UNLV's Miller Hopes Long Trip Worth The Wait

FAYETTEVILLE -- Nevada-Las Vegas women's basketball coach Regina Miller has already had an eventful stay in Arkansas.

Miller hopes tonight's first-round WNIT game against Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena goes better than UNLV's magical mystery tour to Fayetteville.

A 14-hour travel day on Wednesday, including a five-hour layover in Denver and a three-hour bus ride from Little Rock, finally ended when the Lady Rebels arrived in Fayetteville at 2 a.m.

But while the UNLV players slept in on Thursday, Miller was up early for a seven-mile run, including 16 laps at the UA outdoor track and a visit with some of the Arkansas runners.

"I talked to the coaches, too," said Miller, whose goal is to run in a half-marathon someday. "My longest race has been 7.5 miles, but that was in San Francisco with all those hills."

The Lady Rebels (16-14) like to run, too. This is their fifth-straight postseason appearance under Miller, and last season they reached the WNIT final before losing 73-52 at Creighton.

Their WNIT travel agents did them no favors last season, either.

"We took a red-eye flight to Iowa, beat Iowa State (65-59), then rode a 1970s bus with a stick shift from Ames, Iowa, to Omaha, Neb.," recalled Mark Wasik, UNLV's personable sports information assistant. "The bus ride took about three hours."

This year UNLV had to fly to Little Rock because not enough air tickets could be arranged for their official party of about 25 to fly into Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

Miller has coached in Walton Arena once before, as coach of a Western Illinois team that lost 100-49 to a Gary Blair-coached Arkansas team in December, 1996.

One season later, Miller landed the job at UNLV, where she is 135-74 in seven years.

"We've played in settings like (Walton Arena) before," Miller said. "Like Tennessee. There's a lot of good tradition here. I see a lot of red in (Walton Arena), and we wear red, too."

As a player, Miller helped Old Dominion reach the NCAA Final Four. Then in her first two years as an assistant coach (1984-85, 1985-86), she helped Western Kentucky reach the Final Four twice.

The Lady Rebels went 26-8 last season and were picked to win the Mountain West Conference this year, before 6-foot-2 senior honorable mention All-America center Sherry McCracklin was lost for the season with an injury.

"Arkansas is a lot like us," Miller said. "They play uptempo, go to the basket and run a lot of quick hitters on offense. We're a lot alike. They run high-low options like we do and play a lot of guards. I look at their 6-foot girls (Danielle Allen, Sarah Pfeifer) like guards, too. Both teams play with a lot of intensity."

Miller said a good start would be a key for UNLV.

"I hope our defense can affect them a little," she said. "We won't play man-to-man the whole time. I won't give a whole scouting report, but we'll mix it up."

UNLV is 9-7 all-time against the SEC, including a 66-63 win over South Carolina this season. The Lady Rebels beat Mississippi State 62-51 at home last season.

Their go-to players are 5-foot-7 point guard Sheena Moore (14.7 average) and 6-1 forward RanDee Henry (14.0).

"If the game is on the line, we're going to go with our one-two punch," Miller said. "You've gotta go with the ones who got you here. But we have others who can score, too, like our freshman (6-1 Sequoia Holmes, 8.4 average)."

Arkansas practiced Thursday for the fifth straight day, and Gardner thanked her men's practice players (Clarence Jones, Justin Davis, A.J. Killham) for helping simulate the UNLV defense.

"It's been so helpful to have them on the scout team," Gardner said. "They've helped Pfeifer get some breaks this week."

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