Kansas State aims for stronger finish vs. UNLV


Two struggling basketball teams will try to get healthy at each other’s expense as UNLV travels to Kansas State for a Saturday evening contest.

UNLV (0-4) is coming off three losses in three days at the Maui Invitational, which was held in Asheville, N.C. Meanwhile, Kansas State (1-2) barely hung on to win 62-58 after racing out to a 17-0 lead against UMKC in its latest game.

“Great energy, great effort to start the game,” Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber said following the Monday victory over the Roos. “We were up 17-0. We led double digits against Colorado (in the previous loss) and were up double digits today. But we don’t continue that. I hope it comes through experience (and) through execution. That’s our next step — executing better.”

Weber knows that UNLV will not be an easy task for his young team.

“They definitely can score the basketball, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “They’ve had trouble stopping people. They have two explosive scorers in Bryce (Hamilton) and Caleb (Grill), and we are going to have to do a good job on them to limit their production. Bryce can really create and make plays, so we have to do a good job of helping and making him kick, which is easier said than done.”

Kansas State, which has only one senior and only four players who were part of last year’s roster, is led by senior Mike McGuirl, who averages 12.3 points per game, followed by freshman Nijel Pack at 11.7 ppg and sophomore DaJuan Gordon at 11 ppg.

The Runnin’ Rebels absorbed a 91-78 home loss to Montana State to start the season, then took on North Carolina in the opening round of the Maui Invitational. UNLV was no match for the Tar Heels, losing 78-51. The Rebels lost by less in each subsequent game, including a 77-73 defeat to Davidson in the seventh-place game Wednesday night, which has UNLV head coach T.J. Otzelberger encouraged.

“I was proud of the competitive spirit that we had as the game wore on. Our guys kept fighting,” Otzelberger said. “They really wanted to win that game, and they were highly disappointed in that locker room.

“I know that we’re getting better. I feel like each night out there’s been improvement. We’ve minimized some of the mistakes that have caused challenges in each game. When we can put together 40 minutes with the tremendous sense of urgency that we had down the stretch in this game in particular defensively, I know we’re going to be a really good team. We want to win every game, but we’re getting better and look forward to getting back to work.”

UNLV is led by Hamilton, who averages 21.5 points per game. He is joined by Grill with 14 ppg and David Jenkins Jr. with 10.3 ppg. Hamilton matched his season high of 27 points in the loss to Davidson, and Jenkins had his best output of the season with 18.

–Field Level Media

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