UNLV guard suspended before Mountain West tournament
Starting point guard Keshon Gilbert was handed a one-game suspension by the Mountain West, making him unavailable for UNLV when it faces Air Force on Wednesday.
Updated March 7, 2023 - 6:02 pm
UNLV will be without its starting point guard for its first-round game in the Mountain West men’s basketball tournament.
Sophomore guard Keshon Gilbert has been suspended for one game by the conference for violating sportsmanship conduct policies during an incident that led to his ejection during the Rebels’ regular-season finale against UNR on Saturday.
UNLV, the No. 7 seed, will meet No. 10 Air Force at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Thomas &Mack Center.
“We understand everybody has a role and will have to step up,” fifth-year point guard Jordan McCabe said. “We trust in our system. We trust in our ability to play together. We’ve got plenty of weapons, no matter what.”
The Rebels (18-12) won the only meeting between the teams Feb. 24 at the Thomas &Mack after a tip-in by fifth-year guard EJ Harkless beat the buzzer to secure a 54-53 victory.
“There’s a lot of things we thought we could’ve done better the first time around against Air Force, but we gutted out a win,” McCabe said. “For us to do that gives us confidence.”
Gilbert was ejected early in the first half against UNR after a confrontation with forward Tre Coleman. After exchanging words, Gilbert swooped his head toward Coleman and seemed to make minimal contact. He was immediately ejected.
His absence will have an impact on UNLV. He started 29 of the 30 games and is second on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game and assists with 96.
UNLV does have an experienced replacement in McCabe, who started 31 games for the Rebels last season.
McCabe is averaging 5.5 points in 18 minutes per game off the bench this season. He averaged 6.4 points in 30 minutes per game in his first season with the Rebels. He’s also shooting more efficiently, especially on 3-pointers, of which he’s making 42 percent of his attempts.
For McCabe, the chance to step back into a major role in his final season is exhilarating. He knows any chance to extend his time on the court will require the Rebels to win four games in four days to make the NCAA Tournament.
“There’s a huge sense of urgency going into this tournament,” he said.
Senior walk-on guard Cameron Burist also might figure into the rotation against Air Force. The former Liberty High standout played 10 minutes against UNR after Gilbert’s ejection, and coach Kevin Kruger praised his contributions.
Burist said he’s spent the past few practices focusing on defense, anticipating Air Force’s heavy player-movement scheme. He also said Gilbert has been helping prepare him for the game.
“We hate that (Gilbert) can’t be with us, but we’re always next man up,” Burist said. “We believe in each other.”
Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at email@example.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.
Who: UNLV vs. Air Force
When: 1:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Thomas & Mack Center
TV: Mountain West Network
Radio: KWWN (1100 AM/100.9 FM)
Line: UNLV -6½; total 135½
Harkless earns All-MW honors
UNLV fifth-year guard EJ Harkless was named a second-team All-Mountain West selection by the coaches poll Tuesday, a day after he earned the same honor from the media poll.
Harkless is averaging 20.7 points, 3.2 assists, and 5.4 rebounds for the Rebels since conference play began. However, he once again missed out on winning Mountain West Newcomer of the Year as the coaches chose UNR guard Jarod Lucas. The media selected New Mexico forward Morris Udeze for the award.
The coaches named San Jose State guard Omari Moore as player of the year, SJSU coach Tim Miles as coach of the year, San Diego State center Nathan Mensah as defensive player of the year, Utah State forward Dan Akin as sixth man of the year and UNR forward and former Bishop Gorman star Darrion Williams as freshman of the year.
Moore, Boise State forward Tyson Degenhart, Colorado State guard Isaiah Stevens, New Mexico guard Jamal Mashburn Jr., SDSU guard Matt Bradley and USU guard Steven Ashworth were named first-team All-Mountain West by the coaches.