While their respective football teams both operate in the Mountain West Conference, that's not the case here as the 24th- ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels entertain the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in non- conference action at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Hawaii, which is on the road for the very first time this season, was a former member of the Western Athletic Conference for all sports prior to this year, but the football team now contends in the MWC along with UNLV, while the basketball team has a home in the Big West Conference.
Early on, the team's schedule has been filled with some soft competition, outside of the contest against Illinois that resulted in a 78-77 overtime loss a couple weeks ago. More recently, the Warriors posted their fourth win in five tries with a 71-66 victory over North Dakota on Nov. 20.
As for the Runnin' Rebels, they too have enjoyed the comforts of home this entire time, with the first actual road game for the program coming next week with a trip to Portland. Like the Warriors, UNLV has also had the pleasure of squaring off against some questionable competition in the early going before suffering an 83-79 loss to Oregon during the Global Sports Classic on Black Friday. Most recently, the team was in action on Wednesday night as it crushed visiting UC Irvine, 85-57, to move to 4-1 on the campaign.
In terms of the all-time series, UNLV has won 22 of the previous 31 matchups, including four in a row. The most recent encounter was out on the island last seasons where the Rebels captured a 74-69 victory at the Stan Sheriff Center.
It was a close call against North Dakota the last time out, but the Warriors played just well enough to pick up the five-point win after leading by 15 points at the break. Brandon Spearman led all scorers with 19 points for Hawaii, hitting 3-of-7 shots behind the three-point line. Isaac Fotu made a major impact with 17 points and a team-best eight rebounds, although he did limit his time on the floor somewhat with four personal fouls. Vander Joaquim accounted for another 10 points as he missed all but one of his four three- point tries, the team finishing the contest 9-of-27 out on the perimeter. Joaquim, who has come off the bench in a couple of games, continues to lead the group in scoring with 15.6 ppg, although not far behind now are Spearman (15.2 ppg) and Christian Standhardinger (15.0 ppg) as the team puts up 75.6 ppg and limits the competition to 64.4 ppg based on 35.9 percent shooting from the floor and 26.4 percent accuracy on the perimeter.
UNLV led by just eight points at the break against the Anteaters earlier this week, but in the second half the defense went to work for the hosts as they held UCI to just 30.8 percent shooting from the floor and 2-of-7 beyond the arc, as they cruised to the 28-point victory. Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser both tallied 19 points for the Rebels, the latter clearing a game-high nine rebounds as well. Katin Reinhardt accounted for 13 points and Anthony Marshall six, although it was his nine assists that made him such a valued piece to the puzzle. Moser has been a bit light in the scoring department in the early going, his 3-of-15 shooting on the outside and 38.5 percent accuracy overall generating only 12.8 ppg, but he is again a constant threat to record a double-double as he averages an even 10.0 rpg. Bennett tops the list of scorers for UNLV with his 19.4 ppg, converting at a 56.6 percent clip from the field for a team that is producing 83.0 ppg. Thanks to Bennett's efforts on the glass (7.8 rpg), the Rebels are also beating foes in that department by almost eight per game.