buffalo and is suspended indefinitely from the university’s basketball team. Due to the ongoing investigation and federal protections on student information, we will have no further comment on the matter at this time.”

McKinzie is a 6-foot-8, 195 pound forward that played in 17 games last season. He averaged 3.9 points and 4.3 boards.

Auburn’s Austin Wiley suffers stress fracture

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Auburn center Austin Wiley has a stress fracture in his left leg and will be out 4-6 weeks, the school announced Monday.

No surgery is required, but Wiley, who played with Team USA’s U19 team in Egypt earlier this month, will miss Auburn’s trip to Italy.

“You know how tough and committed a young man is when he plays through the pain of a stress fracture,” said Pearl. “He was receiving treatment while in Egypt, but had no way of knowing the extent of his injury. Doctors say it is in a good spot for healing, and he will be fine.”

Wiley averaged 8.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 18.1 minutes this past season. He started 21 of the Tigers’ 22 games after he enrolled in school midseason.

Virginia Tech loses key shooter to torn ACL

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Virginia Tech suffered a brutal blow earlier this month when Ty Outlaw went down with a torn ACL in his right knee.

Outlaw is one of the best shooters on Virginia Tech’s roster, banging home 48 percent of his three-balls last season, and he was expected to be a major part of the rotation following a season where he scored in double-figures in six of the last eight games, including four games of better than 16 points in that stretch.

This is a blow to Virginia Tech’s depth, but it is also a tough break for Outlaw, who transferred to Virginia Tech from a Junior College and had to sit out the 2015-16 season due to a heart issue. The redshirt senior will likely be eligible to receive a medical redshirt should he decide to apply for one.

Report: Miller brothers schedule Indiana-Arizona series

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The Miller family does not appear to be worried about sibling rivalry.

According to a report from FanRag Sports, Archie, the head coach at Indiana, and Sean, the head coach at Arizona, have agreed to a three-year deal to have the two programs face-off against each other. They’ll start in 2019-20, playing in Arizona, then face-off in Bloomington the following season before finally heading up to Madison Square Garden in 2021-22.

If you can get past the fact that we are now scheduling games for 2022 (!!!), this is actually going to be a pretty neat and unique thing. How often do two brothers end up coaching at the Division I level? The Drew brothers — Bryce at Vanderbilt and Scott at Baylor — are one pair, but they cancelled a series that would have seen the two programs square off last season. James and Joe Jones at Yale and Boston University are another pair. They were league rivals for eight yeas when Joe was the head coach at Columbia. When Sean Sutton was the head coach at Oklahoma State, his brother, Scott, beat them was the head coach at Oral Roberts.

So it’s not typical for this to happen, mainly because it’s not easy to compete at something so important against someone you care about so much.

Think about it.

Imagine working in a profession where your success comes at the expense of your brother? It’s one of the major reasons — beyond the obvious — that no one believed Sean Miller would actually consider taking the Ohio State job when it opened. Facing off against your brother in a non-conference game you choose to play is one thing. Competing for league titles against him for the foreseeable future is something totally different.

Which is a long way of saying that this should be an enticing matchup, however it plays out.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson throws down a vicious putback

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Zion Williamson made another highlight-reel play on Saturday outside of Atlanta as he threw down a vicious putback dunk at the Best of the South.

The five-star prospect has returned from a minor knee injury this spring to look like his old self in July as he’s entertained packed gyms of fans and college coaches the last two weeks.

The Class of 2018 star is currently regarded as the No. 3 overall prospect in the latest Rivals.com national rankings.

(h/t: Courtside Films)