On Jan. 16 in San Diego, UNLV beat then-No. 15 SDSU 82-75 to move to 15-3 (2-1) on the season, and Rebels Nation was filled with optimism. That was the big road win the team had been fighting for, and it looked like they had finally turned the corner.
Fast forward a month, and the Rebels are playing with their backs against the wall. They’ve lost every road game since the SDSU triumph and now sit at 5-5 in Mountain West play. An NCAA tournament berth is probable, but by no means guaranteed. A second win over San Diego State on Saturday (6 p.m., NBC Sports) would certainly help the Rebels’ case.
Let’s dive into the Over/Under preview.
Over/Under: 26.5 points in the paint for UNLV
In the last four games (three losses), the Rebels have averaged 25.0 points in the paint, while their opponents have averaged 28.5. For a team with such a vaunted front court, that’s not satisfactory. The Rebels need to re-focus their efforts on getting the ball inside, whether it’s through post-ups, penetration or pick-and-rolls. This would be a good game to fire up that game plan — in the first SDSU game, UNLV tallied 48 points in the paint in an 82-75 win. The Aztecs’ interior defense hasn’t improved much since then, so the OVER is looking pretty good here.
Over/Under: 7.5 minutes for Savon Goodman
The fans have been calling for Goodman ever since his minutes were reduced as Dave Rice attempted to pare down the rotation for MWC play. After seeing the Rebels lack of aggression, energy, and hustle (all things that Goodman brings by the ton) in the Air Force loss , it looks like Rice is ready to see if the freshman can shake up the general malaise surrounding the team. Goodman was spectacular in practice Friday, so I’m taking the OVER.
Over/Under: 5.5 rebounds for Mike Moser
UNLV has had trouble keeping up on the boards recently, but a revitalized Mike Moser could go a long way to helping in that area. In the first meeting between these teams, Moser grabbed seven rebounds in 18 minutes, and the Rebels would kill for that kind of production this time around. He hasn’t been the same since his elbow injury, but Moser looked spry in practice on Friday. After seeing 14 minutes at Air Force, could he be in line for more run against SDSU? I think so. Just a hunch, but give me the OVER.
Over/Under: 6.5 3-pointers for San Diego State
As we know, UNLV is a bad 3-point shooting team. But San Diego State has been even worse this season, hitting just 33.0 percent from beyond the arc as a team. But unlike the Rebels, they do have a couple of bona fide snipers in Chase Tapley (39.7 percent) and Xavier Thames (40.0 percent), and closing out on those two will be critical. The Rebels excel at defending the 3-point line, as they’ve held opponents to 29.2 percent shooting this year (14th nationally), and I expect them to hold SDSU to the UNDER.
Over/Under: 14.5 points for Katin Reinhardt
Reinhardt has scored 16 and 15 points in back-to-back games, but he was held scoreless in the second half at Air Force and came away with a banged up shoulder for his troubles. He said he was feeling good after Friday’s practice, and the Rebels could really use his outside shooting. But Reinhardt’s pattern this season has been a stretch of two or three good games, followed by some off-shooting nights. Welcome to life as a freshman starter in a heavyweight conference. I’ll play the trends by taking the UNDER.
Prediction: UNLV 76, San Diego State 65
Player of the Game: Khem Birch — 10 points 10 rebounds, four blocks
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