UNLV (3-4) at Southern Utah (1-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 14, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Centrum (5,300) -- Cedar City, Utah. Television: None. Home Record: UNLV 3-3, SUU 1-1. Away Record: UNLV 0-1, SUU 0-4. Neutral Record: UNLV 0-0, SUU 0-0. Conference Record: UNLV 0-0, SUU 0-0. Series Record: UNLV leads, 20-0.
GAME NOTES: Hoping to finally break through in the series with a first-ever win, the Southern Utah Thunderbirds entertain the Runnin' Rebels of UNLV at the Centrum.
The Thunderbirds, members of the Big Sky Conference, have come up empty in 20 all-time meetings with UNLV, are a mere 1-5 to kick off the 2013-14 campaign. The good news for Southern Utah is that one victory did come at home in Cedar City, the bad being that it was against Arizona Christian (85-78), a team that falls below the Division I level.
Since that single triumph, SUU has failed in five straight outings, the latest coming 11 days ago versus Cal State Northridge on the road, 84-57. In all five defeats, the T'birds have been held below 60 points.
As for the Rebels, they've been tripped up in three of their last four contests and are now just 3-4. Winless in their only road game to this point, the Rebels finally left the Thomas & Mack Center after a six-game homestand last weekend in order to be sent packing by then second-ranked Arizona, 63-58, in Tucson.
UNLV stunned more than a few people when it shot a sizzling 64.0 percent from the field in the first half of the meeting against the Wildcats, hitting 4- of-6 shots from behind the 3-point line and a perfect 6-of-6 at the free-throw line, but then the team fell apart in the final 20 minutes of action. After intermission, the Rebels converted just 7-of-25 (.280) from the field, missed all eight chances out on the perimeter and connected on 2-of-4 at the charity stripe, en route to the loss.
In a game that featured five ties and 18 lead changes, Bryce Dejean-Jones tallied a team-best 16 points off the bench, followed by Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Birch also accounted for 10 rebounds, but still the program was pounded on the glass, 41-29.
Dejean-Jones, a starter in five of the six games in which he has appeared, has led the team in scoring in each of the last two outings and is atop the list overall with his 13.3 ppg. A mere 37.2 percent shooter from the floor, Dejean- Jones has handed out a team-best 21 assists, requiring him to be on the court as much as possible. Roscoe Smith (12.3 ppg), Kevin Olekaibe (11.7 ppg) and Birch (11.1 ppg) have also contributed on offense, with Smith and Birch averaging double-doubles with 14.7 and 10.1 rpg, respectively.
Yet again the SUU offense struggled as it matched up against Cal State Northridge the last time out, shooting only 36.4 percent from the field, which included a disappointing 4-of-17 behind the 3-point line. Trey Kennedy had a decent outing with 17 points, followed by Casey Oliverson with 10 and eight boards, but after those two combined to shoot 11-of-19 from the field, the rest of the Thunderbirds accounted for a mere 9-of-36 showing.
As it stands, Kennedy is the only double-digit scorer on the roster with his 12.3 ppg which makes sense since he is the only one to have started every game as well. Kennedy is also first on the unit with 16 assists, but still SUU is averaging just a shade over 10 dishes per contest, compared to 16 per game for the competition. As a group, the T'birds are producing 60.3 ppg on a mere 36.2 percent shooting from the floor.
While the start of the campaign has been less than perfect for the Runnin' Rebels, this might be the right time for them to get back on track and gain some measure of confidence on the road versus an opponent that is lacking in offensive firepower.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 81, Southern Utah 61
12/14 10:36:18 ET