Both teams looking to trend upwards late in the regular season.
Rebels come off a sweep of San Jose State, while Fresno State was swept by San Diego State.
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Bulldogs and Rebels are ready to battle, while being sandwiched in the middle of Mountain West standings .
Game: UNLV (10-11 7-7) vs Fresno State(9-9 7-9)
Location: Thomas and Mack Center Las Vegas, NV
Wednesday: 8 p.m. PT
Streaming: FuboTV get a 7-day free trial
Friday: 8 pm PT
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: UNLV | Fresno State
Odds via BET MGM: UNLV -7 total 131
That sweep of the Bulldogs by San Diego State was by double digits in both games.
The turbulent flight that will be forever known as the 2020-21 season was scheduled to end this weekend. After much speculation, the Mountain West Conference decided to reschedule some of the postponed matchups. Fresno State will play at Boise State on March 2nd. They also will play Utah State in Fresno on March 6th. UNLV will take on San Diego State on March 3, that game is at the Thomas and Mack. Then they will wrap up their year “officially” in Laramie for a game against the Wyoming Cowboys on March 6th. So as it turns out this series of games against the Bulldogs will not be the last chance for these two teams, stuck in the middle of the pack to add to their win total ahead of the conference tournament. The Bulldogs and Rebels will get it on in Las Vegas, continuing the fight to determine each teams place in the standings. Here are some keys for the series:
Battle of the Bigs
Orlando Robinson, the seven-foot sophomore from Las Vegas will be coming to his hometown with something to prove. A big problem for UNLV will be containing Robinson,who nearly averages a double-double per game. The big guy can do it a variety of ways, shooting 48 % from the field and 41% from 3. He has only attempted 24 shots from downtown, hitting 10 of them. The Rebels will need to keep Robinson honest from all over the court due to Mbacke Diong not being the best perimeter defender. Without Diong in the lane, Fresno State could potentially attack and use their guards to scorch the Rebel defense, which nearly blew a 13 point second half lead to SJSU. UNLV’s defense has been subpar and ridiculed for lack of intensity most of the conference season.
With Diong out of the way, the Bulldogs guards can go to work inside the three-point arc. Deon Stroud who shoots 47% from the field while averaging 11.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Pair that with Isaiah Hill‘s 9.3 points and his 38% shooting from the field. UNLV could have some issues on their hands. As a team, Fresno State shoots 43% from the field but an abysmal 30% from 3. While UNLV’s bigs like Diong and Moses Wood are pulled outside by Robinson, look for everyone else to attack the less then disciplined Rebel defense in the paint.
Home sweet Home
Mountain West Basketball: Next Week’s Revised Schedule Announced, Against Coaches Wishes
Fresno State is 2-5 this year on the road with those only two victories coming at Air Force two weeks ago. UNLV at 7-2 has been a solid team at the Thomas and Mack Center ever since dropping their opener to Montana State. It’s important for Fresno State to get off to a strong start for them to earn their third and/or forth road wins of the season.
UNLV needs to play much better against the Bulldogs then they did in the second game against San Jose State on Sunday. The Rebels lacked energy, were unorganized and couldn’t score a bucket for most of that game. They were bailed out by a San Jose State team that couldn’t rebound their way out of a paper bag and didn’t shoot well from three.
Players to watch
Fresno State – Bulldogs scoring trio
In all of their games but one, Fresno State has been led in scoring by one of these three guys – Junior Ballard, Deon Stroud or Orlando Robinson. Head Coach Justin Hudson will be depending on this trio to get the Bulldogs a win or two in Las Vegas.
UNLV – Caleb Grill
I chose a player that isn’t one of their two top scorers but a player that needs to start scoring again, like he did in the early part of the season. He leads the team in minutes(33) yet his scoring production (9.6 ppg)and shooting percentage (33%) have come way down in conference play. Grill is deadly from outside when he is on. When he isnt hot, he becomes a liability offensively.
Interesting Series Factoids
Before a pair of one point UNLV victories last season, Fresno State had won 7 straight in the series from 2015 to 2019. Former UNLV coach Marvin Menzies never defeated the Bulldogs during his three year tenure in Las Vegas. UNLV won 16 straight against Fresno State from January 1986 to February 1992, the Rebels were nationally ranked in every one of those 16 wins.
Game 1 – UNLV 73 Fresno State 69
Game 2 – Fresno State 69 UNLV 66
Jayson Williams covers UNLV basketball for the Mountain West Wire. He also co-hosts “The Vegas Fever Podcast”.
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