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UNLV vs. Kansas preview: Rebels head to Lawrence

Chris Wood and UNLV get one more chance to prove themselves out of conference with a trip to Kansas

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

UNLV is headed to Kansas on Sunday for the final non conference game of the season. The 13th-ranked Jayhawks are 10-2 and looking at their final game before Big 12 play starts.

The Runnin’ Rebels are coming off a 76-71 defeat in the Mountain West opener at Wyoming. Larry Nance and Wyoming dropped the hammer on UNLV at the rim with dunk after dunk, but UNLV put up one of its best offensive performances of the season, led by Chris Wood.

The Rebels scored 1.2 points per possession – only the win over non-Division I St. Katherine saw UNLV score more efficiently. Chris Wood was major reason for the offensive success, as he scored 29 points, including the first 19 Rebel points of the game.

Wood has now scored 20 or more points in three straight games, while shooting 66 percent from the field. He’s also averaging 10.3 rebounds per game and has knocked down all 11 of his free throws in that three-game span. Now Wood and UNLV will face Kansas, which is allowing .98 points per possession.

Kansas’ awful shooting at the rim

After getting beat in the paint by Wyoming – the Cowboys lead the country in field goal percentage at the rim – UNLV actually gets a break with Kansas. The Jayhawks rank 301st in the NCAA in field goal percentage at the rim, per hoop-math.com. Plus Kansas’ opponents have a block percentage of 13.4 percent, which puts Kansas as one of the 50 most blocked teams in the country.

UNLV has thrived at protecting the rim and swatting shots. Wood and Goodluck Okonoboh have blocked 5.8 shots per game, helping the Rebels to a top ten defense in block percentage and opponents’ field goal percentage at the rim.

Assuming these trends continue, Kansas will have to beat UNLV away from the paint, which is something the Jayhawks have done this season.

The Jayhawks have knocked down 39 percent of their threes. From beyond the arc, starting point guard Frank Mason is at 53 percent, starting wing Kelly Oubre has hit 48 percent of his shots and Brannen Green comes off the bench at 44 percent.

The Rebels have done a decent job of taking away the three since the Arizona State beatdown, where the Sun Devils nailed 11 of 22 threes. In the seven games since, no opponent has made more than five and those seven opponents are shooting 26 percent from deep. (That percentage jumps to 28 percent if you eliminate St. Katherine.)

Mainly, the Rebels have been switching all ball screens that involve a shooter as the screener. When there are screening combinations of guards, UNLV has no problem with switching. But stretch fours have given UNLV’s switching a bit of trouble this season. Kansas doesn’t pose the threat of a stretch four knocking down threes, as Perry Ellis is the only possible threat from deep, but he’s at 4 of 16 on the season.

Notes

  • The other offensive theme for Kansas is getting to the free throw line. The Jayhawks are 15th in the country with 26 percent of their points coming from the free throw line. Plus Kansas is at 72.8 percent from the charity stripe.
  • UNLV is shooting 61.4 percent from the line, and only Jordan Cornish (17 of 19) is over 70 percent.
  • Kansas only has two ball handlers in starting guards Frank Mason and Wayne Selden. Devonte Graham was the backup point guard, but he has been sidelined the last three weeks with a toe injury.
  • The Jayhawks have seen an uptick in turnovers, as four of the five games saw Kansas post a turnover percentage of 21 percent or worse.
  • UNLV doesn’t force many turnovers though; the Rebels rank 344th (out of 351) in opponents’ turnover percentage at 13.7.
  • Crashing the offensive glass has been a major part of Kansas’ offense this season. The Jayhawks are grabbing 39 percent of their own misses, 18th best in the country.
  • However, Kansas struggles finishing offensive boards with baskets, as they sit 273rd in field goal percentage after offensive rebounds at 49 percent.
  • UNLV has been slightly above average by grabbing 71 percent of available defensive boards.
  • But in the last four games (Utah, Arizona, Southern Utah and Wyoming), the Rebels have grabbed 80 percent of available defensive rebounds. That would be tops in the country.
  • Those defensive boards are a testament to Dave Rice’s coaching. Before the Utah game, Rice said defensive rebounding was the emphasis of practice, and his team has responded with incredible numbers on the glass.
  • Kansas and UNLV have some similar opponents in Temple and Utah. The Rebels knocked off Temple 57-50 in Brooklyn, while Kansas lost at Temple 77-52. Utah beat UNLV in an offensive struggle 59-46 at MGM Grand, but Kansas held off the Utes in Kansas City 63-60.
  • According to Taylor Bern of the Las Vegas Sun, Rashad Vaughn did not practice on Friday due to flu-like symptoms. Cody Doolin had a similar issue before the Utah game, but Doolin did play.

UNLV and Kansas will tip at 1:30 pm PST on CBS following the Bengals and Colts. The game is at Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas is 5-0 this season. KenPom.com has Kansas winning 74-62.