Rebels split their last series with Fresno State, while San Diego State swept Boise State at Viejas Arena.
San Diego State, winners of 10 in a row are 5-2 away from home this year and haven’t lost a game since January 16th.
Game: San Diego State (19-4 13-3) vs UNLV (11-12 8-8)
Location: Thomas and Mack Center Las Vegas, NV
UNLV looks to upset the 19th ranked Aztecs on Senior night at the Thomas and Mack.
When the basketball program was put on pause due to the positive Covid-19 test from UNLV coach TJ Otzelberger in mid December, we all assumed that the San Diego State series scheduled for the first week of January was lost for the season. With news last week that these two teams would indeed meet for one game instead of two, an opportunity has presented itself for UNLV to earn a fifth seed in next weeks Mountain West Conference tournament.
A win in their last two games combined with a Nevada loss against Colorado State would give the Rebels a top five finsh, not to mention potentially cost San Diego State the regular season Mountain West crown. The tournament is played in UNLV’S backyard at the Thomas and Mack Center, a place where UNLV has won 8 out of 11 games this year. With a win, San Diego State would earn the one seed in said tournament. Here are some keys for this matchup:
Three point shooting
As a team San Diego State shoots 38% from 3 three. Jordan Schakel and Terrell Gomez both shoot better then 45% from beyond the arc. The Rebels will need to be much better defensively against San Diego State then they have been for most of the conference season or else they will get run out of their own building. As a team UNLV shoots 35% from three themselves and they will be relying on David Jenkins(41%), Caleb Grill(34.5%), Devin Tillis(44%) and Moses Wood(35%) to keep the Rebels in the game.
Aztecs field goal shooting
As a team, the Aztecs shoot a scorching 46% from the field. In fact, out the 10 players that Brian Dutcher plays per game, 8 of them shoot over 40% from the field. The other two shoot 38 and 39 percent respectively. All this amounts to trouble for a UNLV defense that has trouble defending most areas of the floor lately. The Rebels are pretty respectable from inside the three point line themselves at 44%. Their issue as of late is not scoring for long periods of time and untimely turnovers.
In conference play the Aztecs have only allowed opponents to score 60 points per game while scoring 75 themselves. Statistically San Diego State is better then their opponents in field goal percentage, three point percentage, rebounds per game, assists, steals and blocked shots. They also turn the ball over less then the teams they play. UNLV will need to play a near perfect game to defeat San Diego State.
Departing Diong ?
This could be the last regular season game at home for Mbacke Diong. The senior from Dakar, Senegal has been a solid player this year for UNLV. Diong, a commitment to Marvin Menzies and his staff, decided to stay when TJ Otzelberger was hired and has improved every year that he has been in Las Vegas. He has the option to come back due to a NCAA rule that was adopted last year that allows seniors to return for an extra year.
Players to watch
San Diego State – Matt Mitchell
The senior from Riverside will be looking to end his fantastic career against the team he nearly came to after reopening his recruitment folllwing a de-commitment from Cal State Fullerton in 2017. Averaging 15.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds while shooting nearly 46% from the field and 35% from three. UNLV will need to contain him on order to keep the game close.
UNLV – Bryce Hamilton
The last few games Hamilton has not been as effective due to teams making the lefty drive to his right. As the season has wore on, teams have used their film sessions preparing for the Rebels to zero in on some of Hamilton’s weakness. He has seemed frustrated and hesitant at times. Look for the junior to be very focused on knocking off a top 20 Aztec team for the second year in a row.
Interesting series factoids – San Diego State has won 16 out of 20 against UNLV dating back to the 2013 conference season including 11 in a row from 2014 to 2017. The Aztecs have beaten UNLV 12 straight times in the month of March. The last UNLV victory in the month of March was in 2003. That victory came in the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
San Diego State 75-60
Jayson Williams covers UNLV basketball for the Mountain West Wire. He also co-hosts “The Vegas Fever Podcast”.