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UNLV to honor Jerry Tarkanain when Derrick Marks and Boise State visit

Derrick Marks has been tearing up the Mountain West for Leon Rice, as the Broncos are looking for an NCAA Tournament bid.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

UNLV welcomes the best player in the Mountain West to the Thomas & Mack on Wednesday, but it won’t be about Derrick Marks and Boise State’s hopes at an NCAA Tournament bid that lead the show. The late Jerry Tarkanian will be honored before the game, as the Rebels play their first home game since the passing of the legendary coach.

UNLV will give out commemorative towels to honor Tarkanian’s famous towel biting habit. There will also be a special tribute including a video for the man who built UNLV basketball.

Even though none of the current Rebels were alive when Tarkanian led UNLV to the 1990 national title, his impact isn’t lost on the team.

"He left a legacy here that’s bigger than us, bigger than Las Vegas. We’ll have the patch on our jersey, so it will definitely be an emotional night," freshman Jordan Cornish said.

Following the game, the Las Vegas Strip will dim its lights in honor of Jerry Tarkanian’s life. It will be more than just the Strip, as many businesses off of Las Vegas Boulevard will take part in "Dim the lights for Tark." Here’s a full list of businesses planning to participate thanks to 8 News Now.

As for the game, Derrick Marks is where the focus lies for UNLV. Rice plans to mix defenses against Boise State. But when the Rebels play man-to-man defense, it’s the pick-and-pop game of the Broncos that has led them to the conference’s top mark in offensive efficiency.

"What makes it difficult (to defend) is you’ve got your bigs guarding their bigs. If you switch it you take away the three-point shot, which we did the first time. But then there’s issues with trying to guard dribble penetration," Rice said.

The bigs that make the Boise State pick and pop work are James Webb III and Nick Duncan. Webb is shooting 43.4 percent from deep; Duncan is draining 38.3 percent of his treys. But in the first meeting between these two – an 82-73 Boise State win in OT – the Broncos hit just five threes. Webb was 0 of 2, Duncan 2 of 4.

The reason behind Boise State’s quiet night from three, was UNLV’s defensive strategy. The Rebels switched every ball screen, and as Rice described, it eliminated the three. But the cost of that scheme was mismatches that led to the Broncos scoring 40 of their 82 points in the paint. All of Boise State’s points in overtime came from the paint or the free throw line.

Essentially, UNLV was content to let Marks get his, while taking away the stretch fours. Since Marks’ had an inefficient night – by his standards – UNLV had a chance to win late in regulation. Marks had 28 points, but he shot just 12 of 26 from the field. That’s not a bad night, but considering Marks’ season numbers, UNLV didn’t get the Broncos best shot.

The front runner for Mountain West player of the year is taking 35.6 percent of Boise State’s shots while he’s on the floor. That’s the eighth highest mark in the country. But his high usage hasn’t led to a decrease in efficiency; Marks is in the top 100 in effective field goal percentage.

The main reason his efficiency has skyrocketed is that Marks is shooting a blistering 51 percent from three. But he’s also hitting the inefficient shots at a high rate; Marks is making 44.9 percent of his two-point jumpers, while 48.4 percent of his total shots come from that range, per

And it all comes from the pick and pop (or roll). Marks is fifth in the country in points per possession off ball screens, per Synergy Sports. (Minimum 75 possessions.) If you switch the screen, Marks can back down smaller players – like he did to Cody Doolin – or pull up for a jumper against big men who slack off to cut off penetration.

For UNLV on the offensive end, the Rebels will be without Rashad Vaughn and Dantley Walker, who have both suffered knee injuries recently. The two guards are expected to be out the rest of the regular season, with a possible return for the conference tournament.

That leaves UNLV without its top scorer and best shooter, even if Walker was underutilized. The Rebel offense fared well sans Vaughn against Air Force, but the Falcons possess one of the worst defenses in college basketball.

The game will tip at 8:00 p.m. PST and be broadcasted on CBS Sports Network., which doesn’t adjust for injuries, has UNLV winning 69-68. However, Boise State opened as a one-point favorite in Vegas.