After a loss to San Diego State, the Rebels can still earn the six or the seven seed in next weeks conference tournament depending on the result against Wyoming.
Wyoming has only played one game in the over two weeks, a 72-59 loss to Utah State in Logan.
A disappointing conference season comes to an end for the Rebels and Cowboys, as each team looks to finalize its seed for the conference tournament Saturday night in Laramie.
Game: UNLV (11-13 8-9) vs Wyoming (12-10 6-9)
Location: Arena Auditorium Laramie, Wyoming
The Rebels were officially eliminated from finishing in the top five in the Mountain West standings on Wednesday evening with their 71-62 loss to San Diego State. The Rebels will play in the first round of the Mountain West Conference tournament on Wednesday against an opponent to be determined. First they will take on a Wyoming Cowboys team. For UNLV, like most of the conference, these games this week are part of two that were rescheduled due to Covid-19 postponements in January and February. Here are some things to watch in this matchup:
Well rested or well rusted?
The Cowboys were scheduled to play a series of games against San Jose State in Laramie last week. Those games were canceled due to Covid cases within the Spartan program. Wyoming did play a game Thursday, a loss in Logan against Utah State. That makes only one game played for the Cowboys in over two weeks. The Rebels have played four games in that same stretch, going 2-2. Will that amount to more fresh legs for Wyoming or tired legs against this Rebel squad? Wyoming turns the ball over 11 times a game, UNLV averages 12 turnovers themselves. We shall see whos legs hold up long enough to give their team the victory.
Cowboys high octane backcourt
To get out of Laramie with a win, the Rebels will need to have all eyes on Marcus Williams( 15.9 ppg), Hunter Maldonado (12.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg) and Kwane Marble II( 10.3 ppg and 4.6 rpg). More so from inside the three point arc due to these three players shooting atleast 40% from the field. As a team the Cowboys shoot 44 % from two. They are not the best three point shooting team at a hair under 35%. So UNLV will need to dig down deep in the paint to earn a victory.
UNLV dynamic duo
Wyoming scores over 76 points a game, while UNLV scores a shade under 70. The Rebels will be counting on Bryce Hamilton (18 ppg, 6 rpg and 3 apg) to have a better game then he did against San Diego State. He fouled out with under two minutes left and scored in the single digits for only the 2nd time all season. Only 9 points for Hamilton, while David Jenkins scored 32 points. Jenkins had almost half his teams points, the Rebels will be counting on these two guys to get out of Laramie with a win.
It’s pretty much understood that when you go to Laramie, the altitude is always going to be an issue for most visiting teams. The Rebels have had their troubles at Arena Auditorium over the years. UNLV has won its last 2 games in Laramie, including last year’s overtime triumph. Prior to that, Wyoming had beaten the Rebels in 4 out 5 matchups at home from 2012 to 2017. The best way to keep bodies fresh is to use your bench, something that TJ Otzelberger isn’t really accustomed to doing, going only 8 deep in most games.
Players to watch
UNLV- The Bench
Seven players for the Rebels have played atleast 400 minutes this season, which is a ton of production. Five players have played 130 minutes or less. The point here is that UNLV needs to get some of these sparingly used players more minutes. The reasoning may be moot at this point in the closing game of the regular season, however that tactic may come in handy in this game due to the altitude.
Wyoming- The Backcourt
What can’t be stressed enough is that Wyoming is a guard laden team, the backcourt counts for most of the teams minutes, points, rebounds and assists. Just about every statistical category is led by the teams backcourt. The coaching staff for the Rebels should put a huge circle around this and make this a point of emphasis in order to beat Wyoming in Laramie for the third straight time and earn their 9th conference victory of the year.
Interesting series factoids
The Rebels have not lost to the Cowboys in over 4 years. For UNLV, it’s a shame this game isn’t in Las Vegas because UNLV has beaten Wyoming 19 straight times in Sin City. The last Cowboy victory at the Thomas and Mack Center was in 2003. One year prior in 2002, the Cowboys also beat UNLV in their house, at the time that was their first victory at the Thomas and Mack since 1981.
Prediction – UNLV 69-64
Jayson Williams covers UNLV basketball for the Mountain West Wire and Co-hosts “The Vegas Fever Podcast “.