UNLV LADY REBELS WITH HIGHEST PRESEASON MW RANKING IN 14 YEARS, POWELL NAMED TO PRESEASON ALL-MW SQUAD
Four senior starters return from last year’s regular-season conference championship squad
UNLV women’s basketball has received its highest predicted conference finish since 2004-05, as the Lady Rebels were picked to come in second behind Boise State in the 2018-19 Mountain West preseason poll that was released by the league office Thursday. Voting on the preseason poll, as well as the preseason all-conference team, were all 11 head coaches as well as select media members.
UNLV and Boise State shared the regular season title a year ago, but the Broncos would claim the 2018 MW tournament crown. They also claimed the top spot in this year’s preseason poll thanks to 19 first-place votes and 229 overall points. The Lady Rebels were close behind with the other four first-place votes and 208 overall.
Head Coach Kathy Oliver will be fielding her deepest and most experienced squad in her 11 years at the helm of the Scarlet and Gray. Four senior starters return for UNLV this year, highlighted by senior center Katie Powell, who was also selected to the preseason All-Mountain West team, the first Lady Rebel with preseason league honors since Jamie Smith in 2011-12. Powell, who averaged 15.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Lady Rebels as a junior, is also a Lisa Leslie Award Watch List member, which honors the top center in the nation.
The other starters include senior guard Nikki Wheatley (13.6 ppg), an Honorable Mention All-Mountain West selection in 2017-18, and senior forwards Paris Strawther (9.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Jordyn Bell (7.3 ppg). UNLV will have to replace Brooke Johnson, the 2017-18 MW Defensive Player of the year who averaged 16.1 points per game. Helping to fill her role will be a group of five guards who are all in the mix for the fifth starting spot: transfers Bailey Thomas (West Virginia) and LaTecia Smith (Seton Hall), Kavionnia Brown who redshirted last year after an ACL injury, freshman and Nevada Gatorade Player of the Year Justice Ethridge (Las Vegas) and senior Alyssa Anderson (3.4 ppg in 2017-18).
For the rest of the preseason rankings, Fresno State placed third with 175, while Wyoming was fourth (158), just ahead of fifth-place New Mexico (150). Colorado State was voted sixth (128), UNR seventh (115), while rounding out the poll was Utah State in eighth (86), San Diego State in ninth (64), Air Force 10th (57) and San Jose State 11th (27).
Boise State guard Riley Lupfer, the league’s leading scorer in 2017-18, is the Preseason Player of the Year, while she was joined on the all-conference team by teammate Marta Hermida, Candice White from Fresno State and Jaisa Nunn from New Mexico. Boise State’s Jade Loville is the Preseason Freshman of the Year, and Colorado State’s Mollie Mounsey is the Preseason Newcomer of the Year.
The Lady Rebels will play another challenging schedule this season, starting with the season opener against Wright State Nov. 9 in the Cox Pavilion. Other highlights of the non-conference schedule include home games against Gonzaga (Nov. 17) and USC (Dec. 1), as well the first-ever meeting with Duke, as the Lady Rebels will face the No. 21 Blue Devils in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Dec. 6. The Mountain West season starts for UNLV at Colorado State (Jan. 2). The Lady Rebels will face Boise State twice this season, Feb. 6 in Las Vegas and March 2 in Boise, Idaho.
UNLV season tickets are only $65 for 16 home games for adults, and $50 for seniors and UNLV faculty/staff. For information on purchasing season tickets call 702-739-FANS or visit UNLVtickets.com. Kids 12 and under are free at all UNLV Lady Rebel contests, as are all high school, middle school and elementary students with a Nevada area school ID.
2018-19 MOUNTAIN WEST WOMEN’S BASKETBALL PRESEASON POLL
Rank Team Points
1. Boise State (19) 229
2. UNLV (4) 208
3. Fresno State 175
4. Wyoming 158
5. New Mexico 150
6. Colorado State 128
7. UNR 115
8. Utah State 86
9. San Diego State 64
10. Air Force 57
11. San Jose State 27
2018-19 Mountain West Women’s Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
Name Class Position School
Riley Lupfer Junior Guard Boise State
Marta Hermida Senior Guard Boise State
Candice White Senior Guard Fresno State
Jaisa Nunn Senior Center New Mexico
Katie Powell Senior Center UNLV
Preseason Player of the Year
Riley Lupfer, G, Boise State
Preseason Freshman of the Year
Jade Loville, G, Boise State
Preseason Newcomers of the Year
Mollie Mounsey, G, Colorado State