Back on the mainland after an impressive showing at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational that culminated with an 72-69 upset of 13th-ranked Indiana, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels host Prairie View A&M on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
It will be UNLV’s final game at the Thomas & Mack Center until a Dec. 16 contest with Arizona State due to the National Finals Rodeo. It will also be the Runnin’ Rebels (5-1) first game without center Goodluck Okonoboh.
The 6-foot-10 sophomore, a crowd favorite for his blocked shots and occasional explosive dunk, became the latest Rebel to transfer because of a lack of playing time after logging only 35 minutes over three games during the Hawaii trip.
“We appreciate all that Goodluck has done for our program,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said in a school statement. “We wish him the best in the future.”
Okonoboh appeared in all six of UNLV’s games this season and made two starts. He has averaged 3.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 15.2 minutes per game but seemed to regress offensively, shooting just 38 percent from the floor and a dismal 35.7 at the free throw line.
The loss of Okonoboh will likely hurt more on the defensive end for a UNLV squad that Rice promises will ramp up the defensive pressure for forty minutes this season. Still, the impressive starts by 7-foot freshmen Stephen Zimmerman Jr. and 6-foot-7 Derrick Jones Jr., the addition of 6-9 Oregon transfer Ben Carter along with the improvement of 6-8 sophomore Dwayne Morgan hardly leaves the cupboard bare for the Rebels up front.
Prairie View A&M (0-5) comes in off a 85-67 loss at Wisconsin at Wednesday night, a game the Panthers trailed just 44-42 with a little over 16 minutes remaining before the Badgers broke the game open with a 17-4 run.
Saturday night’s game will be streamed live on unlvrebels.com with Tony Cordasco and Keith Starr providing the commentary. The Rebels are then off until Friday night when they face Pac-12 power Oregon in the MGM Grand Showcase at the MGM Grand Arena.