Arizona Basketball

Notebook: UNLV Running Rebels vs. Arizona Wildcats




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— Memo to Dave Rice and Sean Miller: UNLV vs. Arizona should be played every season. The last five meetings between the two programs have all been decided by five or fewer points and those games do not include Lute Olson and Jerry Tarkanian, two bitter rivals when they led two of the best programs in the West during their hey day. Sean Miller vs. Dave Rice does not carry the same vigor, at least in terms of on the court, but in recruiting, the coaches have waged an all-out battle. Miller has been able to draw recruits such as Nick Johnson, Brandon Ashley, Craig Victor and Allonzo Trier from Findlay Prep, in UNLV’s backyard in Henderson. Rice had one of the biggest coups, signing Stephen Zimmerman, who played for Miller in the USA Basketball program and had the Wildcats as one of his finalists.

— The next great recruiting battle between the programs might be for the services of Class of 2017 point guard Troy Brown, a Las Vegas Centennial High School five-star prospect who visited McKale for the Red-Blue Game two months ago. UNLV offered him a scholarship before he played a high school game. Arizona and USC offered him a scholarship when he was a freshman. Arizona also has shown interest in Ed O’Bannon’s son, Ed O’Bannon Jr., who is a Class of 2017 standout forward at Las Vegas powerhouse Bishop Gorman High School, where Zimmerman played. Gorman is coached by Rice’s brother, Grant Rice, which may be a built-in advantage for Dave Rice judging from Zimmerman’s decision.

— This is the third game of a four-game home-and-home arrangement. Arizona visits UNLV next season. “It’s something that was really, really important to start (back up),” Rice said in 2013 when the programs announced the scheduling of the series. “It just makes sense. It’s been a great rivalry over the years.” Between 1972 and 2009, the two programs met 17 times, with UNLV holding an 11-6 edge in the series. The height of the rivalry came in the late 1980s, when Lute Olson and Jerry Tarkanian were involved in very heated battles. Olson pulled the plug on Arizona facing UNLV in the regular season after the Wildcats lost 95-87 in Las Vegas in 1990. Following that game, Olson commented that UNLV guard Anderson Hunt cursed at him and his staff after diving for a loose ball near the UA bench. Hunt denied cursing at Olson and claimed it was Olson who swore at him as he walked back to the court. “This is the last year of the series,” Olson told reporters. “It is not in the plans to play them again. I just don’t think it’s a series we’ll continue. I don’t have to indicate what my reasons are.”

— The No. 1 Class of 2016 recruit in the country, wing player Josh Jackson, is in Tucson taking his official visit, just in time for what should be a raucous environment at McKale Center for the UNLV game. Jackson has only one other visit scheduled to Kansas on Jan. 23. Jackson is so good and Arizona’s lineup is such without a prototypical wing player that he could start and earn substantial minutes with the Wildcats this season.

Dusan Ristic does a lot of good things, but being nasty, playing with a fire under him, is not one of them. He’ll have to play that way against UNLV, which is bent on improving its rebounding after Wednesday’s collapse against ASU. The Sun Devils outrebounded UNLV 43-30. The Rebels did not achieve their first offensive rebound until well into the second half. UNLV has not outrebounded its opponent in its last six games. Cal-Riverside won the board battle 52-37 last week. Rice has harped on UNLV’s rebounding effort continuously during interviews this week in Las Vegas. UNLV is minus-.7 in rebounding margin while Arizona is at plus-12.2. Ryan Anderson (9.6 rebounds a game) is doing his part. Arizona needs a solid effort from Ristic (only 5.9 rebounds a game, which is low for a big man his size) and Mark Tollefsen (4.7 a game). Kaleb Tarczewski was averaging a respectable 7.2 rebounds in his five games before aggravating a foot injury.

— For the first time this season, Arizona will face a team as deep as it is. Rice has employed nine players who average double-figure minutes, the same as Miller with Arizona. Both coaches will have eight of those players available if Elliott Pitts (21.3 minutes a game) continues to sit for unspecified reasons. Goodluck Okonoboh was averaging 15.2 minutes a game for UNLV when he announced his decision to transfer two weeks ago.

— Worth the price of admission: UNLV’s perimeter players vs. Arizona’s. The Rebels’ top three scorers play at the guard position or wing — off guard Patrick McCaw (15.8 points a game), point guard Jerome Seagears (10.8) and wing Derrick Jones Jr. (10.0). Arizona counters with shooting guard Gabe York (13.4 points a game), Trier (13.0) and point guard Kadeem Allen (6.9 points a game with 44 assists and 19 turnovers). Seagears, a one-time Arizona recruiting target, has 41 assists with 20 turnovers. Who controls their team’s flow better — Allen or Seagears — could go a long way to the outcome.

Previous result:

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UNLV (8-3) VS.
NO. 13 ARIZONA (10-1)

Tip Time: 7:31 p.m. MST
TV: ESPN2 (Roxy Bernstein/Sean Farnham)
Radio: Arizona IMG Sports Network (Brian Jeffries/Ryan Hansen)

Overall: UNLV leads 12-7
In Tucson: Arizona leads 5-2
Current Streak: UNLV won 1
Sean Miller vs. UNLV: 1-2
Last Meeting: UNLV won 71-67 in Las Vegas (12-23-14)

Site founder and award-winning sports journalist Javier Morales has published his first e-book, “The Highest Form of Living”, a fiction piece about a young man who overcomes a troubled upbringing without his lost father (a Vietnam War POW) and wayward mother through basketball and hope. His hope is realized through the sport he loves. Basketball enables him to get past his fears. His experience on the court indirectly brings him closer to his parents in a unique, heartfelt way. Please order it at Amazon (for only $4.99) by clicking on the photo:

PP: Productivity Points (Points, assists, rebounds, steals, blocked shots, FGs made, FTs made added together and then subtracted by missed FGs, missed FTs, personal fouls and turnovers)
MIN: Minutes played overall
PR: Productivity rating per minute played (Productivity points divided by minutes played)

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Present power ranking of non-conference opponents Arizona has played according to The Wildcats’ rating is No. 14. UNLV is at No. 84.
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*-John Wooden Legacy in Fullerton/Anaheim (Calif.)
[table “” not found /] publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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