GAME NOTES: An under-whelming 2013-14 season for UNLV continues tonight, as the Runnin' Rebels host the Fresno State Bulldogs in Mountain West Conference action at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Expected to be one of the teams in the hunt for the conference title, the Rebels are just 3-3 versus the rest of the MWC and a mere 12-7 overall heading into the weekend. On a more positive note, UNLV is coming off a convincing 62-42 blowout win of Utah State just three nights ago, the second victory in the last three outings for the program.
However, it should be noted that playing in Sin City is no longer all that intimidating for the competition, with UNLV posting a mark of 7-5 in Las Vegas at this stage of the campaign.
As for the Bulldogs, the expectations were not nearly as high so a record of only 8-12 doesn't seem so bad. Although with just one win in seven attempts in MWC play, FSU is close to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Three nights ago, Fresno played to overtime for the fourth time this season, but this time around the team came up short in a 96-86 double-overtime affair versus Nevada. The loss was the fourth straight and the sixth in seven games.
The Rebels lead the all-time series by a count of 28-8, with one of those wins coming earlier this month at the Save Mart Center by a score of 75-62. In that contest, Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 24 points for the visitors, while Khem Birch registered a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 17 rebounds. The Bulldogs, who shot only 33.3 percent from the field, were led by Marvelle Harris with a game-high 25 points.
For 45 minutes the Bulldogs gave Nevada all it could handle, and then the second overtime came and Fresno State stumbled to a mere four points in five minutes. Tyler Johnson scored 20 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, followed by Marvelle Harris with a double-double of his own consisting of 18 points and 10 boards. Allen Huddleston accounted for 13 points, Alex Davis 12, Cezar Guerrero 11 points and seven assists, followed by Paul Watson with 10 points in the setback.
Through 20 games, the Bulldogs are nearly equal with the competition in the scoring department, separated by just a single point (1,485-1,484), but when it comes to conference games it is a different story. While shooting just 38.3 percent from the floor, the Bulldogs are generating 70.4 ppg, but at the same time giving up 79.3 ppg. Johnson leads the attack with 19.0 ppg and 7.4 rpg in conference, while Harris (14.6 ppg) and Guerrero (13.7 ppg) also carry much of the burden on offense.
Despite losing Dejean-Jones for a spell with an injury, the Bulldogs were still able to dominate Utah State earlier this week, thanks to Deville Smith who tallied 18 points and Roscoe Smith with yet another double-double, this time posting 13 points and a game-high 14 boards. Fresno State held a 44-29 rebounding advantage in the meeting and held the visitors to just six total field goals in the second half, not to mention 2-of-17 beyond the arc as well.
Dejean-Jones leads the program in scoring and assists through 19 games with his 14.7 ppg and 56 dishes, but still it is tough to look beyond his mere 14- of-57 (.246) showing behind the 3-point line. Roscoe Smith continues to be one of the top rebounders in the entire country (12.5 rpg) and is one of only a handful of players who can lay claim to averaging a double-double with his 12.1 ppg. Not to be overlooked is Birch with his 10.9 ppg and 9.4 rpg.
After being dragged into double-overtime and coming up short against Nevada, surely the Bulldogs have to be a tired bunch since they have to hit the road for this contest. This might be the perfect opportunity for UNLV, which is aiming for the season sweep, to really establish itself at home again.
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