Nevada-Reno is in town Tuesday night (7 p.m., CBS Sports Network) but this is more than an in-state rivalry affair now that the Wolf Pack (11-8, 2-3) have joined the Mountain West. If the Rebels want to win a conference title, protecting home court against UNR is key.
The backcourt of Deonte Burton and Malik Story (combined 32.4 points per game) presents an interesting challenge for UNLV, as the Rebels have had some trouble containing high-scoring guards this season. Can the Rebels match up? Recent history says yes, as UNLV has won the last six meetings with UNR. Let’s take a closer look at some of the important numbers in this edition of Over/Under.
Over/Under: 24.5 minutes for Khem Birch
Birch won’t start this game as a result of missing practice on Sunday, but he still figures to see somewhat normal playing time off the bench. He’s averaging a Mountain West-leading 2.8 blocks per game in conference play, so the Rebels want his defense on the court as much as possible, especially with Nevada-Reno’s guards threatening to drive the lane all night. Birch may not start, but I think he’ll see close to 27-28 minutes. OVER.
Over/Under: 13.5 points for Bryce Dejean-Jones
With Birch coming off the bench, Bryce Dejean-Jones is the favorite to slide into the starting lineup. Dejean-Jones looked to be settling into his reserve role nicely, averaging 13.3 points in his first three games as a sub before going scoreless in a foul-plagued effort vs. Wyoming. Can he get back on track against UNR? Maybe, but even if he plays well, I’d take the UNDER here. He’s not going to see a significant spike in minutes, and Nevada can match his quickness on the perimeter.
Over/Under: 45.5 percent shooting for Deonte Burton
This is going to be one of the most entertaining battles of the conference season, as UNLV defensive ace Anthony Marshall matches up against Burton, the MWC’s second-leading scorer at 19.0 points per game. Marshall allows opponents to shoot just 28.4 percent against him, but Burton exploded for 29 points in last year’s meeting between these teams. Marshall hasn’t forgotten that. “Deonte had a pretty good game,” said Marshall. “You’ve just got to make it tough on him every possession and put pressure on him and challenge him. I’m looking forward to it.” Burton is shooting 47.0 percent this season, but I think Marshall holds him UNDER 45.5.
Over/Under: 9.5 rebounds for Mike Moser
In his last three games, Moser is averaging just 5.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. But with Birch coming off the bench, Moser will likely have a chance to start this game at him more natural power forward position, which could help him get back in the groove. UNLV should have a sizable rebounding advantage in this game — the Rebels are ninth in the country in rebounding, while Nevada-Reno is 177th — and Moser could be a big part of that. I think he’ll grab double-digit boards and go OVER.
Over/Under: 13.5 turnovers for UNLV
The Rebels have been averaging 13.8 turnovers per game in conference play, and they kicked it away 14 times in their last game, a 62-50 win over Wyoming. Much like Wyoming, Nevada-Reno plays at a slower pace. If the Rebels keep attempt to force a faster tempo, the result could be another relatively high turnover game. In fact, that’s pretty much what I think will happen. UNLV goes OVER, but scores efficiently enough to win.
Prediction: UNLV 78, Nevada-Reno 68
Player of the Game: Anthony Marshall — 10 points, eight assists, five rebounds
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