LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Some holiday basketball will take place in Sin City on Friday and Saturday, as the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic will be played inside Orleans Arena.
Eight teams, split into two brackets, will play a pair of games over the next two days to close out non-conference play for most, and close out the 2017 calendar year for a few as well. The Lamar Cardinals will take part in the Visitors’ Bracket of the event, and open up with a contest against the UC Davis Aggies.
In the other pairing, the Radford Highlanders and North Carolina A&T Aggies will square off. The winners and losers of each contest will match up against one another on Saturday to close out the event. Lamar has never faced any of the three teams in the bracket.
Friday’s contest will be one of the toughest-to-date for the Cardinals in 2017-18, as UC Davis comes into the day ranked 24th in the latest Mid-Major Top 25 poll from CollegeInsider.com. Both teams will be looking to get back on track as conference play is just around the corner.
Here’s what you need to know about Lamar and UC Davis in advance of their contest on Friday afternoon in Las Vegas.
For the first time all season, Lamar enters the game on a two-game losing streak. Losses to the Southern Illinois Salukis and Duquesne Dukes in campus games associated with the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic have taken away the momentum of the Cardinals’ five game winning streak.
Still, at 8-3 overall, the Cardinals are still one of the favourites in the Southland Conference this season. They have four players who are averaging double-digit points per game this year, and eight players who have seem action in at least nine games and are averaging 5.0 points per game, or better.
Leading the way is senior forward Colton Weisbrod, who leads the team in scoring and rebounding. With double-digit points in 10 of 11 games this season, and six rebounds or more 10 times, Weisbrod has been a model of consistency for Tic Price and company.
Then, you have the back court tandem of Nick Garth and Zjori Bosha. Garth, who predominately comes off the bench, is one of the top sixth men in the country, averaging 10.9 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game this season. Bosha makes his presence felt on both ends of the floor, averaging 10.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, and a team-high 2.8 steals per game. Balance has been the key for Lamar so far this season, and they will look to utilize their depth and pick up a win over the Aggies.
Just like the Cardinals, UC Davis enters Friday afternoon’s game riding a two-game losing streak. They suffered a pair of losses to the Nevada Wolf Pack and San Francisco Dons, who make up the other half of the Host’s Bracket at the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. The losses brought an end to the Aggies’ four game winning streak.
The 7-4 Aggies are led by their own star forward, in senior Chima Moneke. The 6’6” forward was held in check last time out against Nevada, recording 10 points and four rebounds in 19 minutes of action, but Moneke is a double-double threat each time out. He is averaging 19.0 points and 10.4 rebounds per game this season, and has seven double-doubles and four 20+ point games under his belt. He is the focal point of the Aggies’ game plan on both ends of the floor, and for good reason.
On the back end, UC Davis has a budding star in junior guard Siler Schneider. The native of Lansing, KS is averaging a career-high 13.2 points per game, while shooting 46.2% from the field, which is also a career high. Each season, Schneider has made positive strides on offense, and the 2017-18 season is no different. He gives the Aggies one of the top inside-out tandems in the Big West Conference, and will have UC Davis near the top of the standings all season long. With double-digit performances in each of his past two games, and in 10 of 11 games overall, Schneider will look to continue his strong play on Friday against Lamar.
Players to Watch
Lamar – Colton Weisbrod
Weisbrod is the senior leader of the Cardinals, and he has Big Red out to an 8-3 start this season. The native of Nederland, TX is averaging team-highs in both points and rebounds, averaging 14.6 points and 9.0 rebounds per night out this season. He has scored in double-figures in 10 of the Cardinals’ 11 games this season, including each of the last nine. Weisbrod will likely match up with Moneke, and that’s worth the price of admission right there. Both players are among the best in their respective conferences, so fans inside the Orleans Arena are in for a treat. Weisbrod is effective on both ends of the floor, and has recorded at least six rebounds in 10 games this season. Don’t be surprised if Weisbrod puts together his fourth double-double of the year.
UC Davis – TJ Shorts II
Most of the attention surrounding the Aggies centers around Moneke and Schneider, and for good reason. However, junior guard TJ Shorts II is having himself a strong season at UC Davis, and is a key piece to their success. Against the Washington State Cougars back on December 2nd, an 81-67 win for the Aggies, Shorts went for 20 points, five rebounds, five assists, AND five steals. It was his best performance in his first year at the Division I level, and he has continued his strong play since. Over his last six games, Shorts has four games with double-digit points, including the Washington State game. On the year, he is averaging 11.5 points and 3.5 assists per game, and is one of three players for the Aggies to average double figures.
Both the Cardinals and Aggies are riding two game losing streaks, so you can bet that both want to come out of the gate strong on Friday and set the tone early on. With the teams being evenly matched in terms of offense, it will come down to which team can impact the game more with their defense.
The defensive edge goes to the Cardinals, and that will propel the Cardinals to a single-digit win over the Aggies in their first-ever meeting.
Lamar – 64
UC Davis – 61
– T. Bennett