PG: Xavier Thames (6-3, 190, Jr.) vs. Kendall Marshall (6-3, 200, Sr.)
I would be surprised if James Rahon doesn't earn the start over Thames but it's the junior who will need to be out there to get the W. He showed positive flashes against Colorado State. There was also some negative moments such as the air ball three from the corner and landing hard on his back that made him get up extremely slow. While Williams absolutely destroyed SDSU in the pick and roll, leading to 20 points and 5 assists including 8 rebounds. Aztecs will need to cut off the head of the UNLV snake.
SG: Chase Tapley (6-5, 205, Sr.) vs. Katin Reinhardt (6-5, 210, Fr.)
It's the four-year star against the highly touted freshman. The veteran from San Diego State has been dealing with a sprained right wrist that has affected his shooting in four straight games. He's been able to keep his imprint on the game with his unselfishness and passing. He also fell hard on that shooting wrist against Colorado State on Wednesday so it's something to keep an eye on. Reinhardt hasn't been scoring the ball too well this season, only connecting on 37.3% of his shots. He's played well of late with back-to-back 15+ point outings. But in a pressure filled game it's quite obvious who has the upper hand.
Advantage: San Diego State
SF: Jamaal Franklin (6-5, 205, Jr.) vs. Mike Moser (6-8, 221, Jr.)
This spot in the UNLV rotation has seen numerous guys fill it the past few weeks: Moser, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Justin Hawkins and Quintrell Thomas. Moser matches up the best with Franklin so hard to imagine him sitting for long periods at a time. He had 9 points and 7 rebounds against SDSU earlier this year. While the Aztecs have Mountain West Player of the Year in Franklin. He's been struggling from field, as he hasn't shot above 44% in 12 straight games. That being said he has scored in double figures in every game this season except the loss to Arizona. Franklin had 27 points vs. the Rebels in the first outing, second highest total this season, but it took him 21 shots to get it. He needs to be more efficient come Saturday.
Advantage: San Diego State
PF: J.J. O'Brien (6-7, 225, So.) vs. Anthony Bennett (6-8, 240, Fr.)
No one has received more compliments the past few weeks than O'Brien, due to his recent play, averaging 10 PPG in the past six games. He's been called the ultimate team player, Mr. Do-it-all and someone you want your daughter marry. But it was the game against the Rebels that he missed numerous buckets around the rim that cost SDSU the home loss. He'll have his shot to redeem himself A.T. Thomas and Mack. Bennett did some damage to SDSU early on but for some reason didn't see the floor for long stretches at a time. He finished with 9 points in only 20 minutes. Rice needs to ride him this game because Fisher has no to guard him.
C: Deshawn Stephens (6-8, 225, Sr.) vs. Khem Birch (6-9, 220, So.)
Stephens is only averaging 6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 22 minutes per game. He was non-effective against the Rebels last go around, got injured but played 18 minutes. He had a single point with 4 boards. It was a different story for Birch who cleaned up with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 5 blocks. Most importantly some huge offensive boards in the final minutes to give UNLV the victory.
Bench: The Rebels run nine deep with versatile guys such as Dejean-Jones, Hawkins, Thomas and Daquan Cook. Rice isn't afraid to use his guys and are battled tested. SDSU on the other hand has James Rahon and freshmen Skylar Spencer and Winston Shepard. The young guys looked like babies against CSU and the environment at UNLV will be much more hostile.
Coaching: Steve Fisher vs. Dave Rice
Both teams came into the season with sky-high expectations. Simply put they are underperforming. Rice is feeling the heat with his squad dropping three of four. It's not only they are losing but it's how and to whom. Losses to Fresno State and Air Force were both embarrassing. UNLV has one road conference win this season, to SDSU, and found a lot of success that the Aztecs couldn't adjust to. Fisher must find a way to slow down the Rebels in the pick and roll, and keep them off the offensive glass. Fisher's track record has shown he'll have his team more prepared for this matchup.
Advantage: San Diego State
Prediction: It's so hard to predict these teams on a night-to-night basis. The Aztecs have been dealing with so many injuries, so you aren't sure who is even playing or earning minutes until the game is played. On the other hand, you have UNLV who is by far the most talented team in the MWC but have been so inconsistent in every aspect. Both squads need this victory to not only stay in conference title contention but to stay in the NCAA tournament field. It's not easy to sweep a season series and the Rebels are playing poorly so the Aztecs are getting them at the right time for that statement road win.
San Diego State 74 UNLV 67
Game Day Breakdown: SDSU at UNLV
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