Not that it comes as a surprise, but the injury report on freshman guard Rashad Vaughn is bad news for UNLV, which is planning for the postseason without its leading scorer.
Vaughn, averaging 17.8 points per game, has been sidelined since suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee Feb. 10. He is not expected to return for the Mountain West tournament.
“We do not think Rashad will play this week,” coach Dave Rice said. “But that is not final.”
The Rebels are getting good news on freshman guard Patrick McCaw, who is recovering from a concussion and returned to practice on a noncontact basis Monday.
Vaughn is doubtful and McCaw is probable to play when seventh-seeded UNLV (17-14, 8-10) faces 10th-seeded UNR (9-21, 5-13) in a conference tournament opener at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Thomas &Mack Center.
“As long as he gets through practice (today), Patrick will be able to play Wednesday,” Rice said. “He says he feels good and says he’s excited to get back on the court.”
McCaw, averaging 10.0 points, was injured Wednesday in a loss to San Diego State and did not make the trip for Saturday’s regular-season finale at San Jose State. Arguably the team’s most valuable player on both ends of the floor, McCaw’s return this week is crucial. He had cleared all stages of the concussion protocol by Monday.
“Pat’s a key player for us,” sophomore forward Chris Wood said. “I think we’re going to need him.”
Vaughn, who underwent surgery Feb. 18, is progressing in his rehabilitation and doing some shooting, but Rice said Vaughn is not ready for a full-speed practice.
Reserve freshman guard Dantley Walker has been out since suffering a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee Feb. 14. Rice said he’s “not optimistic” about Walker’s availability for Wednesday.
“I really hope Patrick comes back,” senior guard Jelan Kendrick said. “I wish we could get Rashad back and Dantley back. We need everybody. We still have a season ahead of us.”
The Rebels and Wolf Pack split two meetings, with UNR winning 64-62 on Jan. 7 in Las Vegas and UNLV winning 67-62 on Jan. 27 in Reno.
“I think we are a very confident group right now,” Rice said, “but we also have a very healthy respect for Reno.”
The UNLV-UNR winner advances to play second-seeded San Diego State in Thursday’s quarterfinals. The Aztecs swept the Rebels this season — by margins of two and six — and have won five in a row in the rivalry.
The Rebels opened as 9-point favorites over the Wolf Pack, who have dropped five of their past six games.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.