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K-State awaits visit from UNLV

Arne Green
agreen@saina.com
Bryce Hamilton (13) leads winless UNLV in scoring with 21.5 points per game. Kansas State plays host to the Runnin' Rebels on Saturday night at Bramlage Coliseum.

MANHATTAN — While the Kansas State Wildcats have made themselves at home so far in Bramlage Coliseum, their next guest has not had that luxury.

UNLV visits Bramlage at 7 p.m. Saturday at the end of a four-game road swing that included three games last week in the Maui Invitational, which was played at Asheville, N.C., because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Runnin' Rebels, under second-year coach T.J. Otzelberger, are 0-4, while K-State is 1-2 and coming off a 62-58 victory over UMKC last Monday.

After opening the season with a 91-78 home loss to Montana State, UNLV faced a gauntlet of North Carolina, Alabama and Davidson in the Maui Classic. They lost their first two games by double digits before dropping a narrow 77-73 decision to Davidson on Wednesday.

"They definitely can score the basketball, there's no doubt about that," Weber said of the Rebels, who are averaging 69 points a game but giving up 83. "They’ve had a little bit of trouble stopping people.

"They've got two explosive scorers in Bryce (Hamilton) and Caleb Grill. We're going to have to do a good job on them to limit their production."

Hamilton, a junior, is averaging 21.5 points a game, scoring 27 against Montana State and Davidson. Grill, the former Maize High School standout and Iowa State transfer, had 27 points with seven 3-pointers in an 86-74 loss to Alabama and is averaging 14 points.

Grill, a 6-foot-3 guard who originally committed to Otzelberger and South Dakota State last year, flipped to Iowa State when Otzelberger took the UNLV job. He played in 29 games with two starts for the Cyclones, averaging 2.1 points and 1.7 rebounds.

"You've got to find Grill," said Weber, who tried to recruit him after he decommitted from South Dakota State. "They kind of play small ball and he’s their four (power forward), so they put you in little binds with that.

"Because he’s a guard playing that four, so you've got a little bit of mix-up of who’s guarding who. Then obviously Bryce can really create and make plays."

UNLV starts four guards, plus 6-foot-11 senior center Cheich Mbacke Diong, who averages 3.0 points and 6.3 rebounds.

"Hopefully we will have a little bit of an advantage inside," Weber said. "We're developing our depth, but I hope that can be a factor in the game."

Following a lackluster effort against Drake in the season opener, K-State showed promise with fast starts against Colorado and UMKC. The Wildcats led by 13 points in the first half of the Colorado game and got off to a 17-0 start against UMKC.

"It's been a little bit up and down because we're all new," said sophomore forward Kaosi Ezeagu, who had 11 points and five rebounds in the victory over UMKC. "We're all just trying to figure out how to jell together as a team and as a program.

"After (Drake and Colorado), we really realized what it takes to win, like how hard you've got to go and how much every possession means. We played better as a team (against UMKC). I think the third game shows how we've been getting better at learning how to play with each other and also learning what it takes to win."

Senior Mike McGuirl leads K-State in scoring with 12.3 points per game, while freshman point guard Nijel Pack adds 11.7 and guard DaJuan Gordon 11 points, plus 7.0 rebounds.

UNLV AT KANSAS STATE

Tipoff: 7 p.m., Monday, Bramlage Coliseum (12,528), Manhattan.

Records: UNLV 0-4, Kansas State 1-2.

TV/Radio: ESPN+ (live streaming)/Salina: KSAL-AM (1150).

Next up for K-State: Friday, Milwaukee, Bramlage Coliseum.