UNLV Forward Khem Birch
The Rebels are limping a bit into this matchup with the Wolf Pack. Two
starters will not be playing Saturday with leading scorer Bryce
Dejean-Jones (13.4ppg) suspended and leading rebounder Roscoe Smith
(11.0rpg) out with a concussion. Birch, a 6-9 junior, is second on the
team in both of those categories so the absence of both Dejean-Jones
and Smith will provide an opportunity for Birch to step up. Averaging
11.7ppg and 9.7rpg, Birch has been one of the best big men in the
conference. His impact is not only felt on the offensive end, but on
the defensive end as the big man is averaging 3.8 blocks per game.
Nevada's guards will need to be aware of Birch's positioning to ensure
they wont get their shot blocked when attacking the rim. With the depth
of UNLV possibly being an issue, getting Birch in foul trouble in the
first half will be key even though he only averages 2.3 fouls per game.
UNLV guard Deville Smith
With Dejean-Jones out, this junior will likely slide into the starting
lineup. In the first matchup against the Wolf Pack, Smith had little
impact on the game only going 1-5 from the field with four points and
three rebounds in 17 minutes. Smith will likely play closer to 30
minutes on Saturday and will need to approach double digits points
which is not out of the question, he is averaging 9.0ppg on the year.
He is a capable shooter but seems to either get hot like his 4-7
shooting night from behind the arc against Utah State earlier in the
year or his 0-6 game against SDSU. Nevada will need to contain Smith
and make someone else beat them from deep. Michael Perez will likely
draw the assignment on Smith, with Jerry Evans Jr. guarding another
Rebel shooter in Kevin Olekaibe.
Nevada seniors Deonte Burton and Jerry
Saturday is senior night. Emotions will be high especially for these
two seniors. Evans has been a starter in 3 of his 4 years on campus and
Burton has started his entire career. Both players have been leaders on
this team, especially this year. Burton is a top five player in Nevada
basketball history. Evans is one of the best on ball defenders since
Kyle Shiloh. Their goal this year, especially with Burton returning
instead of leaving for the NBA, was to make an NCAA tournament
appearance, which they have yet to do. A win Saturday clinches the
third seed in the MWC tournament. This would give them a bye in the
tourney and only require three wins in three days to clinch a
tournament berth. Unlikely but possible. Against UNLV, Burton will need
to attack the rim and go right at the Rebel big men. Burton is best
when attacking the basket in both transition and in the half court.
Evans will need to hit some three pointers and play lock down defense
on UNLV's Olekaibe. I would not be surprised to see Burton and Evans
combine for 40+ points 15+ rebounds and 10+ assists against the Rebels.
If Burton and Evans can do their part on Saturday, Nevada will be hard
to beat on senior night. Ali Fall will also be honored on Saturday.
Nevada 71 UNLV 67
Keegan Bosier can be reach via Twitter. Follow @NVkeegs
Around the Rim: UNLV at Nevada
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