For the second time in a week, the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels will take on a top 25 ranked opponent as they travel to Portland for a matchup against the 22nd ranked Oregon Ducks (9-2) of the PAC-12. And while the Ducks aren't as talented as Duke, they are still a matchup nightmare for UNLV.
They field a long, athletic team which features four players averaging double figures in points per game: forward Chris Boucher (14.1), guard Tyler Dorsey (13.5), forward Dillon Brooks (12.3) and guard Dylan Ennis (11).
Last Saturday, Duke’s Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard torched the UNLV defense for 34 and 16 points, respectively. Dorsey and Ennis aren’t quite on the same level as Allen and Kennard, but they aren’t far behind. Both are dynamic scorers who can take over a game. And it only gets worse for UNLV from there, as Dillon Brooks and Chris Boucher comprise one of the top frontcourts in all of college basketball.
Both Brooks and Boucher were named to the preseason Wooden Award watch list, which is awarded to the best player in college basketball, with Brooks also being named a preseason All American by the Associated Press. Boucher, in addition to leading the team in scoring, is also leading the nation in blocks, averaging just over 3 per game. And believe it or not, it only gets worse for UNLV from there.
Both Christian Jones (ankle) and Dwayne Morgan (shoulder) aren’t expected to play tonight, leaving an already thin frontcourt even thinner for the Rebels. Freshman forwards Cheickna Dembele and Troy Baxter Jr., both coming off their best games of their careers against Incarnate Word, are going to be tasked with shutting down two of the best players in the country.
Keys to winning for UNLV.
Defend the post without fouling. While this may seem obvious for any team, it is vitally important for UNLV. Even with Jones and Morgan in the lineup, Dembele is the only true rim protector on the roster. If he gets into foul trouble early, and if forced to sit for extended periods of time, Boucher and Dillon's likely big nights, could get even bigger.
Balanced scoring. While UNLV’s leading scorer, Jalen Poyser, only had 5 points against Incarnate Word, his teammates picked him up, with 5 players scoring in double figures. They will need that exact same production, coupled with a big night from Poyser if they are going to have any chance of escaping Portland with a win.
This is technically a neutral site game as it’s being played at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. However, with Portland being firmly planted in Ducks territory, I’d expect a homecourt feel for Oregon. Tip off is set for 8 p.m. pst, and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN2. Hopefully the Runnin’ Rebels have a little better showing than the last time they were on national TV.