Rebels return to MWC play against New Mexico Saturday

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LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) – After returning to the Thomas & Mack Center for a home game for the first time in 48 days with a victory against Saint Katherine on Tuesday, the UNLV men’s basketball team will resume Mountain West action this Saturday and Monday, January 16 and 18, as it hosts New Mexico in a two-game series. Saturday’s contest is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., while the series finale on Monday will tip at 6:30 p.m.

Because of COVID-19 issues, the Runnin’ Rebels went 33 days without a game before playing at Colorado State on January 7 for its first MW series of the season. UNLV lost those two games by a combined six points after returning to competition for the first time since a win on December 5 at Big 12 Conference-member Kansas State. UNLV’s subsequent scheduled games vs. Eastern Washington and Pepperdine were canceled and its series’ with Wyoming and San Diego State were postponed.

In the series finale against the Rams, junior guards David Jenkins Jr. and Bryce Hamilton combined to score 57 points as they each recorded season highs of 29 and 28 points, respectively. Senior forward Mbacke Diong set his season-high in rebounds with 15 in that contest. Diong led the Runnin’ Rebels in their 61-point victory over SKU on Tuesday with his first double-double of the season (18 points, 10 rebounds). A total of four UNLV players scored in double figures against the Firebirds.

Coming off a tie for second place in the Mountain West standings last season, UNLV has an entirely new look this year as 10 of its 13 scholarship players had yet to play in a game for the Runnin’ Rebels as the 2020-21 season began.

UNLV’s returners include Diong, and junior guards Marvin Coleman and Hamilton. Other returners from last year’s roster include Jenkins Jr., a transfer, sophomore transfer forward Moses Wood, and walk-on junior guard Trey Hurlburt. Of the nine newcomers added to this year’s roster, seven are freshmen.

Hamilton was the team’s leading scorer last season. The Runnin’ Rebels’ first First-Team All-Mountain West recipient in seven seasons, he averaged 16.0 points per game as a sophomore. Diong led UNLV in rebounding at 7.9 per contest as a junior. Hamilton was also named a Preseason All-MW honoree in November, while Jenkins Jr. was selected as the league’s Preseason Newcomer of the Year and freshman guard Nick Blake was named the conference’s Preseason Freshman of the Year.

Hamilton is the team’s leading scorer this season and is second in the MW at 21.3 ppg. Diong is the team’s rebounding leader (8.4 rpg, 4th in MW), while Coleman is tops in assists (4.0 apg, 4th in MW). Jenkins Jr., is also averaging in double figures in scoring with 15.4 ppg, as is Caleb Grill, a sophomore guard and transfer from Iowa State, with 11.4 ppg.

New Mexico is 4-6 overall this season and 0-6 in Mountain West play. The Lobos are coming off a 72-63 win at Dixie State on Wednesday.

Saturday’s game will be televised by CBS Sports Network with Carter Blackburn and Avery Johnson calling the action, while Monday’s contest will be on FS1 with Daron Sutton and Doug Gottlieb. Jon Sandler and former Runnin’ Rebel Curtis Terry will handle the UNLV radio call, which may be heard live on ESPN Radio 1100 in Las Vegas. All streaming links and live stats are available at UNLVRebels.com.

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