Patrick McCaw

UNLV hoping summer work results in better finishes next season

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In a season that fell far short of expectations, UNLV went 18-15 and finished 8-10 in Mountain West play despite having one the the conference’s most talented rotations. There are a number of reasons for the lack of success, one of which being the team’s struggles in close games.

Of UNLV’s 15 losses nine were by six points or less, and another close loss was their nine-point overtime defeat at eventual regular season co-champion Boise State in mid-January. With Rashad Vaughn and Christian Wood among those who have moved on, the Runnin’ Rebels are working on the court and in the weight room this summer to ensure that there’s better chemistry and the team is better equipped to close out tight games.

In a story by Ed Graney of the Las Vegas Review-Journal that focused on the impact that USA Basketball calling Las Vegas home for part of the summer has on the UNLV program, head coach Dave Rice touched on the team’s efforts to turn things around in 2015-16.

Strength and conditioning at the college level is a year-round endeavor now.

It’s part of one’s lifestyle in the NBA.

“We have to get physically and mentally tougher,” Rice said. “We were in a lot of games last year that we just didn’t finish. We have to get over the top in those. It’s important for our guys to walk in here and see how big NBA players are. They are obviously extremely talented and athletic, but they’re also physically strong. If you’re going to have an opportunity to play at that level, you better be strong.”

Once again UNLV won’t lack for individual talent, with elite forwards Stephen Zimmerman and Derrick Jones leading the incoming freshmen and transfers such as Jerome Seagears (who sat out last season) and Ike Nwamu available as well. Add in the returnees, including sophomores Patrick McCaw and Goodluck Okonoboh, and the Runnin’ Rebels have the individual pieces needed to take a step forward.

But we’ve said that before. The key question: do they have the collective mindset (and toughness) needed to do so? Rice is hopeful that his team getting to observe some of the best players in the sport will rub off on them, thus sparking a change for the better.

Concussion to sideline UNLV freshman guard for Saturday’s regular season finale

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To say that this season hasn’t gone as expected for UNLV would be a severe understatement, as Dave Rice’s team has struggled with inconsistency and depth issues throughout. The Runnin’ Rebels dropped to 16-14 overall and 7-10 in Mountain West play Wednesday night, as they lost 60-58 to San Diego State, and they also lost another productive freshman.

Guard Patrick McCaw left the game early in the second half after colliding with teammate Christian Wood and did not return. On Thursday it was announced that McCaw will miss UNLV’s regular season finale Saturday at San Jose State after he was diagnosed with a concussion.

The 6-foot-6 freshman started the last 13 games for UNLV, and his absence means that they’ll be down to six scholarship players against the struggling Spartans.

Averaging 10.0 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, McCaw scored 20 points or more in three of UNLV’s five games leading up to Wednesday’s loss to San Diego State. Without McCaw and fellow freshman Rashad Vaughn, who hasn’t played since mid-February due to a knee injury, even more will be asked of guards such as Cody Doolin, Jelan Kendrick and Jordan Cornish.

UNLV’s three other available scholarship players are forwards Dwayne Morgan and Christian Wood, and center Goodluck Okonoboh. UNLV will have to play in the first round of the Mountain West tournament, and the hope is that McCaw is able to return for the action next week in Las Vegas.