15/14 San Diego State vs. UNLV
Time: 7:00 p.m. PST
Location: Viejas Arena in San Diego, CA
UNLV (14-3, 1-1)
Head Coach: Dave Rice
UNLV Record: 40-12 / 2nd season
Projected Starting Lineup
*G – Kendall Marshall (Sr.) 6'3, 200
G – Katin Reinhardt (Fr.) 6'5, 210
Freshman from Mater Dei hasn't been scared of big moments or shy about shooting. He needs to be more of a playmaker than forcing his shot. If not we'll see him on the pine. Every possession counts in this one.
*F – Mike Moser (Jr.) 6'8, 221
Moser returned to the starting lineup against Air Force and looked fantastic. The future NBA pro went from one of the preseason favorites to win MW Player of the Year to not even the best player on his own team.
F – Anthony Bennett (Fr.) 6'8, 240
"He leads them in every positive category he could lead them as a freshman, that?s impressive. The one thing that jumped out to me, he?s shot more free throws than Jamaal (Franklin) has. And (Franklin) gets to the free-throw line a lot. So that tells you he?s attacking, he?s not afraid to bang. He likes to step out on occasion and shoot the ball, but he?s a man and he plays that way. He?s immensely talented and in some ways he?s the emotional leader of that team when he?s going well. He?s a handful, he?s been that way for everybody. So we?ll have our hands full."
*F – Khem Birch (So.) 6'9, 220
The bench is shaped by scoring threats Justin Hawkins and Bryce Dejean-Jones with a mix of Carlos Lopez-Sosa. Dejean-Jones, an USC transfer, is one guy who is hit or miss so if he's on he could be major problems for the Aztecs.
#15/14 San Diego State (14-2, 2-0)
Head Coach: Steve Fisher
SDSU Record: 272-162 / 14th season
Projected Starting Lineup
*G – Xavier Thames (Jr.) 6'3, 190
"Xavier is doing pretty good with his back. I say that cautiously with how backs can be, but he practiced yesterday and he practiced more than I wanted him to. I would pull him out, and he said, „I?m fine, let me go a little bit more.? So he didn?t seem any worse because of the game against Colorado State (Saturday). He practiced with his usual intelligence and vigor yesterday, and I haven?t heard anything from our trainer, so I?m assuming he will be fine."
*G – Chase Tapley (Sr.) 6'5, 205
The senior will look to continue his success against the Rebels.
*F – Jamaal Franklin (Jr.) 6'5, 205
Expect Franklin to get some run on Bennett tonight. He will have to be on his "A" to get a win.
F – J.J. O'Brien (So.) 6'7, 225
F – Deshawn Stephens (Sr.) 6'8, 225
No one knows Bennett more than Winston Shepard. The two were teammates last year at Findlay Prep. Fisher did say that Shepard gave some inside info on the top-10 recruit. We'll see if it makes any difference. Skylar Spencer should make an impact on the glass and defensively against Birch. James Rahon will need to be confident when receiving the open look.
(* Returning Starter)
Keys to the Game
1) Rebounding. It was reported earlier this week that UNLV was running bubble drills in practice with a lid covering the rim. If that doesn't show how big of a key it is I'm not sure what is.
2) Value possession of the ball. During the weekly MW teleconference call; Rice stated that turnovers are a difference in any large game. Does not matter if it's road or way.
3) Supporting cast. We know what to expect from Franklin and Shepard but who will offer more offensively in the following matchups: Tapley vs. Reinhardt, Thames vs. Marshall, etc.
What to Watch
San Diego State
"It's just being comfortable," Franklin explained on how different it is to prepare for CSU now with a new coach from last season. "We know what they do, but we've got to watch players and know everything about them because we're not really that familiar with that team because we don't see them playing that much. But I've been around three years, so you just do it from memory."
"I think (UNLV coach) Dave Rice's staff have done a terrific job of being able to put everything together and it's still going on," Fisher said. "Obviously with (Khem) Birch becoming eligible mid-semester and (Mike) Mosher dislocating his elbow. All those things factor in. But the more film I watch, the more impressed I am with the job the coaches have done with this team and how hard they play. They're a hard team to score on. They're good, they're well coached and this will be a hard game."
It hasn't mattered who was the favorite. We've had some terrific games with them, and I think everyone likes that. The players know one another. We recruit at least some of the same kids. I think that lends itself to that kind of rivalry from within. It's been nice. It's been a good, healthy environment between the two teams. There's mutual respect, they want to pound us, we want to pound them, but when the game's over we shake hands, hug and genuinely say, ‘Good game.'"
-San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher on the rivalry.
Aztecs will be in front of the most rocking crowd on the West Coast. While the Rebels are more talented top-to-bottom, SDSU is playing much more as a team. Whoever values each possession, rebounds and gets an all around team effort will win this one. I expect the game to come down to the final possessions and the Aztecs have shown the ability to make shots when they really count. San Diego State doesn't lose when leading with five minutes to play or less. Only tide changer could be a monster performance from freshman Anthony Bennett.
San Diego State 68 UNLV 63
Game Day Breakdown: UNLV at No. 15 SDSU
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