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UNLV vs. Arizona State preview: Runnin' Rebels face first road test

Cody Doolin leads a young team to Tempe for UNLV's first road test of the season.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will head out of Las Vegas for the second time this season, but it will be the first road game, as the Rebels head south to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils (4-2).

"A lot of us are excited because we like hushing the crowd. So I think it is going to be a fun experience," Rashad Vaughn said. "It’s going to be a first for me, going to another school and playing in their arena at their home in front of all their fans."

Vaughn is coming off a 29-point performance in UNLV’s win over Albany, which was the first game all season that UNLV scored over one point per possession. Now it is on to Arizona State, where Vaughn and the other four freshmen will face their first collegiate road game.

Arizona State File

Wins: Chicago State (86-50), Bethune Cookman (49-39), Loyola Marymount (68-44), Colgate (78-71)

Losses: Maryland (73-78), Alabama (71-76)

  • Arizona State points per 100 possessions: Offense 103.8, Defense 96.2
  • UNLV points per 100 possessions: Offense 99.3, Defense 94.5

Top players

  • Gerry Blakes (6-4 G) 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists per game
  • Jonathan Gilling (6-8 F) 11.3 points per game, 18/29 (62%) on threes
  • Eric Jacobsen (6-10 F) 10.5 points, 7.7 rebounds per game, shooting 74% this season

Stats to Know

  • Arizona State is shooting 41 percent from three this season with nine different players knocking down a deep ball.
  • The Sun Devils turn the ball over on 21.1 percent of their possessions; that’s 226th in the NCAA. But UNLV has not forced many turnovers this season, as the Rebels rank 339th in opponents’ turnover percentage.
  • The Sun Devils have three young guys getting minutes at point guard. Freshman Kodi Justice suffered from back spasms and missed the Sun Devils last game on Saturday. Freshman Tra Holder started in place of him, but Justice is expected back for the UNLV game. Sophomore Chance Murray has also come in off the bench. After six games Justice is averaging 15.2 minutes, Holder 17.6 and Murray 13.8.
  • UNLV is second in the country in opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim, as opponents are shooting 36 percent, per hoop-math.com. UNLV is also second in the country with a block percentage of 21 percent. Arizona State is shooting 61.6 percent at the rim this season.
  • Arizona State is 4-0 at home this season and has a 12-game home winning streak dating back to last season. Plus the Sun Devils have lost just once in the past 21 games at home. The two losses from this season came in the CBE Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City, Missouri.

Matchups to watch

UNLV will be defending a stretch four for the first time this season, as Jonathan Gilling comes off the bench for Arizona State. Dave Rice has mentioned Gilling twice – without being prompted – since the Rebels last game.

"It’ll be a little bit of a change for us," Rice said. "With Chris (Wood), with Dwayne (Morgan) in particular and with Goodluck (Okonoboh) we’re going to have to guard a stretch four that can shoot the three."

Gilling, a senior, is a career 41 percent from three, and Herb Sendek has sets to get him open.

Here Gilling (no. 31) is a part of the double ball screen. Colgate switches the screen to take away the ball handler, but Eric Jacobsen (no. 21) takes two defenders with him as he rolls to the hoop. This leaves Gilling all alone for the three pointer.

Next up is a horns set that has multiple options for a three.

Gilling and Jacobsen start out in horns, and after the initial screen the two forwards set an elevator screen for Bo Barnes (no. 33), who is shooting 52 percent from three this season.

Barnes makes the pass over to Gilling when two defenders run at him. This is a great set that if not defended properly can get Barnes or Gilling a three or a post up for Jacobsen.

UNLV’s shot blocking has been superb this season led by Goodluck getting 18 OkonoBLOCKS, but with Gilling playing on the perimeter, the lane will be less clogged for Arizona State.

"The good thing is that we’re second in the country in blocked shots, and it has everything to do with Goodluck, Chris (Wood) and Dwayne Morgan," Rice said. "To take one of those guys and put him on the perimeter, it puts an emphasis on keeping the ball in front of us, and also puts an importance on the other big guy that’s inside."

Gilling was 0 of 7 on threes against UNLV last season, but it wasn’t because of the Rebels defense.

Gilling 3

That’s about how open Gilling was on all of his threes; he just couldn’t hit a shot.

Game Info

The game will tip at 5:00 p.m. PST from the Wells-Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network. KenPom.com gives the Sun Devils the edge with 65-60 final score.