Mountain West Basketball: UNLV vs. Hawaii--Preview, Odds, Prediction

Mountain West Basketball: UNLV vs. Hawaii--Preview, Odds, Prediction

Mountain West Basketball

Mountain West Basketball: UNLV vs. Hawaii--Preview, Odds, Prediction


Mountain West Basketball: UNLV vs. Hawaii–Preview, Odds, Prediction

Runnin’ Rebels will try to stay unbeaten vs. Hawaii. Here’s a preview. & MWCwire

Game 9: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (5-2) vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (8-0)
When: Wednesday, December 7th – 7:00 PT
Where: Dollar Loan Center; Henderson, NV
How To Watch: Runnin’ Rebels YouTube Channel
Odds: UNLV -7 Over/Under 131

Fresh off a dominating weekend performance in San Diego, UNLV will welcome Hawaii to the mainland for a ‘neutral-site’ game Wednesday night in the Vegas suburb of Henderson. This will be the Rebels first ever game at the Dollar Loan Center, normal home of the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Runnin’ Rebels enter as one of only 10 Division I teams without a loss, something they share in common with conference mates Utah State and New Mexico. It will be a challenge to remain unbeaten through the week, as a second intriguing game awaits on Saturday, when the Pac-12’s Washington State comes to town as part of a showcase doubleheader (the featured game is Arizona vs. Indiana).

Last Saturday’s outing highlighted many positives for UNLV, not the least of which was being able to win a game in a different way. A look through the boxscores from the first few weeks, shows a batch of low-scoring games won on the defensive end, which has obviously been the calling card of this team so far. The San Diego game was going to be an interesting case study for a few reasons. It was the first true road game for the Rebs, a potential roadblock for most teams each season. Beyond that, the Toreros have assembled a roster full of scorers, and veterans to boot, ensuring that the Rebels defensive numbers would be put to the test. They passed that test with flying colors. Additionally, one of the major weak points early on has been the outside shooting. Well apparently, all UNLV needed was to face a subpar zone defense that would enable unguarded looks from deep. Crisp ball movement and great spacing helped, as did the shockingly poor rotations from Steve Lavin’s defenders. But the shots still must go in, and they did at a near 50% clip. That percentage may not be sustainable long-term, but it’s good for the Rebels to execute well offensively and see the ball go through the net.

Open shots figure to be harder to come by tonight, as a much stingier defensive unit awaits. Eran Ganot’s Rainbow Warriors have built their identity on that end of the floor throughout his tenure, and this season is no different. A Randy Bennett (St. Mary’s) disciple, Ganot stresses staying home on shooters instead of over-helping, leaving his on-ball defenders in many one-on-one situations. In today’s college basketball world, that disrupts what most teams are looking to do offensively, which is drive and kick out to an open shooter when the defender helps, hence UH’s top ten rate nationally in 3-point defensive efficiency. Since the Rebs don’t heavily utilize the 3-point shot, that is just fine with Kevin Kruger and his charges. The guards will relish the added space when trying to penetrate the lane. It will be interesting to see if Ganot adjusts, should his initial game-plan be ineffective.

Offense has been more of a struggle for Hawaii, partly due to misfortune. Projected starting combo guard Juan Munoz suffered a season ending knee injury in the team’s exhibition game, a devastating blow for the Rainbow Warriors. Munoz was an all-conference performer in the Big South two years ago, and is a pure shooter. His scoring has been and will continue to be missed. It has also shrunk the rotation Ganot seems comfortable employing, which stands around 7, maybe 8 currently. The scoring slack has been picked up by Noel Coleman, a true bucket-getter. Coleman is averaging 17.4 a game, can knock shots down from the outside or attack the basket, and he also leads the team in steals, assists, and minutes played. 4th-year Junior, Bernardo da Silva has been a force inside for Hawaii, contributing 11 points and 8 boards a night, though he shoots a woeful 43% from the foul line. As a contrast to the Rebels prior opponent, the Rainbow Warriors are very deliberate offensively, playing at one of the 10 slowest tempos in the entire country.

For UNLV, as noted earlier, they are going to encounter an entirely different type of animal when they have the ball tonight. There was very little pressure applied to ball handlers, common when facing a zone, but USD did not even make it difficult for the Runnin’ Rebs to complete passes over the top or through the 2-3 zone. Passes will be challenged, and a momentary lapse in concentration will result in a turnover. The guards and wings should be able to have success attacking the rim though, and there also is the potential for offensive rebounds to be had.

Several Rebels are coming off hot shooting nights, including Luis Rodriquez, who went for 19, and Justin Webster who canned a perfect 4-4 from downtown. There were two other double-figure scorers, but perhaps the most encouraging development of the night was the play of Keshon Gilbert. The team’s leading scorer, Gilbert felt no need to force shots and join the party when the points were coming in bunches. He attempted only five shots from the floor, and had seven assists; a winning formula, and a great sign for this team.

The defense looks as though it will always be there for UNLV to rely on, and it continues to rank highly in many areas, mainly overall efficiency, as well as turnover rate and foul avoidance. There is only one mediocre metric, and that is defending the 3-point line, which isn’t a huge focal point for UH’s offense anyway.

This will be Hawaii’s first time leaving the islands this season, though that doesn’t seem to have as much of an impact as you might think. They have won their first mainland game in 3 of the last 4 years. Of more concern, should be the culture shock they may encounter going up against the athleticism and skill of the Rebels. The Rainbow Warriors have played a pretty cushy schedule so far, nothing close to what they will see on Wednesday night. This point cannot be understated. It would be pretty unrealistic to expect UNLV to shoot at the same clip they did on Saturday night, but they also won’t need to. They have several other avenues to generate offense – the foul line, putbacks on the glass, and of course points off turnovers. In addition, the UNLV defense will be the best unit on the floor. This one should be competitive for a while, but there are simply too many edges in this one for the Runnin’ Rebels, and they should march on to 9-0.

Prediction: UNLV 67 Hawaii 54



More MWWire