PREVIEW: Men’s basketball plays UNLV Saturday, looks to add win to record

Senior guard Mike McGuirl drives into the lane during the Wildcats 62-58 victory over Kansas City on Monday night. (Photo Courtesy of Scott Weaver | K-State Athletics)

Two teams who struggled at the beginning of their seasons meet Saturday as UNLV (0-4) squares off with Kansas State (1-2) in Bramlage Coliseum.

The Rebels suffered a loss to Montana State, 91-78, in their season opener, and then dropped three straight games in as many days at the Maui Invitational, including a 77-73 loss to Davidson on Wednesday.

While the Rebels haven’t won so far this year, the Wildcats got off on the wrong foot as well. Starting the season at 0-2 with losses to Drake and Colorado in the Little Apple Classic, K-State earned their first win on Monday night against Kansas City, 62-58.

In the game against the ‘Roos, sophomore DaJuan Gordon and freshman Nijel Pack both netted 14 points led the team. Even with the victory and the solid performances by Pack and Gordon, head coach Bruce Weber said the Wildcats need to do better in their execution.

“The big thing is now can we do the little things, the execution things, and not have the mistakes and breakdowns,” Weber said. “We had the lead to 17 in the first half and 15 in the second half, and with two to three really solid possessions of basketball you break team’s spirits, but we never broke their spirit and turnovers were a big factor.”

The Wildcats need to take advantage on offense going up against a UNLV team that lost by 10 or more points in three out of four games. The Wildcats need to work on taking care of the ball on Saturday in order to get their offense going.

The Wildcats turned the ball over 49 times in the course of three games, averaging 16.3. turnovers per game — the most by any team in the Big 12.

“We have to take care of the basketball,” Weber said. “If we can cut off five to seven turnovers and cut off another five or seven tough shots early in the shot clock, then finish off some of those fast break opportunities or make better decisions on the fast break opportunities. Those are things that could give you another 15 shots in the game.”

UNLV brings 6-foot-4 junior guard Bryce Hamilton, a force for the Rebels this season, averaging 21 points and six rebounds per game. The Rebels also have Kansas-native sophomore guard Caleb Grill who averages 11.5 points per game.

“[UNLV] definitely can score the basketball, there’s no doubt about that,” Weber said. “They’ve had troubles stopping people. They have two explosive scorers in Bryce and Caleb and we are going to have to do a good job on them to limit their production.”

Wildcat senior guard Mike McGuirl leads the team this season in both points per game with 12.3 and steals with one per game.

Pack and freshman Selton Miguel are the two highest-scoring true freshmen on the team right now, scoring 48 points between the two of them in the Wildcat’s three games.

The Rebels lead the all-time series with the Wildcats 4-3, but K-State won 60-56 in the last meeting in 2019, taking down the Rebels in a thriller in Las Vegas.

Tipoff for Saturday’s game is set for 7 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum. The game can be seen on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ and listened to through the K-State Sports Network.