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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 20, 10 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Thomas & Mack Center (18,500) -- Las Vegas, Nevada. Television: None. Home Record: Sacred Heart 0-3, UNLV 4-3. Away Record: Sacred Heart 2-5, UNLV 1-1. Neutral Record: Sacred Heart 0-1, UNLV 0-0. Conference Record: Sacred Heart 0-0, UNLV 0-0. Series Record: UNLV leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The UNLV Runnin' Rebels continue play in the Las Vegas Classic, as they welcome the Sacred Heart Pioneers to town for a Friday night showdown at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Dave Rice's Rebels have won two straight games to move over .500 on the season at 5-4 and opened up tournament play in this event on Wednesday with an 81-62 blasting of Radford. This tournament will shift to the Orleans Center this weekend, where UNLV will play Santa Clara on Sunday.
Anthony Latina's Pioneers have not had much success this season with just two wins against nine losses. The team opened a four-game road swing at Santa Clara on Wednesday and fell to the Broncos 70-61. It marked the third straight loss for Sacred Heart, which will take on Radford in the next leg of this event.
UNLV won the only previous meeting with Sacred Heart, a 103-56 drubbing in 1998 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Evan Kelley poured in 20 points, but it wasn't enough, as Sacred Heart fell to Santa Clara on the road by nine points. Chris Evans added 12 points, while Louis Montes and De'Von Barnett chipped in 10 apiece for the Pioneers, who shot a modest .423 from the floor overall and were abused on the boards, suffering a 41-27 rebounding deficit.
The offensive numbers for Sacred Heart this season are modest at best. The team is netting 73.7 ppg and doing so on .441 shooting. The team has really had problems defensively however, with foes averaging just under 80 points per game, on .486 shooting, while outrebounding the Pioneers by 5.5 caroms per contest. Three of the team's five starters are averaging double figures, led by Kelley's 15.3 ppg. Chris Evans is a close second at 13.8 ppg, followed by Montes and his 11.7 ppg.
UNLV got off to a fast start against Radford, shooting a sizzling 66.7 percent from the floor in the first half and took a 10-point lead into halftime (45-35). Despite cooling off from the floor over the final 20 minutes, the Runnin' Rebels were able to keep increase their lead and win going away. Jelan Kendrick led the way offensively with 18 points for UNLV. Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith continued their dominance in the paint, both recording double- doubles. Birch finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Smith posted 13 point and 12 boards. Christian Wood added 10 points in 12 minutes of work off the bench.
Smith and Birch present a real problem for opposing frontcourts, as they attack the glass each time down the floor. Smith currently leads the team in scoring (12.3 ppg) and the nation in rebounding (13.9 rpg). Birch (11.2 ppg, 9.8 rpg) isn't far behind in either category. Scoring depth along the perimeter comes in the form of Bryce Dejean Jones (11.9 ppg) and Kevin Olekaibe (11.0 ppg).
The Pioneers have struggled on the boards and against a team has proficient in that area as UNLV, this could be a long evening for Sacred Heart.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UNLV 81, Sacred Heart 59
12/20 10:32:02 ET