Preview: UNLV vs. No.14 Wisconsin

No.14 Wisconsin got back on the winning track with a victory over Green Bay Wednesday, but the Badgers will have a big test against an up-tempo Runnin' Rebels offense Saturday, the same type of offense that North Carolina and Marquette used to beat UW last week.

UNLV (9-1, 0-0 Mountain West) vs. No.14 Wisconsin (7-2, 0-0 Big Ten)

Date/Time - Saturday, December 10, 1 p.m. Central

Arena – Kohl Center (17,230)

Television - Big Ten Network (Gus Johnson and Jimmy Jackson)

Radio - Wisconsin Radio Network (Matt Lepay and Mike Lucas)

Series – UNLV leads 4-1 (UW leads 1-0 in Madison)

Last Meeting – UNLV won, 68-65, on November 20, 2010 in Las Vegas

Wisconsin Probable Starters

5 Ryan Evans (Junior Forward, 9.9 ppg)

11 Jordan Taylor (Senior Guard, 12.4 ppg)

21 Josh Gasser (Sophomore Guard, 7.9 ppg)

31 Mike Bruesewitz (Junior Forward, 6.3 ppg)

40 Jared Berggren (Junior Forward, 12.1 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Ben Brust (Sophomore Guard, 11.2 ppg)

12 Traevon Jackson (Freshman Guard, 1.4 ppg)

33 Rob Wilson (Senior Guard, 3.0 ppg)

44 Frank Kaminsky (Freshman Forward, 3.4 ppg)

UNLV Probable Starters

00 Oscar Bellfield (Senior Guard, 11.6 ppg)

3 Anthony Marshall (Junior Guard, 9.6 ppg)

12 Brice Massamba (Senior Center, 6.4 ppg)

22 Chace Stanback (Senior Forward, 15.1 ppg)

43 Mike Moser (Sophomore Forward, 15.8 ppg)

Off the Bench

1 Quintrell Thomas (Junior Forward, 3.9 ppg)

2 Kendall Wallace (Senior Guard, 4.4 ppg)

11 Carlos Lopez (Sophomore Forward, 7.2 ppg)

31 Justin Hawkins (Junior Guard, 11.2 ppg)

Last Time Out

After shooting less than 40 percent for five straight halves, including the first half against Green Bay, No.14 Wisconsin turned up the offense with a 57.7 shooting performance after halftime and kept the screws locked down defensively to get back on the winning track with a 70-42 over the Phoenix in front of 17,076 at the Kohl Center, a number that ended a streak of 143 straight home sellouts.

Wisconsin (7-2) shot 36.4 percent in the first half and shot 3-for-17 (17.6 percent) from 3-point range the entire game, but built a 12-point edge by getting 14 points from a bench that barely got a chance to sit down. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan made four substitutions in the first 4:26, including hooking Ryan Evans just 37 seconds into the game.

The unit certainly picked up some slack by holding Green Bay (4-5) to 29.6 percent shooting, including eight straight misses during a 19-6 run to open a 31-17 lead.

When Evans started the second half, consider him a man determined. Along with Berggren, the duo went on an 8-0 run to open a 41-21 lead than the Phoenix chipped fewer than 20 only twice the rest of the game.

Although getting outrebounded for the third straight game (Green Bay held a 37-36 edge on the glass), Evans and Berggren filled the stat sheet. Evans scores 14 points – going 5-of-8 from the floor and 4-of-5 from the free throw line – and had six rebounds while Berggren scored 13 points, had a career-high four steals and tied a career high with three blocks.

He was also part of the committee that held Phoenix leading scorer Alec Brown to 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, one year after he scored 18 in the Kohl Center.

Taylor led all scorers with 15 points and finished with a career-high 10 assists, his second-career double-double, and no turnovers, increasing his season assist-to-turnover ratio to 51-to-12.

Last Meeting

Chace Stanback scored 17 of his 25 points in the second half to lead UNLV to a 68-65 victory over No.25 Wisconsin.

Justin Hawkins' steal of a Badgers' inbounds pass with 6 seconds left allowed the Rebels to hold on to a 66-65 lead. Hawkins was fouled on the play and made two free throws for the final margin. Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz tried to bounce a pass to Leuer, but Hawkins switched on a screen and beat Leuer to the ball ... After a foul and timeout, Hawkins made both free throws for his only points of the game

Stanback's jumper gave UNLV a 66-65 lead with 51 seconds left. Oscar Bellfield added 18 points for the Rebels (3-0).

Jordan Taylor led the Badgers (2-1) with 19 points, 16 coming in the first half. Ryan Evans scored 11 and Jon Leuer, who was averaging 23 points through two games, shot 3-for-11 and finished with 10 points scored 10 for Wisconsin, which held a 37-29 rebounding edge.

Series Notes:

Wisconsin and UNLV matched up in the second round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament when the Rebels pulled off a 74-68 upset.

UW played at UNLV in Bo Ryan's first game as head coach of the Badgers, with UNLV claiming a 74-69 win on Nov. 17, 2001. Current UNLV head coach Dave Rice was an assistant at UNLV when the Badgers and Rebels split games in 2001 and 2002.

The Badgers are 5-5 all-time vs. teams in the Mountain West Conference.

The Runnin' Rebels are 15-9 all-time against teams that are currently in the Big Ten Conference.

Wisconsin Notes

The Badgers are off to a suffocating start on the defensive end, allowing opponents a nation's-low 44.2 points per game. UW is also tied for second in the nation in opposing field goal shooting, limiting foes to just 32.9 percent.

The Badgers have held 6 of 9 opponents below 45 points this season. Only 3 teams over the past 8 seasons have held more than 6 teams below 45 points in a season.

Head coach Bo Ryan is one victory away from reaching 250 in his 11-year Wisconsin career (249-93). With a win over UNLV, Ryan would become the 3rd-fastest coach in Big Ten history to reach 250 wins. Only Indiana's Bob Knight and Purdue's Ward Lambert would have done it faster.

Wisconsin has led the nation in fewest turnovers per game in each of the last two seasons and has its sights set on a three-peat. For the 3rd year in a row, UW leads the nation, turning the ball over just 8.3 times per game.

UNLV Notes:

The 2011-12 season marks the first for UNLV head coach Dave Rice ... In April, Rice returned to UNLV where he was part of the 1990 National Championship team as a player, was a Rhodes Scholar candidate while earning his bachelor's degree in political science (UNLV '91), earned his master's of business administration (UNLV '93) and served as a Runnin' Rebel assistant coach for 11 seasons (1991-92 & 1994-2004).

Moser is averaging a double-double, leads the country in rebounding with 12.5 rpg and was named the Mountain West Player of the Week on Monday, Nov. 21 and Monday, Nov. 28 (back-to-back weeks), and was also selected as ESPN.com's National Player of the Week on Nov. 28.

UNLV's last road game vs. a ranked nonconference team was last year at then-No. 11 Kansas State at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. The Runnin' Rebels won that game 63-59 on Dec. 21, 2010. Before that was at then-No. 24 Louisville, a 77-69 loss on Dec. 11, 2010. The last time UNLV played a road game against a nonconference team ranked as high as No. 14/16 Wisconsin on its normal home floor was on Dec. 13, 2003 at then-No. 13 Stanford - an 86-71 UNLV loss. UNLV's last win over a nonconference team ranked as high as No. 14/16 Wisconsin on its normal home floor was on Feb. 10, 1991, at then-No. 2 Arkansas (112-105).

The Runnin' Rebels are in the midst of their annual "Rodeo Road Trip," as the Thomas & Mack Center is playing host to the National Finals Rodeo. During the period that the rodeo is occupying the TMC, UNLV has road games at UC Santa Barbara, at Wichita State, a game at Orleans Arena against Cal State San Marcos and a road game at No. 14/16 Wisconsin. UNLV will be back at the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 14 against UTEP.

UNLV's non-conference schedule is considered the most difficult in the Mountain West. ESPN.com rated it a 9 (on a scale of 10) in schedule strength.

Prediction

Call me crazy, but this might be Wisconsin's toughest test against a non-ranked opponent all season. Consider the facts before you brush me off.

UNLV can shoot - making 12-of-23 3-pointers against Morgan State on Nov. 20 and a season-high 13 3-pointers against then-No. 1 North Carolina. The Runnin' Rebels also made double-digit 3-pointers against Canisius (11) at UC Santa Barbara (10). UNLV has scored 90 points twice and is 13th in the country averaging 83 points per game.

UNLV can rebound - Moser is averaging a double-double and leads the country in rebounding with 12.5 rpg, as stated above, and the Rebels are 33rd in the country in rebounding (40 per game).

UNLV is unselfish with the basketball, especially in transition. The Runnin' Rebels are third in the nation in assists per game at 19.6 and has recorded assists on 68 percent of its field goals.

Lastly, UNLV is experienced – returning seven players from last season that averaged 11 minutes or more per game, returning 76.5 percent of their scoring from last season and 70.9 percent of their rebounding.

If Wisconsin wants to win, it's going to have to do three things. One, stick with its tempo and not get into a track meet. The Badgers haven't done that playing against fast-paced teams North Carolina and Marquette.

Second, keep the points per possession in their favor. Wisconsin is averaging 1.14 points per possession on offense, good enough for 22nd in the NCAA. On the defensive end, the Badgers lead the nation with a simply stifling 0.73 points per possession on the defensive end.

Lastly, Wisconsin has got to make shots. In UNLV's only loss, a road loss to Wichita State, the home team shot 59.3 percent from the floor, hit 12-of-23 3-pointers and had only six turnovers. UNLV shot 47.1 percent and still lost by 19.

The Badgers started to show some life in the second half against Green Bay, so I am going to give them the benefit of playing at home and playing so well at home that they can win by six. However, if they don't shoot well and can't close the rebounding gap that has plagued them the last three games, UW can and will lose another one at home.

Worgull's Record: 8-1

Points off Prediction: 104 (11.6 per game)


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