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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Rebels run into McKale

Rebels run into McKale

December could be a very chilly month for the UA men’s basketball team.

The Wildcats (3-2) have eight potentially problem-causing games lined up this month, starting off with tonight’s 7 p.m. matchup against No. 24 University of Nevada-Las Vegas (5-0) in McKale Center.

The Runnin’ Rebels played their first five games at home, the last of which was a court-rushing win over then-No. 16 Louisville. UNLV is now ranked for the first time since the close of its Sweet 16 run in 2007, when it was tabbed No. 19 in the nation.

“”To me, they’re the best team that we’ve played all season,”” said UA head coach Sean Miller. “”I love how hard they play. It’s something that — the culture they have in the program, just watching how together they are, how hard they compete.””

UNLV has nine transfers on its team, including players from ASU, Kansas, Kentucky, UCLA and Memphis. The Rebels’ experience and diversity gives them a tough-nosed approach to games.

“”They win because they out-tough you, they out-hustle you, they run faster than you, they’re more together than you,”” Miller said. “”That’s something that we want to make a part of our identity moving forward.””

UNLV, ranked No. 28 in Ratings Percentage Index, is one of five teams Arizona will face this month with a top-100 RPI. All of those teams have a better RPI than Arizona, ranked No. 94.

But regardless of who the opposing team is, the Wildcats will see each game as an opportunity to grow on their end of the floor.

“”No matter who we’re playing, any opportunity to get on the floor is another chance to not only get a win, but to become better as a team,”” said UA forward Jamelle Horne.

The Rebels may prove especially tough for Arizona. They force an average of 18.4 turnovers and register eight steals per game.

“”They body every cut, they push you,”” Louisville head coach Rick Pitino said on the “”Gametime with UNLV Hoops”” TV show. “”That’s their defense. I mean, they’re one of the most physical man-to-man teams in the nation.””

After Arizona plays UNLV, it has home games against Louisiana Tech, Lipscomb, North Carolina State and BYU and in the midst of those games will travel to Oklahoma, San Diego State and USC.

“”Our nonconference schedule is filled with really good teams,”” Miller said. “”We hope that we can look back on it and say that it was a great thing for us, because once we established ourselves in certain areas, we really became a better team. That word ‘improvement’ is still the key for us right now.””

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