unlv basketball:

UNLV eager to get on the court for big game against San Diego State

Aztecs’ Jamaal Franklin presents matchup problems, but key is for Rebels to play their style and use the raucous home crowd

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall drives in for a dunk on Colorado State during their Mountain West Conference game Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 82-63.

Each second brings the Rebels one closer to their chance at redemption. One closer to payback.

It can’t come soon enough.

“It’s been a real long week,” sophomore forward Mike Moser said. “I’ve been ready to play since Monday.

“We’ve been waiting for it since we lost (to them).”

Saturday afternoon at 1, No. 14 UNLV (21-4, 5-2) plays host to No. 13 San Diego State (20-3, 6-1) at the sold-out Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network (Ch. 38).

Neither team has played a game since last Saturday, when the Aztecs outpaced TCU 83-73 and the Rebels fell 68-66 at Wyoming. UNLV coach Dave Rice said his team was tired after that game and has benefitted from the week off. But the players sound like that road loss to the Cowboys only made them want to attack the Aztecs even sooner.

“There has been a lot of build up since Jan. 14,” junior guard Anthony Marshalll said.

That’s when UNLV opened the conference season with a last-second 69-67 loss in San Diego. It was the Rebels’ sixth consecutive loss to the Aztecs and ninth in their last 10 meetings. The last four meetings have each been decided by four points or less.

“We’ve played Vegas close game after close game after close game,” Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said. “Every game, home or away, has been very aggressive by both teams. … Obviously, the magnitude of this game right now for both teams is big. It’s high level.”

The most recent matchup is still a vivid nightmare for the Rebels.

“Did not like the pace, didn’t like our shot selection, didn’t like our spacing, didn’t like a lot of things,” Rice said. “To me, it was the worst offensive half we’ve played in the regular season.”

He’s referring to the first half, in which UNLV shot 28.6 percent from the floor, 26.7 behind the3-point line, and was lucky to only trail by five at halftime.

The Rebels improved in the second half, but on the deciding possession, Moser and senior guard Oscar Bellfield failed to make the correct defensive switch and San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin hit an off-balance layup with 0.3 seconds left for the victory.

Click to enlarge photo

UNLV's Oscar Bellfield, left, Mike Moser and Brice Massamba (not seen) guard San Diego State guard Jamaal Franklin as he takes a last second shot to win the game Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. San Diego State won the Mountain West Conference opener 69-67.

Tale of the Tape

SDSU's Jamaal Franklin

Sophomore guard

6-foot-5, 195 pounds

MW Player of the Week: 2 (1/16, 2/6)

Double-doubles: 7

Overall: 16 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 42.1 fg, 30.5 3fg

MW: 18 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 46 fg, 29.4 3fg

UNLV's Mike Moser

Sophomore forward

6-foot-8, 210 pounds

MW Player of the Week: 3 (11/21, 11/28, 1/30)

Double-doubles: 13

Overall: 14.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 47.2 fg, 33.7 3fg

MW: 15.4 ppg, 12.6 rpg, 44.9 fg, 33 3fg

UNLV has since made defensive stops at the end of games — at Boise State and at Air Force — but the Rebels still have to prove they can stop Franklin, who’s leading all Mountain West scorers in conference games with 18 points per game. He also ranks second in rebounds (9.3 per game) behind Moser.

Franklin recorded 24 points and 10 rebounds in the first matchup. The Rebels’ challenge in containing him is a familiar refrain to UNLV’s opponents this season.

“It’s the same difficulty that people have with Mike Moser,” Rice said. “He’s a perimeter guy who’s playing the four-spot.”

UNLV assistant coach Justin Hutson, who recruited Franklin to San Diego State while he was an assistant there, said teams aren’t accustomed to dealing players of that size who can handle the ball.

“They get the defensive rebound and bring it in transition, which is hard to deal with,” Hutson said.

Moser (6-foot-8, 210 pounds) averages slightly more minutes per game and has attempted 17 more total shots than Franklin (6-foot-5, 195 pounds), who has attempted 13 more 3-pointers than his counterpart.

Whichever player is the aggressor during their battles Saturday may be one of the deciding factors in the game, but those moments will also be fleeting. UNLV’s defensive switches don’t allow for prolonged one-on-one play, which means that Bellfield, Marshall and senior small forward Chace Stanback have to be just as ready as Moser is to shut down Franklin.

They also have to know the “sweet spots,” as Marshall put it, of San Diego State’s Chase Tapley (15.9 points per game), Xavier Thames (10.4) and James Rahon (9.8).

Of course, executing that game plan at home is much easier than on the road.

With the crowd behind them, UNLV swarms opponents and uses its defense to jump start its offense.

This season at the Mack, the Rebels are shooting better than 50 percent from the field. The difference is particularly noticeable in Stanback, who shot 7-for-33 in three road games against the Aztecs and 18-for-37 at home.

San Diego State is no doubt the toughest home game for UNLV this season, but it’s still about running the same style that has led to a 13-0 home record.

“UNLV is always a tough place to play,” Franklin said. “They run crazy at their (place). We’re in for a game, so we just have to prepare ourselves and be ready to play on Saturday.”

San Diego State has dominated this series recently by making all of the necessary plays down the stretch. UNLV failed to do that on Jan. 14, just as it did last weekend at Wyoming.

But after its previous losses this season, UNLV has come out firing.

“One of the things we’ve talked about as a program is the importance of bouncing back after a loss and winning the next game,” Rice said, “and doing whatever it takes to do that.”

That’s just as true coming off a loss in the series. The Rebels feel like they’re a different team. They’re ready.

And they can’t wait to prove it.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. The Rebs better come out attacking and don't let up or it could be 7 in a row. SDSU is a well coached team and the crowd won't be a factor. The Rebels percentage jump shots will determine who wins....

  2. UNLV's road woes are correctible. Coach Rice's faster tempo is great to watch but a few minor corrections can lessen the risk of road upsets by inferior teams like Air Force, Boise, TCU and Wyoming. You live by the jump shot, you die by the jump shot. Take fewer 3s on the road. Have a player make a quick cut and if he gets open, feed him for a closer shot or possible layup. If the cutter draws defensive help, someone else should be open. Chace can't disappear in road games. The coaching staff should run some plays for Chace on the road and get him moving so he doesn't stand in the corner and just launch 3s. Chace has a smooth mid-range jumper and needs to use it more. He is too easy to defend when he just stands in the corner. Against smaller but good shooting teams like SDSU and CSU, UNLV needs to go inside before putting up jump shots. A few made close shots will boost any player's confidence and make 3s easier. A made 2 is worth more points than a missed 3.

  3. I don't understand how Aztecs are winning with the mot discombobulated offense they run. All offense runs through jamaal and he has a terrible, unorthodox style to his shooting. Everyone plays individually I think more than collectively. We can't leave shooters open to begin with. Transition game will be unstoppable...once we get out, I think rebels will just bash them in. The crowd, the student section and the atmosphere of this place will be unreal.

  4. "the crowd won't be a factor"

    Do you follow college basketball at all? Or are you just here to post your typical anti-UNLV sentiments?