Utah vs UNLV: Game Preview

The Utes play their last home game of the season against tournament bound UNLV in what could be Jim Boylen's last game at the Hunstman Center...

Facts and Factors

The Utah men's basketball team (13-16, 6-9 MWC) hosts UNLV (22-7, 10-5 MWC) Saturday at the Jon M. Huntsman Center. The game tips off at 2 p.m. and will be televised live on VERSUS. Utah will also celebrate Senior Day as the Utes say goodbye to their lone senior, Jay Watkins.

Utah is looking to bounce back from a 78-65 loss at Colorado State that snapped a three-game win streak. Junior guard Josh "Jiggy" Watkins highlighted the Ute effort, scoring 22 points and dishing out a career-high nine assists.

Utah is led offensively by junior wing Will Clyburn, a Mountain West Conference Newcomer of the Year candidate, who contributes 17.6 points and 8.0 rebounds per game, ranking second and third in the Mountain West Conference, respectively. Josh Watkins is Utah's second-leading scorer overall at 14.5 points per game and tops the squad in assists at 3.4 per game. Additionally, junior center David Foster is blocking 3.1 shots per game and recently became Utah's career blocks record holder in less than three years wearing Crimson and White.

UNLV is paced by senior guard Tre'Von Willis, who averages 13.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Junior guard Oscar Bellfield leads the team in assists with 3.8 per contest.

The Rebels have won their last four straight, including back-to-back road victories at Colorado State and New Mexico, and most recently defeated Wyoming, 90-77. Five Rebels scored double figures led by Chace Stanback's 19. He completed the double-double by pulling down 11 rebounds as well.

In their last meeting, UNLV took a 67-54 victory in Las Vegas. The Rebels were led by Quintrell Thomas' double-double as he scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds. Clyburn recorded his own double-double for the Utes, including a game-high 17 points to go with 12 boards.

Utah trails the all-time series with the Rebels, 23-22, but holds a 13-4 record at the Huntsman Center. Utah is 9-5 at home this year, while the Rebels are 8-3 on the road.

Utah head coach Jim Boylen, now in his fourth year, owns a 69-58 (.543) record. UNLV head coach Lon Kruger holds a 157-70 mark (.692) in his seventh season.

The Game:

It's senior day, although the Utes only have one senior in injured forward Jay Watkins. Could this be Jim Boylen's ‘senior day' as well?

In the first matchup down in Vegas, Utah put up only 54 points, with almost 60 percent of that scoring coming out of Will Clyburn and Jiggy Watkins. They're going to need more balanced scoring with something out of J.J. O'Brien if they want to pull off the upset and head into the MWC Tournament on a positive note.

UNLV is a very athletic team, rivaling New Mexico and SDSU as the most athletic in the conference. Tre'von Willis and Chance Stanback are silky smooth players and the Utes don't have the defensive players or mentality to slow them down.

Prediction:

It's senior day and the last regular game for the Utes, as well as possibly the last time Jim Boylen gets to coach at the Huntsman Center. Strong performance? Doubtful. Too much athleticism and balance from UNLV puts the Utes in a hole early that they can't crawl out of as Stanback and Willis both close in on 20 points and UNLV improves their NCAA seeding.

UNLV 76 Utah 68

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