The UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (6-5) are back in the Mack for a Missouri Valley-Mountain West Conference Challenge match-up against the Salukis of Southern Illinois (6-5).
UNLV is coming off of a 83-63 Saturday night loss against No. 22 Oregon while SIU snapped a two-game losing streak beating Saint Louis 70-55 on Wednesday.
Both teams are looking to gain some traction heading into conference play but with Kansas coming to town, this could be considered a must win for the Rebs.
UNLV is still struggling with frontcourt injuries to junior forward Dwayne Morgan (shoulder) and senior forward Christian Jones (ankle) as they missed their second game in a row. The Rebs have been getting pretty beat up on the glass and 2nd chance points and the loss of Morgan and Jones on the court definitely factor into that.
Freshmen forwards Cheickna Dembele and Troy Baxter Jr. both show flashes of upside but the two combined for just six rebounds in against Oregon on Saturday. Senior forward Tyrell Green has been a pleasant surprise with his ability to be a two-way player. Green is UNLV’s second-leading scorer, averaging 13.3 ppg and 6.4 rebounds per game.
SIU doesn’t have much size up front in 6-7 forward Sean O’Brien and 6’8 F Thik Bol but the duo have the strength and physicality to matchup with UNLV. O’Brien is second in the MVC in rebounding (8.5) and already has three double-doubles on the season. Bol does a good job of cutting to the basket and he’s tough on the glass, ranking second in the MVC in blocked shots (2.0)
Sophomore guard Jalen Poyser went into the Duke game on Dec. 10 averaging 17.3 points per game for the Rebels, was ranked third in the Mountain West in scoring. While Poyser did have sub-par performances against Incarnate Word (five points) and a season-low four points against Oregon, he dished out eight assists in those two games. Poyser’s numbers might be a little down and so have his shots but the young guard shows his ability to play on and off the ball and continues to be UNLV’s best all-around player.
Junior guard Jovan Mooring tallied a career-high 20 points against Oregon while scoring 17 against Incarnate Word. Mooring has impressive range and does a good job getting to the line for UNLV. Even in late game situations when the Rebels are down 15+ points, Mooring looks confident on the floor. He still has to work on his shot selection but continues to show flashes of potential as the Rebs close out non-conference play.
For the Salukis, sophomore guard Armon Fletcher notched a career-high 21-points in South Illinois’s Wednesday win over Saint Louis. The 6-4 guard is an excellent spot-up shooter and he takes most of his shots from the outside, leading the team in 3-point shooting. Senior guard Mike Rodriguez does a little bit of everything for SIU, he’s the team leader in scoring with 13.9 ppg, 5.2 assists per game and free throws made (67).