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UNLV vs. Albany preview: Rebels look to get offense rolling

UNLV returns from Brooklyn with a 3-1 record, but the offense has yet to show out this season.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Runnin’ Rebels haven’t scored more than 60 points in a game this season, but they’re 3-1. UNLV’s offensive efficiency ranks 295th (out of 351 teams) in the country at .90 points per possession.

"It’s a credit to our defense that we’ve been able to win three out of four games never scoring more than 60 points. But we worked hard on Monday on offensive execution," head coach Dave Rice said before practice on Tuesday.

And the defense has been stout, save the Stanford game. Morehead State, Sam Houston State and Temple shot 28.7 percent against UNLV; Stanford nearly doubled that with 50 percent performance from the floor.

The Rebels held Temple to an absurdly low .78 points per possession last Saturday, but UNLV is going to have to start knocking down shots.

"We’ll get better; we have good shooters," Rice said. "But a big part of is it is just making sure guys recognize where they’re supposed to be and cutting hard and screening better and waiting on screens."

But it hasn’t just been missed jump shots; UNLV is shooting just 49.4 percent on shots at the rim, per hoop-math.com. That’s 298th in the NCAA. Simply converting more shots near the basket and knocking down some more free throws (55.2 percent) will lead to an increased offensive efficiency.

The next chance for UNLV to improve its offense is Saturday when Albany comes to Las Vegas. The Great Danes come in with the 169th-ranked defense, allowing opponents to score .96 points per possession.

Abany hasn’t performed well on offense though, coming in at .95 points per possession (262nd in the country). Preventing Albany from scoring at the rim should be the easy part for UNLV’s defense. The Great Danes are slightly better than UNLV at 50.5 percent shooting at the rim. Plus the Runnin’ Rebels are the second best in the country in opponent’s field goal percentage at the rim, holding opponents to 33.7 percent shooting.

Just one Great Dane stands over 6-foot-8, Richard Peters. But he only plays 6.5 minutes a game and has taken six shots this season.

Albany won the America East tournament last season and knocked off Mount St. Mary’s in the 16-seed play-in game before falling to one seed Florida 67-55.

Peter Hooley leads Albany with 14 points per game on 38.8 percent shooting. Including Hooley, Albany has four players from Australia; the starting forwards – at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8 – are brothers Sam and Mike Rowley. Sam, the older but shorter brother, is averaging 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, while Mike has scored 6.8 points and pulled down 6.0 boards per game.

Albany is 2-2 this season with a loss at Providence and another in overtime to Quinnipiac. The Great Danes have wins over NJIT and Colgate. Albany knocked off Colgate 75-71 on Wednesday; Sam Rowley had 18 points and 11 rebounds.

The game time has been changed and will tip at 3:30 p.m. It was originally scheduled for 7:00 p.m., but since the UNLV-Nevada football game was picked up by ESPNU to be aired at 7:30 p.m., the basketball game was moved up. The game can be seen online here.