Center stage

LUBBOCK –- UNLV finds itself in the spoilers' role tonight when the Runnin' Rebels (11-2) put their seven-game win streak on the line against Texas Tech (10-3) and head coach Bob Knight's quest for historic win No. 880.

A victory would give Knight sole possession of the NCAA record for most Division I coaching wins that he currently shares with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith.

"I think that is going to help us," UNLV senior point guard Kevin Kruger said of all the national attention placed on the game. "We don't want to be the team that goes down in history that way. I think that will be extra motivation for us."

The game, which begins at 6 p.m. PST, will be nationally televised by ESPN2. Dick Vitale will be one of the announcers on hand at the United Spirit Arena and former UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian also made the trip to Lubbock to perhaps view history.

Shockingly, the game is still not a sellout despite a number of promotions to try and fill the 15,098-seat arena. A crowd of just 11,651 turned out Saturday to watch Knight tie Smith's record of 879 victories with a 72-60 win over Bucknell. And that was the second largest non-conference turnout in United Spirit Arena history. UNLV, meanwhile, had 11,359 a night earlier at the Thomas & Mack Center for its 62-58 win over Minnesota.

UNLV head coach Lon Kruger owns a 7-2 head-to-head record against Knight, including 1-0 with the Runnin' Rebels. The two dueled on a yearly basis when Kruger coached at Illinois while Knight was at Indiana.

"What more can you ask for?" Kruger said of facing the Red Raiders in the national spotlight. "Obviously, it's a tough challenge but it's also an opportunity for us as well. I know our guys look forward to that challenge."

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