S. Utah-UNLV Preview

Published Dec. 17, 2010 11:16 a.m. ET

A second straight loss earlier this week will all but ensure UNLV's exit from the Top 25 when the new poll is released. However, they stand a pretty good chance of recording one more win before then.

No. 22 UNLV looks to improve to 20-0 against Southern Utah when they meet Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Since opening this season with nine straight wins for their best start since 1990-91, the Runnin' Rebels have struggled.

Last Saturday, UNLV led by five at halftime before falling 77-69 at then-No. 24 Louisville.

A return to Las Vegas didn't translate into a win, as the Runnin' Rebels shot 29.0 percent (18 of 62) from the field in a 68-62 loss to UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday.

"The No. 22 team in the nation should not have an off-night at home,'' said the Gauchos' James Nunnally.

Chace Stanback had 16 points, eight rebounds and five steals for UNLV (9-2), but coach Lon Kruger was disappointed with his entire team's shot selection.


"Anytime you lose you feel bad,'' he said. "At home, it's worse. We have to take better care of the ball. When you make shots it covers things up. When you don't make shots a lot of things come out and get you.''

Shooting woes are the biggest reason for UNLV's slide.

During the 9-0 start, the Runnin' Rebels shot 53.3 percent from the field and made 39.0 percent of their 3-pointers. In the losses, UNLV shot 36.4 percent from the floor and 30.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Stanback's aim over the last two games has been particularly poor as he's shot 7 for 24. However, he's totaled 28 points while virtually matching his 14.1 scoring average this season.

Stanback and UNLV probably shouldn't have another off-night against Southern Utah (3-7), currently second-to-last in the Summit League. Since both schools became four-year institutions in 1963, the Runnin' Rebels have taken all 19 meetings including a 77-59 road win Dec. 15, 2009.

The Thunderbirds (3-7) snapped a three-game losing streak and earned their first home win of the season Tuesday, 68-51 over Oklahoma Panhandle State. Ryan Brimley came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points and Southern Utah set a school record with 13 blocked shots.

Ray Jones Jr. scored only five points - his second-lowest total of the season - but still leads the Thunderbirds with 11.4 points per game.

Since 1996, Southern Utah has lost all 11 matchups against ranked teams by an average of 18.5 points. The Thunderbirds' last such game was a 64-50 loss to No. 18 Florida in November 2008.