Runnin’ Rebels (2-4)  |  SMU Mustangs (4-0)


Hoops preview: unlv vs smu


Head coach TJ Otzelberger and his team will have to bounce back from their home game loss Wednesday night against Texas State and prepare for SMU.

This will serve as UNLV‘s third game for the Southwestern Showdown, a multiple team event played in a round-robin format. The event has the Runnin’ Rebels playing four home games in a span of eight days. However, this game also serves as the front end of a home-and-home series UNLV agreed to do with SMU, as they will play against each other in Dallas next season.

The Mustangs are coached by Tim Jankovich, who is entering his fourth season as head coach after serving as associate head coach for the prior four seasons. In his time being the head coach, SMU made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament once, in 2017. In that season, they won the American Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships.

Heading into Saturday nights game, the Mustangs are 4-0 with victories over Jacksonville State, New Orleans, Jackson State, and Evansville. Junior guard Tyson Jolly currently leads the team in scoring with 18.3 points per game. His season-high was 21 points, along with 8 rebounds and 3 assists, in their season opener against Jacksonville State.

The Runnin’ Rebels are led by junior guard and team captain Amauri Hardy, who is averaging 18.8 points and 3 assists per game. Reigning Pac-12 Conference Sixth Man of the Year Donnie Tillman is behind him with 12.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The last few games have consisted of the two of them, Elijah Mitrou-Long, and Bryce Hamilton being the consistent scorers for UNLV. They were the only four players to score on the team in their road loss against UCLA.

Otzelberger and his staff must continue to work at getting more players to produce, like when all eight players who played were able to score in their home win over Abilene Christian. The past two games have also seen Otzelberger make some changes to the rotation. Senior forward Vitaliy Shibel has seen an increase in minutes, taking over as backup center instead of Cheickna Dembele.

Although it was due to the left-hand injury of Jonah Antonio, senior forward Nick Blair has moved into the starting lineup. With Antonio out of the rotation, that opened a spot for sophomore guard Marvin Coleman to get some minutes also. At the time of this post, the status of Antonio is still uncertain for the game against SMU.

In order for UNLV to be successful and win games, they must improve everything and increase their intensity in the second half. I cannot stress that enough. They allowed Abilene Christian to come back into the game and tie things up with 10 minutes left. Fortunately, the Rebels were able to take back control of the game and win by double digits. However, they were not as fortunate in the game against Texas State. Not only did they tie things up, but they actually took the lead with 10 minutes left and never looked back. Texas State looked like the more composed and balanced team and left Las Vegas with the upset victory.

UNLV will have to make those adjustments and prepare for even greater competition in the Mustangs.

The Runnin’ Rebels game against SMU is on Saturday, Nov. 23 at 7:30 pm, inside the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be streamed live on Facebook via Stadium. It can also be heard live on ESPN Radio 1100 in Las Vegas and on the UNLV Gameday app via TuneIn online.

Isaiah Torres

Twitter: @Isaiah_Torres24


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