One day after mourning the loss of coaching icon Jerry Tarkanian, UNLV’s basketball program was rocked by another piece of bad news.
Guard Rashad Vaughn, the team’s leading scorer and top offensive threat, tore meniscus in his left knee left near the end of Tuesday night’s 73-61 victory over Fresno State and will likely miss the remainder of conference play.
UNLV coach Dave Rice, who said Vaughn will undergo surgery next week, said he was hopeful the 6-foot-6 guard might be able to return for the Mountain West Conference Tournament which begins on March 11 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Vaughn, one of the nation’s top jumper shooters who is regarded as a potential first round NBA pick, ranks second in the Mountain West Conference with a 17.8 average. He has topped the 30-point mark in two of UNLV’s last five games.
(Check out the VIDEO below from Rice’s press gathering on Thursday afternoon discussing Vaughn’s injury and what it means to the team.)
“He was devastated,” Rice said of Vaughn who learned of the news on Wednesday night after undergoing an MRI. “It’s a big loss for us. Rashad is playing extremely well. He’s rebounding the ball, shooting 42 percent from three in conference play, he’s been a very reliable scorer for us. … But other guys have an opportunity to step up now and I’m sure that they will.”
Rice was unsure who would take Vaughn’s spot in the starting lineup for Saturday’s game at Air Force (11-13, 4-9) for the Rebels (14-10, 5-6). Top candidates are senior swingman Jelan Kendrick, who is averaging 5.7 points and 2.4 assists per game, or true freshman Jordan Cornish, who is averaging 4.8 points but is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range.
“I think the bottom line is we’re not feeling sorry for ourselves,” Rice said. “It’s part of the game. It’s tough. Disappointed for Rashad. It’s a tough break for our team … but that’s the way the ball bounces sometimes and we’ll move forward.”
Vaughn had previously undergone the same surgery to repair torn meniscus in his right knee.