UNLV heads up to Salt Lake City, looking to bounce back from a tough 2-game slide. After thrashing BYU 11 days ago and climbing back into the rankings, the Rebels proceeded to lose at home to New Mexico and on the road at San Diego State. They face a struggling Utah team that has lost 4 of their lost 5. Of course, a month ago Utah came into the Thomas & Mack Center and stunned the Rebels 73-69. Although UNLV remains on the right side of the tournament bubble, a loss at Utah tonight would place them firmly in bubble territory. It's not exactly a "must-win" game, but a loss would not look good on their resume. Even with a strong finish, the selection committee would not look too kindly on their poor performance against quality teams prior to the conference tournament.
When Utah came to Las Vegas, they let Tre'Von Willis get his points, but they shut down most of the rest of the Rebels attack. Chace Stanback scored 14 points, but nobody else had more than 7. It was one of the rare games where UNLV outrebounded their opponent, but it was not enough. UNLV was 1 of 12 from 3-pt range, while Utah rode 8 of 16 from beyond the arc to the upset.
The Utes will need their "big guns" to step up at home if they're going to pull what would realistically be an upset. Carlon Brown leads the team in scoring with 13.6 per game, with Marshall Henderson adding 12.5 per, and Luca Drca scoring another 10.3 ppg. When it comes to rebounding, the Rebels and Utes are fairly evenly matched as Utah has averaged 34.2 rebounds per game, while the Rebels are a touch ahead at 34.7 per game.
The Rebels are 3 point favorites and will need help from their bench if they're going to get a crucial road win. Tre'Von Willis is the only player averaging in double figures, as he has put up 13 or more points in every conference win (including two 30+ point games). And yet, the Rebels do not necessarily go as far as Willis takes them. The Rebels tend to go as far as the 2, 3 and 4 players take them. At this point, nobody is stepping up in that role. Chace Stanback appeared to be that guy, but he's come back to earth, averaging 5 points per game since the second half of conference play began. The Rebels need Stanback to get back to his scoring ways, particularly on his mid-range jumper. If he's launching deep 2s and 3s, the team will likely struggle.