UNLV Faces Big Test Against Utah

Paul Delos SantosContributor IJanuary 24, 2009

The UNLV Runnin' Rebels have their opportunity to re-establish themselves as the team to beat in the Mountain West when they take on Utah today.

The Runnin' Utes come into the game, ranked 19th in RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com, and have have had plenty of time to prepare for UNLV.

The Rebels, on the other hand, are coming off of an emotional, come-from-behind victory in the Marriott Center against Brigham Young.

The biggest two questions entering this game is — Is Luke Nevill (pictured) tougher than before? and Can UNLV sustain consistency?

Nevill plays to be the biggest factor in all this. He is averaging 17 points per game, and should be able to dominate inside, given his ability.

However, UNLV has defend Nevill well in the past, and has shown this season that they can stop big men when the time calls for it — just ask Jordan Hill and the Louisville frontline.

Rene Rougeau is UNLV's leading rebounder, and basically gave Nevill fits in the last meeting between the two teams. Rougeau outworked Nevill on the glass, paving the way for the Rebel victory.

Nevill, thus far has looked different. He has looked tougher and finally playing to the potential that was bestowed upon him.

If Nevill can dominate and play as well as he has thus far in the year, there is no reason why the Utes can't upset the Rebels on their home floor. It's just a matter of if he can stay out of foul trouble.

As for the Rebels, this game is a good test to see if they can string together back-to-back great performances. The last time UNLV played a game after getting a big win, they almost lost to New Mexico.

If the Rebels play as hard as they did against Brigham Young and contain either Nevill or the other players, then they will win this game.


Utah Keys to the Game

Limit the dribble-drive

Wink Adams, Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield all like to penetrate and either A) Take it to the hole, B) Kick out to Joe Darger or Kendall Wallace or C) Draw the Foul. Stop dribble penetration, it takes away the guard's biggest strengths.


Nevill needs to play his size

Darris Santee is giving up a couple of inches to Nevill. They need to exploit this match up and get him solid touches. Also, Nevill will need to prevent Rougeau from picking up the garbage off of the glass and hustle plays.


Get off early

The Utes will need to get on an early run to take the crowd out of the game. In its two losses on its home court, UNLV's home crowd didn't become much of a factor because for every UNLV shot, came an answer.


UNLV Keys to the Game

Box Out 

UNLV has gotten a lot better on the glass, but it will be put to a heavy test. Height isn't everything, if Santee, Rougeau, Brice Massamba and Darger can get position on the larger player, all the height in the world isn't going to help Nevill.


Attack the Paint 

UNLV has a propensity to jack up 3-pointers. Unless they're hitting, I would suggest UNLV find ways to get to the basket and draw fouls or make layups. If Wink and the crew can drive and draw fouls on Nevill...


Stop the Others 

If Nevill gets his, keep the others from getting theirs. Give Luke his 17 if they have to, allow him to get his 17 points. Just make sure Lawrence Borha, Shawn Green and Tyler Kepkay don't get their averages.



Utah (12-6, 3-1 Mountain West) at UNLV (15-4, 3-2)

WHEN: 1 p.m. PST

WHERE: Tarkanian Court at the Thomas & Mack Center

TV: Versus

KEY MATCH UP: Luke Nevill vs. UNLV's frontline