Live blog: Three keys for UNLV basketball vs. Boise State

Posted Thursday, 27 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

UNLV is still riding high after a big win over previously undefeated San Diego State on Saturday, and the Rebels hope the momentum will carry over to tonight when they face off against Boise State in a key late-season Mountain West battle. Can UNLV extend its winning streak to four games? Three keys to watch: Watch the fouls Rebels fans, please have mercy on me: the refs are not out to get you. Yes, the officials have whistled a lot of fouls on UNLV this season, but that is because UNLV commits a lot of fouls. It’s part of the team’s defensive strategy — be aggressive, don’t give up easy baskets — and it’s one reason why they’ve been able to rebound well and compete defensively despite playing smaller than all of their opponents. Boise State is a team that can exploit that mindset, however. The Broncos are top-50 in the country in terms of free-throw attempts, mostly due to the forward duo of Derrick Alston and Roderick Williams, who combine for more than 10 attempts per game. In the first meeting between these teams, Boise shot 31 free throws (to UNLV’s 19) in a 73-66 win. UNLV will probably get called for its fair share of fouls again tonight, but a key will be to limit the cheap ones. If the Rebels can avoid touch fouls, offensive fouls and other unnecessary contact while still playing physical defense, they might be able to at least keep Boise State out of the bonus long enough to mitigate the free-throw disparity. Ride Eli No one has thrived in UNLV’s guard-heavy lineups more than senior Elijah Mitrou-Long, and the Rebels should ride that until the wheels come off. In the last three games, he is averaging 17.3 points off the bench while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from 3-point range. He has played 31.0 minutes during that stretch, and he should get at least that much tonight in a key game for UNLV’s Mountain West tournament seeding. Look for Otzelberger to sub in Mitrou-Long at the first opportunity, especially in the second half. Defend Jessup Boise State isn’t as good from 3-point range as some other Broncos teams in recent years, but senior guard Justinian Jessup is the real deal. The lefty is making 39.7 percent from 3-point range, and in the first matchup with UNLV he knocked down 5-of-6 from distance (the Rebels made only six triples as a team). No matter who draws the primary defensive matchup on Jessup, the priority will be to eliminate any open 3-point shots. The Rebels did a pretty good job against another high-volume 3-point shooter on Saturday as they forced San Diego State’s Malachi Flynn into a 4-of-13 performance from beyond the arc, so Jessup shouldn't be unstoppable. TV: CBS Sports Network, 8 p.m. UNLV: 15-14, 10-6 MWC (KenPom No. 103) Coach: T.J. Otzelberger Leading scorer: Bryce Hamilton, 15.5 points per game Leading rebounder: Mbacke Diong, 8.1 rebounds per game Leading assists: Elijah Mitrou-Long, 3.3 assists per game San Diego State: 19-10, 11-6 MWC (KenPom No. 79) Coach: Leon Rice Leading scorer: Derrick Alston, 17.8 points per game Leading rebounder: Roderick Williams, 8.4 rebounds per game Leading assists: Derrick Alston, 3.1 assists per game Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at twitter.com/mikegrimala.

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