These teams split their meetings during the regular season at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Rebels blew the doors off of Air Force 80-57 Wednesday afternoon to advance to meet the two seed Aggies.
Both teams look for spot in the Semifinals on Friday Night.
MOUNTAIN WEST TOURNAMENT QUARTERFINALS
Game: UNLV (12-14 8-10) vs Utah State (18-7 15-4)
Location: Thomas and Mack Center Las Vegas, Nevada
Regular season results between these two teams:
1/25 UNLV won 59-56
1/27 Utah State won 83-74
Both games were played at the Thomas and Mack Center.
UNLV was able to handle Air Force easier then most expected Wednesday afternoon, for the Rebel faithful it was good to see them perform at a higher level then they had been and take care of an opponent handily. The challenge now for the Rebels is to contain Utah State, the two seed in this tournament. The Aggies are a team that has not only won nineteen ball games this season but they are also a team that comes in with a ton of confidence.
Even though UNLV has beaten Utah State once this year, that must seem like a lifetime ago. Since that victory in late January, the Rebels haven’t had the spark offensively or defensively that was needed during most of the regular season. UNLV is looking to make it to Friday in this tournament for the first time since 2014. As for Utah State, they are looking to defend their title after defeating San Diego State last March on a clutch Sam Merrill three point shot with two seconds left.
Players to watch
UNLV’S big three
David Jenkins, Bryce Hamilton and Mbacke Diong were amazing for the Rebels in their victory against Air Force. They combined to score 55 points against the Falcons. Those three shot 21-37 in carrying the team to a victory to keep their season alive. It will take an all out amazing effort from more then those three to defeat Utah State.
The Rebel defense will need to make the seven foot junior the center of their attention if they intend to make it to the semifinals in this tournament on Friday. The defensive player of the year in the Mountain West Conference, who averages nearly a double-double (14.7 ppg and 9.9 rpg) per game, will not be easy to stop on either end. UNLV did a decent job on him in both games at the Thomas and Mack Center in late January. Only allowing him to score 21 points in two games. No doubt Queta will be looking to flex his muscles a bit more on Thursday evening.
Interesting series factoids
UNLV is 34-10 all time against Utah State, but these teams have not met in the Mountain West Conference Tournament since the Aggies joined the league for the 2014 conference season. Overall, Utah State has beaten the Rebels 5 out of the last 7 times the teams have met and looking even further they have beaten UNLV in 7 out of the last 11 games.
Prediction: Utah State wins 74 – 66
Jayson Williams covers UNLV basketball for the Mountain West Wire and Co-hosts ” The Vegas Fever Podcast “.