Game Preview: UNLV travels to The Pit for tough test against New Mexico

USA TODAY Sports

Both New Mexico and UNLV are faced with a tough task to begin conference season, as they open up against each other in The Pit.



The New Mexico Lobos are coming off a bad road loss to Saint Louis in which New Mexico simply shot horribly. They're going to be aiming to change that tonight when they face a tough UNLV squad at home.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, New Mexico looked poised to be a Top 15 team by the time conference season rolled around, something that was quickly to put to rest with a home loss to South Dakota State and bad road loss to Saint Louis.

The Lobos main problem has been inconsistent shooting. They simply haven't been able to put the ball in the basket, shooting only 41.3% from the field. That's good enough for 257th in the NCAA, which isn't very good at all. New Mexico will have to change that around and find a way to beat UNLV's pressure man-to-man defense if they are to have a good shot at winning tonight.

As for UNLV, the Rebels simply need to avoid turnovers. So far this season, the score of a game has almost accurately reflected the assist to turnover ratio. When the Rebels get at least 3 or 4 more assists than turnovers, than they tend to win by ten or more. If that assist to turnover ratio is closer to one or below it, than the records show UNLV with two losses and some close wins. The bottom line is that they can't give up too many easy baskets simply because of bad ball handling or horrible decision making.

They also need to get stops on defense and get out in transition. In the Runnin' Rebels loss to North Carolina, the Tar Heels rarely gave them transition opportunities in the first half, mainly because they were making much of the baskets and allowing themselves to get back on defense. For UNLV, that means they need to get more stops and avoid New Mexico second chance points, while for New Mexico its all about giving themselves opportunities to set up their half court defense. The Rebels are much less deadly in the half court, although Anthony Bennett certainly has helped shore up what was a horrible half court UNLV team last season.

A couple of notes for UNLV is lineup changes. Khem Birch, not Quintrell Thomas will start, and will most likely stay in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Birch already has multiple double-doubles coming off the bench and is an important part to UNLV's interior defense. Tonight we'll see how the Canadian duo looks out against the starters of a Top 25 team.

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