(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
The 4-1 UNLV Runnin’ Rebels come to Tempe on Wednesday to take on the 4-2 Sun Devils. ASU is coming off of a bounce-back win defeating Colgate 78-71 after two consecutive losses in the CBE Classic. Junior guard Gerry Blakes led the way for the Sun Devils with 23 points and eight rebounds. Despite the offensive contributions all across the board, ASU let up 71 points 50 percent shooting, something we aren’t very used to seeing at this point in the season.
UNLV’s last game was November 29 versus the Albany Great Danes and the Rebels won that game 75-59. Freshman Rashad Vaughn led the way for UNLV with 29 points, followed by sophomore forward Christian Wood with 19 points and 10 rebounds.
Keys to the Game
– Contain Vaughn and Wood
Other than these two explosive scorers, the Rebels don’t have many options offensively. Vaughn and Wood average 31 of the teams 62 points per game, and the next highest scorer is senior guard Cody Doolin who averages 6.6 points per game. In terms of match-ups, expect to see Gerry Blakes – normally assigned to guard the opposing team’s best perimeter player – to be guarding Vaughn for most of the game. For Wood, Eric Jacobsen will most likely exert his energy on the defensive end keeping him in check. Wood is averaging not only 13.6 points per game, but also just over 10 rebounds per game, so this will be easily the toughest matchup of the year so for for the junior center.
– Be aggressive, but be smart
The Rebels are second in the nation averaging 8.4 blocks per game as a team, so guys like Blakes, senior forward Shaquielle McKissic, and even Eric Jacobsen are going have to be smart with their shot selection when attacking the basket. The last thing the Sun Devils want is to be intimidated early on and settle for jump shots for the rest of the game.
The Sun Devils have to establish themselves on the glass early in order to stay in this game. They are 262nd in the nation in rebounding pulling in 32.7 per game, while UNLV is 21st in the country only allowing 29 rebounds per game. This means guys like Shaq McKissic and Willie Atwood are going to have to use their athleticism and physique to rebound more than they have this year, and help out Eric Jacobsen when he has his hands full.
These are two teams with opposing defensive specialties, ASU uses their athletic guards to shut down the perimeter, while UNLV uses their height to lock up the interior, but the difference in this game will be offensive efficiency, and ASU has proven to be a more balanced and efficient attack compared to UNLV at this point in the season. If ASU can shoot as well as they have proven to be able to, I think they will walk away with a win, but Jacobsen’s performance on both ends of the floor will be the X-factor.