The La Verne Leopards will try to shock the world as they visit Orleans Arena seeking an upset of the 20th-ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels on Thursday night.
The Leopards will leave the Division III ranks for a pair of matchups versus Division I foes as they take on Cal State Bakersfield next. La Verne enters with a 1-4 record after dropping a 58-49 decision to Pomona-Pitzer its last time out. The loss was the fourth in a row for coach Richard Reed's squad, which does not have a player taller than 6-foot-7 listed on its roster. Even at the Division III level, La Verne is scoring only 59.2 ppg and allowing opponents to net an average of 1.5 more points per contest.
The Runnin' Rebels improved to 7-1 their last time out as Quintrell Thomas converted a layup with a second left to lift the team to a 76-75 decision over California. The win was the fifth in a row for Dave Rice's team, which is averaging 79.5 points and 17.5 assists per contest. UNLV's most impressive win thus far was a 12-point victory over Iowa State the day after it suffered a four-point setback to Oregon.
This will be the ninth meeting in history and first since 1965 between these schools on the hardwood. UNLV has won all eight previous encounters.
La Verne is led by sophomore guard Jourdan Simmonds, who is averaging 16 ppg on 45.7 percent shooting from the field. The Hawaii native is also connecting on 57.1 percent of his attempts from distance with 3.2 makes per game from behind the arc. Senior point guard Jake Veith is second on the team with 12.4 ppg, but the frontcourt will have trouble as no other Leopards are scoring in double figures regularly.
UNLV took a major hit when starter Mike Moser dislocated his elbow versus Cal, which sent the versatile forward to the injured list for an indefinite period of time. However, Pitt transfer Khem Birch will be eligible to make his debut on Monday. Freshman forward Anthony Bennett picked up the slack after Moser went down and tallied 25 points and 13 rebounds to pace the team in the recent win. Although Bennett is already averaging 19.5 points and 8.3 boards per contest, those numbers may see an incline with Moser out. Senior guard Anthony Marshall shows off his versatility with 11 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per outing. The Runnin' Rebels have plenty of additional weapons on the offensive end with Katin Reinhardt, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Justin Hawkins all making an impact as part of the rotation.