Adding another chapter to the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge, the 21st-ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels welcome the Northern Iowa Panthers to the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night.
Since losing to Oregon at home (83-79) during the Global Sports Classic back on Nov. 23, the Runnin' Rebels have ripped off seven straight victories and are 9-1 on the campaign overall. Just two nights ago, the team came close to seeing that successful run draw to a close, but the squad managed to take out UTEP late in a 62-60 final at the Don Haskins Center.
As for the Panthers, a team which is a perfect 5-0 at home so far this season, this outing is just their second true road game of 2012-13. The team has played four games on neutral floors and each one of them has come back with a negative result. Northern Iowa went up against in-state rival Iowa over the weekend and was taken down in an 80-73 final, snapping the team's three-game win streak in the process.
The only previous meeting between these two teams took place two years ago during the 2010 NCAA Tournament in Oklahoma City where the Panthers slipped by with a 69-66 victory in the first round of the event, thanks to a clutch 3- pointer by Ali Farokhmanesh with 4.9 seconds left in regulation.
Against the Hawkeyes at Wells Fargo Arena over the weekend, the Panthers shot only 1-of-9 beyond the arc in the first half and that put them in a hole from which they could not fully recover, en route to the seven-point loss. Deon Mitchell tried to keep the team alive with 23 points, while Seth Tuttle came up a rebound shy of a double-double as he tallied 18 points before fouling out. Anthony James chipped in 15 points, but he took picked up five personal fouls and wasn't around for the end of the game. Mitchell, a 56.0 percent shooter from the floor, is putting up 13.7 ppg to lead the offense for the Panthers. In addition, Mitchell is also finding enough opportunities to keep his teammates involved as well, to the tune of nearly four assists per outing. Tuttle (10.3 ppg) also makes good choices from the floor, hitting 54.0 percent, which is key because the team overall is shooting a modest 45.3 percent at the moment.
UNLV led by as many as 15 in the second half against the Miners on the road, up by double-digits midway through the period, yet the Runnin' Rebels still had to put up a defensive stand in the waning moments in order to survive. Except for Quintrell Thomas who scored just four points in 19 minutes of action, every starter for UNLV hit for double figures, led by Bryce Dejean- Jones with a modest 12 points on only 5-of-14 shooting from the floor. Anthony Marshall accounted for 11 points, Anthony Bennett and Katin Reinhardt 10 points apiece in the close call as well. Even though he didn't have a huge game two nights ago, Bennett is still considered a major catalyst for the Rebels now that Mike Moser has gone down with an injury. Bennett checks in with 19.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game, both of which pace active players. Marshall (10.8 ppg) has been tasked with getting his teammates involved, which he has done to the tune of five assists per outing.