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Rebels vs UNR

Steve Marcus

UNLV head coach Kevin Kruger watches play during the first half of an NCAA basketball game between the UNLV and UNR at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday, Feb. 17, 2024. STEVE MARCUS

Colorado Springs, Colo. — 

  • What:
    UNLV at Air Force
  • When:
    Wednesday, 8 p.m.
  • Where:
    Colorado Springs, Colo.
  • TV:
  • Radio:
    1100AM, 100.9FM

It’s been four days since UNLV stumbled at the end of a last-second loss to UNR, and hopefully that’s enough time to recover, because there’s another big game looming on Wednesday when the Scarlet and Gray travel to take on Air Force (8 p.m., FS1).

Three keys to watch:

Air check

Under normal circumstances, a mid-February trip to last place Air Force would not loom so large. But the last time these teams met, the Falcons laid a brutal 90-58 beating on UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center.

How bad was the loss from UNLV’s perspective? Well, it’s still the only conference victory Air Force has recorded this season (1-11). And had Kevin Kruger’s squad won that game, they’d be pushing for first place in the Mountain West standings; instead, they’re in seventh. That hurts.

So don’t expect UNLV to take this game lightly, as they admittedly did for the first meeting.

Petraitis check

Is UNLV capable of slowing down Rytis Petraitis?

In the first meeting, Air Force’s 6-foot-7 guard proved to be a problem matchup, to put it mildly. Petraitis played 38 minutes and absolutely torched the Scarlet and Gray with 18 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, giving him a triple-double while shooting 7-of-11 from the field.

At the time, UNLV was struggling to find its defensive identity. Since then, senior wing Luis Rodriguez has emerged as an impact on-ball menace and will likely draw the assignment of slowing Petraitis for most of the night. If Rodriguez can keep him in check, UNLV’s chances of avenging the Jan. 23 meeting will go way up.

“He’s one of the best defenders in the country,” Kruger said of Rodriguez. “His size and mobility and athleticism has been a key factor for us all year.”

Standings watch

UNLV’s stunning loss to UNR was a painful blow in terms of the standings, but not a death blow.

At 7-5 in MWC play, UNLV is tied for sixth with UNR, and amazingly still only one game behind first place in the loss column, as both Utah State and San Diego State are 9-4.

Is it likely that UNLV can pass six teams in the next six games? Probably not. But passing two will be important, as the top five finishers receive a first-round bye in the conference tournament. UNLV swept fifth-place New Mexico, and will get another shot at sixth-place UNR, so if Kruger can get his team to start stacking wins again, a bye is not out of reach.

Who: UNLV (14-10, 7-5 MWC) vs. Air Force (8-16, 1-11 MWC)

When: Wednesday, 8 p.m.

Where: Clune Arena (Colorado Springs, Colo.)


Radio: 1100 AM, 100.9 FM

UNLV leaders


D.J. Thomas: 12.7 points


Luis Rodriguez: 6.7 rebounds


D.J. Thomas: 6.0 assists

Air Force leaders


Beau Becker: 15.1 points


Rytis Petraitis: 6.2 rebounds


Rytis Petraitis: 3.9 assists

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

Article written by #LasVegasSun