The twenty-first ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels take on the California Golden Bears on ESPNU at 3:00 PT looking to avoid an upset. The Golden Bears are coming off of a twenty-five point drubbing handed to them by Wisconsin a week ago and have had some time to relish the loss. UNLV is going to be playing their second road game this season, with the first having come against Portland on Tuesday. The Runnin' Rebels came out flat, only scoring 22 points in the first half, but used a 46 point second half to complete the 68-60 comeback victory over the Pilots.
Both teams will no doubt be hungry for a win. Cal players can't be happy with the way they lost to Wisconsin and will not be happy if they lose a second straight. Guards Allen Crabbe and Justin Cobbs are the leaders of this team, with Crabbe scoring 22.4 points per game and Cobbs scoring 18.7 points per game. Combined, the guards are accounting for 57% of their points and most likely will do the same on Sunday.
The key for the UNLV defense is not necessarily stopping Crabbe and Cobbs entirely, but simply slowing them down. Don't get me wrong, shutting them down is not something I'm against, it's just not very likely. More likely is slowing them down. Hold them to only 10 points each and the scoring total of the Golden Bears goes down substantially.
How do they do that? Well the Rebels are going to have to do something they did horribly in the Oregon loss - help and recover. In the Oregon game, the UNLV guards constantly got beat off the dribble and then there was no help from a big man inside. This led to a ridiculous amount of open shots in the paint, and Crabbe and Cobbs will tear them up if they do the same thing. Instead, the big men are going to have to step over and get in front of the attacker and force either a pass or a bad shot.
As for the Runnin' Rebel offense, it's going to be all about how the defense is. With the way UNLV's offense is designed, the Rebels have to get fastbreak and transition points. That means getting stops on the defensive end and pushing the ball. The more defensive stops, and consequently more quick points, that the Rebels have, the more likely they are to be prolific on offense.
Of course, at some point UNLV is going to have to deal with a half-court offense, in which they haven't had much issues with man defense but have had their struggles against zone defenses. Cal plans to play a lot of zone, in hopes of getting the same kind of result Portland had in the first half on Tuesday, so UNLV is going to have to play a lot of inside-out in the half-court in order to get open shots against the zone.
The bottom line is that the twenty five point beat down Wisconsin put on this team last Sunday is not indicative of what this team is going to put on the court against UNLV come 3:00. The Bears are going to be a tough road test for a UNLV team that has been known in the past to have some serious struggle on the road. The Rebels are going to have to not give up second chance points and get lots of transition points in order to beat this squad.