UNLV vs Pacific
Photo Credit: Terrance Quaites

New Hoops Preview – UNLV vs Pacific


Runnin’ Rebels (4-7, 1-0) | Pacific Tigers (10-3, 0-0)


After not playing for over a week, UNLV returns to action Wednesday night against the Pacific Tigers.

The Runnin’ Rebels have not played since appearing in arguably their worst game of the season, an 83-50 loss to BYU. This also happens to be UNLV‘s first game back inside the Thomas & Mack Center since November 26, when they beat Jackson State 80-57. Pacific is coached by former NBA player Damon Stoudamire. The former University of Arizona great is currently in his fourth season at the helm for the Tigers. 

Stoudamire has his team entering Las Vegas on a five-game winning streak. Much of that can be due to senior guard Jahlil Tripp. The Brooklyn native is currently averaging 13 points per game.

For the Runnin’ Rebels, head coach TJ Otzelberger is still dealing with injuries and depth, as his team is struggling to get back to .500. Junior guard Jonah Antonio is still out after missing the past six games with a left-hand injury. Senior guard and team captain Elijah Mitrou-Long will miss his third straight game with a broken left thumb. They had to rely on senior forward Vitaliy Shibel and sophomore guard Marvin Coleman to step up and play an increased amount of minutes in their absence.

Junior guard and co-team captain Amauri Hardy still leads the team in scoring, averaging 16.9 points per game.

This game kicks off a five-game homestand for UNLV. The first three games will round out their non-conference schedule with games against Robert Morris and Eastern Michigan. They will then have to face off against the reigning conference champs in Utah State on New Year’s Day. The Runnin’ Rebels can possibly get back to .500 if they can win all three non-conference games before the showdown with the conference champions.

If they want to win however, they will have to fix a lot of the issues that led to their blowout loss to BYU. In a game where it seemed like everything went wrong for them, the first thing they will have to do is develop a consistent offensive system. They were held to 50 points, their lowest point total of the season. Otzelberger needs to get back to making sure more players are getting involved and having plays ran for them.

In almost every game, it seems like the offense mostly consists of Hardy dribbling the ball around for about 25 seconds before forcing up a bad shot late in the shot clock. Junior forward Donnie Tillman, sophomore guard Bryce Hamilton, and senior forward Nick Blair all need to consistently make plays on offense and try to score in double figures as well in order for the team to be successful.

Another issue is the aggression and intensity level of junior forward Mbacke Diong. He leads the team in rebounds, averaging 10.2 per game, but it is about what he needs to do after grabbing those offensive rebounds that I am concerned about.

Diong always seems to bring the ball back down, which allows the defenders to contest a putback or steal it from him. As a big man who wants to be dominant, he needs to keep the ball up at the highest point and instantly put it back into the basket. That would be a lot more effective than passing it back out and waiting for his teammates to force up another bad shot. The team would definitely see an increase in point total if he just made that small adjustment.

UNLV will take on Pacific Wednesday night at 7 pm. The game can be heard live on ESPN Radio 1100.


Buy Runnin’ Rebel tickets here

Isaiah Torres

Twitter: Isaiah_Torres24

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