Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 | 7:54 a.m.
The last time UNLV played in the Global Sports Classic it wasn’t a pleasant experience for the host.
The Rebels easily won their two games leading into the quasi-tournament —against Texas-Pan American and North Carolina A&T — then got thumped, 73-55, by California. The next day, UNLV came back and lost by two, 67-65, to Cincinnati.
Now, this year’s Rebels, ranked No. 18, are better than that team, but it’s not impossible they could suffer a similar fate.
“There won’t be an easy game,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
The games this year start at 10 a.m. Friday with Northern Arizona vs. Jacksonville State, then North Carolina A&T vs. Campbell at 12:30 p.m. The real show begins at 3:30 p.m., with No. 22 Cincinnati playing Iowa State, and then UNLV hosting Oregon at 6 p.m.
The losers meet at 5 p.m. Saturday while the winners play the championship at 7:30 p.m. UNLV plans to be on the pedestal when it’s all said and done, but to get there, the Rebels will have to go through two quality opponents. Here’s a look at the teams who have come to Las Vegas this weekend from the Pac-12, Big East and Big 12, respectively.
Like every other team in this field, including UNLV, it’s a little difficult to figure the Ducks out because they haven’t played anyone of note. Oregon is 4-0 with one decent victory — 74-48 against Vanderbilt — and every game has been in Eugene.
How well with they travel, particularly to what may be a hostile environment, depends a lot on how many locals and UNLV students stuck around during the holiday break.
The Ducks match up pretty well with the Rebels at each spot, especially in the paint. Big men E.J. Singler (6-foot-6 senior forward), Tony Woods (6-11 senior center) and Waverly Austin (6-11 junior center) each use 24-28 percent of Oregon’s possessions, the most on the team. They have some talented guards, including freshman Dominic Artis, a Findlay Prep alum, but Oregon is always looking to get the ball inside.
And unlike UNLV’s big men, who like to shoot outside, only Singler does that for Oregon. He’s 8-for-20 on 3-pointers. Woods, Austin, Arsalan Kazemi, a 6-7 Rice transfer declared eligible just last week, and Gorman grad Ben Carter do all their work inside.
Sure, the Ducks don’t have a number next to their moniker. When they tip off at 6 p.m. Friday, no one’s going to care.
UNLV is the biggest name in this tournament, but Cincinnati isn’t far behind. That’s because of the Bearcats’ defense.
It’s early and Cincy has only played bottom-100 opponents. But so far, it has a top-10 adjusted defense, including the nation’s best two-point percentage defense and the sixth-best block percentage. The key to that is 6-10 senior center Cheikh Mbodj, who’s averaging 3.5 blocks in about 17 minutes per game.
The Bearcats’ best player is junior wing Sean Kilpatrick, who’s averaging 19.5 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. He’s taken more than a fifth of the team’s total shots and averages 27 minutes per game.
Cashmere Wright, a 6-foot senior guard, is the team’s most efficient offensive weapon, putting up 17 points in just less than 23 minutes per game. There’s also JaQuan Parker (11.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Justin Jackson (8 rpg in 17 mpg) filling up the stat sheet.
The Bearcats and Rebels are expected to meet for the title Saturday night, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise if both ranked teams lost at least once this weekend.
People around the country probably expected a big drop-off from Iowa State after losing Royce White to the NBA. That’s hardly the case as coach Fred Hoiberg has restocked the cupboards with even more transfers (remember, White originally went to Minnesota).
It starts with senior Will Clyburn, a 6-7 guard who started his career at Marshalltown Community College in Iowa before playing one year at Utah. This is his final go-around, and so far he’s making the most of it, averaging a team-leading 15 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. Helping him on the glass is junior forward Melvin Ejim, a talented Canadian who attended the same New Hampshire prep school — Brewster Academy — as former Palo Verde star P’Allen Stinnett and recent top-five NBA pick Thomas Robinson, who went to Kansas and now plays for the Sacramento Kings.
Running the show is Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious, who’s really good when he controls the ball. He has a tendency to commit turnovers in bunches, which is great news for the Rebels.
ISU also gets a lot of production out of community college transfer Tyrus McGee (13.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Penn State transfer Chris Babb (9 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 4.5 apg). While the Cyclones aren’t quite used to playing together, most of the pieces have at least two years of college experience, making them a dangerous opponent for any team.