San Diego State vs. UNLV: Three Keys To An Aztecs Victory
The red-hot Aztecs have won seven of the last eight including a dominant win on Wednesday against #6 Nevada. UNLV: watch out.
San Diego State has the momentum of a freight train right now, but UNLV will be a serious perimeter threat.
WHO: San Diego State Aztecs (17-9, 9-4 Mountain West) vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (9-15, 9-5 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, February 23rd — 7:00pm PST/10:00pm EST
WHERE: Thomas & Mack Center; Las Vegas, Nevada (19,522 capacity)
RADIO: San Diego State | UNLV- ESPN Radio 1100AM
SERIES RECORD: This will be the 71st matchup between the Aztecs and Runnin’ Rebels. UNLV holds a 36-34 series lead.
ODDS: San Diego State -1 / Over-Under: 144
Las Vegas, NV– The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels, coached by Marvin Menzies (15-11, 9-5 Mountain West) welcome Brian Dutcher and the San Diego State Aztecs (17-9, 9-4) to the Thomas & Mack Center for tonight’s game, televised on ESPNU.
It’s a special evening for Menzies who in his third UNLV season has been quietly rebuilding the Runnin’ Rebels basketball program. Tonight marks his 400th career start as a Division I head coach. His career record entering tonight’s game is 244-156 (.610) and 46-45 at UNLV.
The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels are having a decent season following their first 20-game-win season in four years, having improved upon the previous season by nine wins.
Right now the Rebels have won four of their last five games, thanks to dominant play by Joel Ntambwe, Amauri Hardy, Chris Clyburn and Noah Robotham. Ntwambe is a double-double threat, and this team is dangerous from 3-point land.
The Rebels hold the NCAA’s longest streak of consecutive games scoring 3-pointers, currently at one three-pointer in all 1065 games played.
The Aztecs, on the other hand have won seven of their last eight games, most recently upsetting #6 Nevada at Viejas Arena, where they held a significant lead for much of the game. Just as last year’s Aztecs became red hot before clinching the Mountain West Conference Championship, they have shaped up in similar form this year, and are now playing their best basketball.
In addition to Jalen McDaniels and Devin Watson playing dominantly, new freshman talents Nathan Mensah and Aguek Arop have really stepped up, the former showing double-double potential and the latter turning heads with Dkembe Motumbo– style shot blocking.
Here are three keys for the Aztecs to secure a win in Las Vegas.
lock down the rebels in 3-point land
It is an impossible goal to prevent the Runnin’ Rebels from scoring at least one 3-pointer in a game, but breaking their streak could be a serious feather in San Diego State’s cap.
In addition to the streak, the Rebels have set the perimeter aflame as of late. Over the last four games, the Runnin’ Rebels have averaged 14 3-pointers per contest, and their 3-point shooting efficiency has been roughly 50%. That is DANGEROUS.
The Aztecs will have to guard the perimeter fiercely, and for at least two meters behind the arc, in this new era of long-distance shooting.
prevent ntambwe from getting hot
Freshman forward star Joel Ntwambe registered his fourth double-double against Wyoming this past Tuesday. He can put up points and clean up the glass, and if left to his own devices he can catch fire. Ntambwe has scored upwards of 31 points in conference play, and averages 14.1 a game along with 5.1 rebounds.
The Aztecs will have to guard him fiercely just as they shut down Jordan Caroline on Nevada this past Wednesday.
PLAY ELITE SAN DIEGO STATE DEFENSE
Against a standing-room-only crowd on Wednesday, the Aztecs looked like the Fisher era squad known for one of the most elite defenses in all of NCAA basketball. It showed fans that this defense, while generally suppressed at times, this elite defense is in the Aztecs’ DNA even now.
The Aztecs have the benefit of playing dual veteran senior guards in Devin Watson and Jeremy Hemsley. They have seemingly re-established a key element of their elite defense- a dominant shot blocker. Freshman Aguek Arop has swatted down some amazing shot attempts during the past three games with a fierceness not seen for quite some time. If the Aztecs go old school and play their signature defense, they’ll be hard to beat.
Will the Aztecs win? Probably. Can they break the Runnin’ Rebels’ astounding three-point streak? Probably not.
Tune in tonight to ESPNU at 7pm PST / 10pm EST.