UNLV vs. Pepperdine: Game Preview
UNLV has a tall task in their home opener against a top quality Waves team, led by a high scoring duo in Ross and Edwards.
UNLV looks to continue win streak after postponement in home opener against Pepperdine.
Welp…. game is canceled.
NEWS: @TheRunninRebels Game Against Pepperdine Canceled
Due to a positive COVID-19 test within the Runnin' Rebel program, Monday’s home game will not take place
— UNLV Athletics (@UNLVathletics) December 14, 2020
WHO: UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (1-4, 0-0 in the MW) vs. Pepperdine Waves (3-3, 0-0 in the WCC)
WHEN: Monday, December 14th-6:30 PM PT/7:30 PM MT/8:30 PM CT/9:30 PM ET
WHERE: Thomas & Mack Center-Las Vegas, NV
TV: Cox Yurview (Las Vegas)
STREAM: MW Digital Network
Line: KenPom, Waves favored by 1
SERIES RECORD: UNLV leads all-time series 16-6
Okay folks, it is gameday and the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels look set to take on the Pepperdine Waves with no cancellation or postponement this time around (crosses fingers).
The year 2020 has been unfriendly to sports everywhere let alone college basketball. UNLV is coming off of a little over a weeks rest after their home opener against reigning Big Sky champions Eastern Washington was canceled last Wednesday due to a positive test in the Runnin’ Rebel program.
Things look more promising for tonight’s home opener against another quality opponent, Lorenzo Romar’s Pepperdine. Before last weeks cancellation, T.J. Otzelberger’s squad was coming off of a much needed 68-58 win over Big 12 opponent Kansas State on the road. Some questions remained after, and as predicted a much needed scoring burst from transfer guard David Jenkins Jr., who finished the night with 25 points on seven made three pointers.
Though a bit dated there is some history between these two programs, with UNLV owning a six game winning streak from the mid-1970s to the year 2000. But since then, the Waves have taken the streak back with two wins of their own back in the mid-2000s. It’s been fifteen years since they have taken the floor against each other, but meet in Las Vegas on Monday night both in hopes of a W to add to their win column.
The Waves are coming off of an 8th place finish in 2019-2020 in the WCC and are currently 3-3 on the year and picked to finish 4th in their conference this season. That puts them right behind the WCC’s big three and for good reason. They boast a talented scoring duo in senior guard Colbey Ross (20.0 PPG) and junior forward Kessler Edwards (20.8 PPG), who are both playing their way onto NBA scouts shortlists through their first six games. If the Waves runaway with this one, the scoring will go through these guys.
Match up of the night: Bryce Hamilton vs. Kessler Edwards
I am sure T.J. Otzelberger has a plan for the Waves 6-8 215 pound scoring big man. Edward’s isn’t necessarily the bulkiest guy in the frontcourt but at 6-8, he still holds the size advantage over UNLV’s current four-man Bryce Hamilton (6-4 205).
Through 6 Games:
💰 20.7 PPG / 6.8 RPG / 1.3 BPG
💰 45.5% 3PT on 5.5. 3PA
Defensive instincts pop off the screen. pic.twitter.com/yXLllhsv3c
— LEAGUE HIM. (@League_Him) December 14, 2020
Hamilton has done his best this season to utilize his athleticism, strength and length against bigger opponents in the post thus far. Edwards is also a very versitle forward who can step out to knock down threes (2.5 3FGs a game on 45.5%), but will have the smaller Hamilton in pursuit versus some big hulking forward. Also, Hamilton may be busier with scoring the ball if guys like Jenkins Jr. and Caleb Grill are having an off night (the three account for 69.1% of UNLV’s scoring this season).
If Hamilton is hampered with keeping the larger Edwards out of the scoring column all night, he will need someone to step up in order to secure a win, which is possible given the right hot handed shooting performance from one of the other members of UNLV’s “big” three.
Prediction: Pepperdine 75, UNLV 74
This one is predicted to be close, with KenPom calling it in the Waves favor by one point. Coach Romar has a talented team this season with one of the best combo guards in all of college basketball in Ross and Edwards.
But UNLV has had quite the break and have winning momentum from December 5th’s 66-66 win over Big 12 foe Kansas State on the road. While Pepperdine is looking to turn it around after a loss to Cal-State Northridge over the weekend (per KenPom) that I know they wish they could get back.
Given the homecourt advantage and rest I think UNLV walks away with this one, but it will be close. I am predicting a one point victory, if they can keep Ross and Edwards relatively quite, and someone steps up off the bench to help with the scoring.
The X-Factor: Caleb Grill’s defense and someone else’s offense
Although UNLV has scoring guards a plenty with their “big” 3 Bryce Hamilton, Caleb Grill and David Jenkins Jr. But, this squad has struggled with defense as a unit at times as well as receiving any scoring help outside of those three players this season.
As mentioned above, these three players are providing most the the Runnin’ Rebels offense at the moment. With Hamilton, Grill and Jenkins Jr. scoring 55 of their teams 68 total points last game. So factor in the added defensive burden of keeping a talented scorer like Ross in check and those duties may fall on the team’s 2nd leading scorer Caleb Grill.
Grill is 2nd on the team in scoring with 13.6 PPG on the year, but is also leading the team in steals (2.2 SPG). He will still be relied upon to score but should form a nice defensive backcourt tandem with Marvin Coleman when it comes to limiting scoring opportunities for Colbey Ross. But like we mentioned, if Grill is busy defending, someone else needs to step up. Maybe look at freshman guard Nicquel Blake in that scenario, if he isn’t tasked with perimeter defense while his double-digit scoring defense find their shot.
Though with a terrible defensive track record against high scoring teams, (Pepperdine is averaging 82.7 PPG) let’s see if defense was the main thing on coach Otzelberger’s agenda during their week away from the court.
With such a tough non-conference slate the Runnin’ Rebels are a little bruised and battered at 1-4 through five games, but if last season is any indication, they can get the ball rolling at anytime. A win against Pepperdine would be a solid place to start a winning streak, especially as conference play fast approaches.