Ichabods to face UNLV

Last year, Washburn’s basketball team traveled to UNLV and lost 83-55 in a rare regular season matchup between Division I and II teams.

Although the score shows the Ichabods lost in a blowout, the Runnin’ Rebels won several games in similar fashion throughout the 2006-07 season against Division I and II competition alike. The Bods were one of 30 opponents UNLV defeated last season in their sudden return to prominence.

The two teams face off for the third year in a row 9:30 p.m. Nov. 6, this time for an exhibition game in Las Vegas.

The Runnin’ Rebels attracted national attention in the 2007 NCAA tournament by making a surprising run to the Sweet 16 as a No. 7 seed. However, their success does not make last season’s loss any easier to swallow for the Bods, who finished the season with a disappointing 8-19 record.

“They pressured us when we played them last time and we weren’t ready,” said senior Brady Sisk. “They put it to us pretty good.”

In addition to its win against Washburn, UNLV’s 30-5 season included victories against No. 13 Air Force, No. 19 Nevada on the road and most importantly, a 74-68 upset against No. 2 seed Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament’s second round.

“They’re athletic and strong, and they’re competitive in every game,” said Sisk. “That’s why they made it to the Sweet 16 last year.”

The team played with the determination of a typical bracket buster and won the Mountain West Conference Championship, in large part because of the leadership of head coach Lon Kruger and his son, Kevin. Lon Kruger, who was Bob Chipman’s teammate at Kansas State, has UNLV’s program at its highest point since the early ’90s, when the Rebels consistently competed for championships under coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian.

However, the Bods still hope to improve on last year’s showing now that four of UNLV’s starters, including Kevin Kruger, have departed.

“Last year’s game was rough,” said junior Paul Byers. “They’re a tough team. They have a really good defense, and they’re always in your face.”

None of Washburn’s six returning players were able to score more than 10 points in last year’s meeting, but with an additional year of experience and the distraction of visiting Las Vegas for the first time behind them, the Bods are anticipating a closer game to tip off their 2007-08 season.

“Everybody loves to go to Vegas,” said Byers. “It’s always a good experience to test yourself against a Division I team. Hopefully we can go down there and compete and play a better game this year.”