UNLV (18-10) at Air Force (11-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, March 1, 4 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Clune Arena (5,858) -- USAFA, Colorado. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UNLV 11-6, Air Force 7-8. Away Record: UNLV 5-4, Air Force 3-7. Neutral Record: UNLV 2-0, Air Force 1-0. Conference Record: UNLV 5-10, Air Force 9-6. Series Record: UNLV leads, 30-10.
GAME NOTES: Seeking back-to-back wins for the first time in nearly two months, the Air Force Falcons welcome the UNLV Runnin' Rebels to Clune Arena for a Mountain West Conference showdown this afternoon.
Air Force, which has won five of 15 league bouts this season, two of those coming against cellar-dweller San Jose State, is coming off a 55-53 victory on the road earlier this week. The win snapped a two-game slide, but is still just the second triumph since the middle of January which is why the Academy is in ninth place in the MWC.
As for the Runnin' Rebels, they currently sit third in the MWC with a record of 9-6, trailing only San Diego State and New Mexico. With dates against the Aztecs and in-state rival Nevada still remaining on the regular-season schedule, UNLV is shooting for consecutive wins as well after taking down Colorado State at home a few nights ago, 78-70.
The Rebels lead the all-time series by a significant margin, 30-10, but it was Air Force that won the first meeting of the season, on the road at the Thomas & Mack Center no less, by a score of 75-68 in early January. Prior to the setback two months ago, UNLV had won 12 of the last 13 meetings in the series.
The Rebels shot only 40.3 percent from the floor, including 7-of-28 behind the 3-point line, versus Colorado State on Wednesday night, but that was still good enough to get the hosts over the hump and into the win column. Bryce Dejean-Jones led the way with 19 points, followed by Kevin Olekaibe with 15, Deville Smith 12 points and Jelan Kendrick 11 off the bench. Roscoe Smith tallied a mere five points, shooting 1-of-4 from the floor, but still made an impact with a game-high 11 rebounds.
This season UNLV has been relying on a balanced scoring attack on offense and a huge presence by Khem Birch in the paint on defense. Dejean-Jones is responsible for team highs with 13.8 ppg and 78 assists, followed by Birch with 11.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg, not to mention a staggering 104 blocked shots in 28 games to rank among the nation's best (third as of Thursday). Roscoe Smith (11.0 ppg) supplements his scoring efforts with 11.1 rpg which is fifth in the country at the moment.
Tre' Coggins scored a game-high 20 points as the Air Force Falcons held on for the 55-53 win over the Wyoming Cowboys in Mountain West Conference play at Arena Auditorium back on Tuesday night. Also scoring in double figures for the Falcons was Max Yon with 14 points, to go along with six rebounds, but also six turnovers. The Falcons, who survived 15 turnovers, held a 37-29 rebounding advantage and also outscored the hosts at the charity stripe, 16-9.
With the regular season almost wrapped up, the stats are starting to work against the Falcons, particularly in the most important scoring column with the team being beaten by an average of 5.2 ppg by the rest of the MWC. Coggins, who missed several games due to a suspension, remains the top scoring threat with 16.3 ppg, but Yon has proven to be a reliable source as well with his 13.7 ppg, although his mere 29.0 percent accuracy behind the 3-point line should be a concern.
With rebounding again becoming an issue for the Falcons, not to mention a measure of revenge for UNLV, this is a meeting that should be controlled by Birch and Roscoe Smith in the paint and on the scoreboard.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 72, Air Force 63
03/01 11:08:07 ET