For most Las Vegans, a short trip to San Diego for the weekend represents relaxation and a great break from the intensity of Sin City. For UNLV’s basketball team, this weekend’s short jaunt to the coast means the opposite. With a five-game losing streak on the road at SDSU, the Runnin’ Rebels will be looking to pick up their first win in “America’s Finest City” since 2013.
Riding a hot start to Mountain West play, the Rebels head into the game having won five of six league games as they sit atop the standings alongside in-state rival, UNR, and Fresno State, who lost to Colorado State earlier this afternoon. This afternoon poses a handful of interesting questions for the Rebels, in a game they can’t overlook with Tuesday night’s showdown with UNR looming ahead.
The Rebels (11-7, 5-1 MWC) are fresh off a dominating win over New Mexico Tuesday night. UNLV got 26 points from junior walk-on Nick Blair and beat the Lobos, 74-58, despite recent go-to guy Joel Ntambwe only scoring five points. The gifted freshman did pull down 11 rebounds in the game, while seniors Noah Robotham (11 points, nine assists) and Kris Clyburn (14 points, five rebounds) led from the front for the Rebels.
Sophomore guard Amauri Hardy also played well, despite a poor night shooting (3-of-12 from the field), scoring 10 points while dishing out six assistants and pulling down six rebounds.
Even the fans got into the fun, as one lucky timeout contestant hit a half court shot during a skills competition to win a free car for a year.
— Kevin Fiddler (@KFidds) January 23, 2019
In heading to SDSU, the Rebels haven’t forgotten last year’s drubbing at Viejas Arena. UNLV lost, 94-56. With that said, many of the UNLV players like Ntambwe, Bryce Hamilton and Trey Woodbury were still in high school. Even Blair had to watch from afar last year during his redshirt season.
San Diego State (10-8, 2-3 MWC) has struggled this season, especially as of late. The Aztecs have lost four of their last seven, although they have won their last three games at home. SDSU’s leading scorer, forward Jalen McDaniels, has scored 66 points in his last three home games as well.
With size an issue for the short-handed Rebels, McDaniels could be a handful in the post. UNLV is hoping forward Mbacke Diong (6.3 rpg) can return. The sophomore has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and leads the team in blocks with 1.7 per game, good enough for third in the Mountain West. His paint presence will be a welcome addition once he gets 100 percent healthy for the stretch run.
The game tips off at 5 p.m. and will be televised on CBS Sports Network with Carter Blackburn and Pete Gillen calling the action. Jon Sandler, Robert Smith and Steve Cofield will handle the local radio broadcast on ESPN Radio 1100 AM. The game will also be available online via the UNLV Gameday App.