Air Force (7-5) at UNLV (10-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 4, 10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thomas & Mack Center (18,500) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: COX96-LV. Home Record: Air Force 6-3, UNLV 6-3. Away Record: Air Force 0-1, UNLV 2-1. Neutral Record: Air Force 1-1, UNLV 2-0. Conference Record: Air Force 1-0, UNLV 1-0. Series Record: UNLV leads, 30-9.
GAME NOTES: The UNLV Runnin' Rebels try to extend their win streak to eight in a row tonight, as they tangle with the Air Force Falcons in Mountain West Conference action at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Since losing to nationally-ranked Arizona the first week of December, the Runnin' Rebels have won seven straight games by double digits and opened the conference slate on Wednesday night with a 75-62 triumph over Fresno State on the road at the Save Mart Center. UNLV went into the meeting having lost two straight to the Bulldogs.
The Falcons also lifted the lid on their conference schedule three nights ago with a narrow 73-762 victory against Utah State at home. The win was the fourth in five games for a team that is 6-3 at Clune Arena but are 0-1 in true road games thus far in 2013-14. Dating back to last season, Air Force has won eight of the last nine conference home games.
During the 2012-13 regular season the teams split their two meetings, with each winning at home. However, in the quarterfinal round of the 2013 MWC Tournament at the Thomas & Mack Center the hosts cruised to a 72-56 victory, and are now ahead in the all-time series by a count of 30-9.
A Tre' Coggins free throw with 53 seconds to play in regulation proved to be the difference for the Falcons on Wednesday as they slipped by Utah State by a single point at home. Air Force outscored the Aggies at the charity stripe, 19-8, and shot 51.1 percent from the floor overall as Max Yon and Marek Olesinski carried the squad with 21 points apiece. Coggins contributed 14 points and Kamryn Williams pulled down 11 rebounds as the team won the battle of the boards, 30-26.
A starter in all but one game for the Falcons, Coggins leads the way in scoring with his 16.4 ppg, shooting an impressive 42.4 percent behind the 3- point line and 82.2 percent at the charity stripe. Yon checks in with 13.6 ppg and is first with 38 assists, followed by Olesinski with 13.2 ppg. Between the threesome, they've accounted for 66 made 3-pointers, the rest of the team just 28 triples over 12 games.
The Runnin' Rebels were downright awful out on the perimeter three nights ago when they clashed with Fresno State, converting just 1-of-16 shots behind the 3-point line, and yet the visitors still came away with the double-digit victory. Except for Kendall Smith his shot only 1-of-7 from the floor and finished with two points, every starter landed in double figures beginning with Bryce Dejean-Jones with 24 points. Khem Birch put together a double- double with 14 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, as did Roscoe Smith with 13 points and 12 boards. Kevin Olekaibe dropped in 13 points against his former team as well.
Scoring 75.4 ppg at the moment, the Rebels have four players pouring in double figures on a regular basis, led by Dejean-Jones with his 13.4 ppg to go along with his team-best 44 assists. Roscoe Smith, one of the top rebounders in the entire nation with 13.1 per game, is responsible for another 13.1 ppg, while Birch pitches in with 11.9 ppg, 9.9 rpg and has tallied 52 blocked shots as one of the best nationally in the latter category.
Against an Air Force team that traditionally has trouble matching up along the front line when it comes to height, the Runnin' Rebels could make this a messy meeting given their propensity for massive rebounding advantages.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 77, Air Force 62
01/04 10:37:22 ET