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Keys to an UNLV victory over Air Force

Rebels looking to get back in the winning column

NCAA Basketball: San Diego State at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

UNLV continues to be a mystery this season.

After a missed opportunity losing to San Diego State on Tuesday, the Runnin’ Rebels currently sit 9-10 overall and 2-4 in conference play. It was SDSU’s first road win of the season and Air Force will look to do the same as the Falcons are 0-5 in true road games. The Falcons have lost two straight and three of its last four games so getting back to a winning record is key for both teams.

Here’s a quick look at how UNLV can add a much needed game to its win column:

Contain the offense

Air Force has four of its starters averaging double figures this season with forward Hayden Graham leading all scorers for a second straight year at 12.4 points per game. The senior returnee led the Falcons in scoring and rebounding last season (13.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and continues to be a threat with his ability to make shots and score inside the arc.

Graham isn’t the only threat on offense with seven different players leading in scoring this season for the Falcons. Preseason third-team all-MW selection Trevor Lyons recently returned to Air Force’s starting lineup and the junior guard provides playmaking abilities in the backcourt, averaging 16.7 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals the last three games hes started.

The Falcons have a team full of guys who aren’t afraid to shoot the ball and it shows as the team’s shooting 45.9 percent from the field this season while averaging 77.5 ppg, putting them top three in the Mountain West.

Rebound

UNLV has a size advantage going into this matchup but Air Force continues to rebound at a high rate. The Falcons have out-rebounded 11 opponents this season and are 7-4 in those games. Junior center Frank Toohey is 6’7 while UNLV’s Cheickna Dembele is 6’11. Toohey recently notched his second double double of the season against Nevada, scoring 15 points and 11 rebounds so despite being undersized, the Falcons are going to be aggressive on the boards against this lengthy UNLV team.

While Air Force shouldn’t have a problem matching up with senior forwards Tyrell Green and Christian Jones, UNLV can utilize Dembele and 6’8 freshman forward Troy Baxter Jr. down low in the post.

Force turnovers

More recently, Air Force has been struggling to take care of the ball. Against their 83-76 loss to Nevada on Wednesday the Falcons turned the ball over a season-high 18 times. In their last three losses, the Falcons are averaging 16 turnovers.

Even in games that UNLV has lost, the Rebels continue to do a good job capitalizing off opponents turnovers and converting them into points.

Air Force does a good job of pushing the ball up the court with quick shooting opportunities helping work off their guards and with UNLV’s struggles to get the ball going offensively at times, the Rebels might have a hard time containing the Falcons if they can’t force turnovers.