Published Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 | 3 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013 | 6:09 p.m.
UNLV 73, Southern Utah 51
Four Rebels finished in double-digit scoring and UNLV never led by less than 15 in the second half of a 73-51 victory today at Southern Utah in Centrum Arena. The victory makes UNLV 4-4 on the season.
Roscoe Smith registered his fifth double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while Jelan Kendrick also tied for the Rebels' scoring lead with 12 points. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Kevin Olekaibe each scored 11.
The Rebels led rebounding 44-33, shot 44.9 percent from the floor and attempted more than twice as many free throws as the Thunderbirds (1-6): 37 to 18.
Southern Utah shot under 32 percent from the field and never looked particularly comfortable or confident on offense. That's a credit to their Rebels and their length, which resulted in 10 team blocks. Khem Birch (seven points and seven rebounds) had half of those.
Things start to pick up for the Rebels after having only two games in the last two weeks. On Wednesday they host Radford, their first of four games in a six-day stretch. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.
CEDAR CITY, Utah — To judge UNLV’s performance today against Southern Utah (1-5) compared with its last game, a narrow defeat at undefeated and now-top-ranked Arizona, would be to miss the larger point. However, one aspect of the game will show whether the Rebels (3-4) learned from their mistakes, and that's how well the guards rebound.
Sure, the expectations should be a little bit tempered just like in every other area of the game because this is as large of a disparity in level of competition as you can get. But guards going after rebounds have as much to do with the Rebels’ decisions to put in more effort as they do the talent quality that’s trying to stop them.
UNLV and Southern Utah tip off tonight at 4 p.m. Las Vegas time in Centrum Arena. The game isn’t on TV but will stream for free via a link available on UNLVRebels.com.
Despite a season-low six rebounds against Arizona, junior forward Roscoe Smith is still leading the country in that category with 14.7 rebounds per game. It’s possible that he and fellow junior forward Khem Birch will be so much better than Southern Utah’s frontcourt that they will have no issues with rebounding. In fact, that’s the most likely outcome because the Thunderbirds start only one player taller than 6-foot-5 and they’re getting outrebounded by more than 12 per game this season.
So the Rebels know they probably don’t need much from their guards in the rebounding battle today, which is precisely why it’s important to keep an eye on it. The Rebels also know that in future games, they are going to have to rely on the smaller guys to help Smith and Birch. Since it’s been such an emphasis in practice this week, it would be a positive sign to see them go out and do that when it’s not imperative to the victory.
It would be equally telling if the backcourt is still disengaged in that regard today.
Bern’s prediction: This game only stays close if the Rebels come out flat. Southern Utah is completely overmatched, and this is an opportunity for UNLV to start feeling good about itself heading into an easier stretch of its schedule. UNLV 76, Southern Utah 58
Season: ATS 4-3, O/U 5-2