GAME NOTES: The Runnin' Rebels of UNLV try to avoid their first three-game slide of the season tonight, as they host the Colorado State Rams in Mountain West Conference play at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV, which is just 10-6 at home this season, is a solid 8-6 in conference play which, upon entering the week, had the squad tied with both Boise State and Wyoming for third place in the standings. However, the Rebels have lost some momentum recently with defeats against both New Mexico and the aforementioned Broncos in overtime last Saturday, 91-90.
Meanwhile, the Rams have been quite the enigma during the 2013-14 campaign, starting out strong against non-conference opponents and then stumbling versus the more stable MWC programs. Over the weekend, Colorado State took advantage of a Wyoming team missing its top scorer and rebounder by posting an 82-67 victory, snapping a three-game slide in the process.
The Rebels lead the all-time series by a lopsided 35-12 margin, but it was CSU that captured a lopsided 75-57 victory in the first meeting of the campaign earlier this month in Fort Collins.
Daniel Bejarano came within an assist of posting a triple-double as he tallied 20 points and a game-high 12 rebounds for the Colorado State Rams during their 82-67 win over the Wyoming Cowboys in the 220th meeting of the Border War. Jon Octeus delivered a game-high 23 points for the Rams at home, followed by Joe De Ciman with 12 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting behind the 3-point line before fouling out. JJ Avila and Carlton Hurst pitched in with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Although his effort has been called into question previously, Bejarano has shown that he can be one of the more dominant forces in the MWC when he puts his mind to it. Responsible for a team-best 53 3-pointers, Bejarano is second on the unit in scoring with 16.5 ppg and first on the glass with 8.4 rpg. Not only that, he is also second with 93 assists, trailing only Avila (16.6 ppg) who is responsible for 97 dishes and 7.4 rpg.
Clearly, the Broncos were the ones dictating the pace of the game against UNLV the last time out, racing up and down the floor to the point where both teams were nearly exhausted. Unfortunately for the Rebels, a win wasn't in the cards even as the team put six players in double figures, starting with Deville Smith with 22 points, to go along with seven assists. Khem Birch and Bryce Dejean-Jones both tallied 16 points, the former clearing 11 rebounds and blocking six shots, while Roscoe Smith accounted for 14 points and eight boards. Kevin Olekaibe and Christian Wood chipped in 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Smith had been a huge influence in the paint for the Rebels through the first few months of the campaign, to the point where he was leading the nation in rebounding, but that effort has dropped off significantly. Smith (11.2 ppg) is still one of the country's best on the glass (11.1 rpg), but Birch (11.6 ppg) has proven to be much more of a force near the rim with both 9.6 rpg and a staggering 102 blocks. Dejean-Jones stands as the top scorer overall with 13.6 ppg.
When the Rebels are playing their best they have the potential to beat anyone in the conference, but the advantage of being at home in the Thomas & Mack is not as strong as it once was, which might give the Rams a fighting chance.
Game Date and Time