Rebels basketball:

Blog: UNLV holds off Wyoming in slow-paced 48-46 home victory

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Roscoe Smith grabs a rebound from Wyoming guard Nathan Sobey during their game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Updated Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 | 8:50 p.m.

UNLV vs. Wyoming: Feb. 8, 2014

UNLV forward Roscoe Smith makes his move towards the basket against Wyoming during their game Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

UNLV 48, Wyoming 46

Game over

Khem Birch contested Larry Nance's shot in the final seconds and eventually ended up with the rebound to preserve UNLV's 48-46 victory against Wyoming tonight at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Birch finished with 10 points, the only Rebel to reach double figures on a night where the game played out exactly how Wyoming wanted it to. Well, at least until the end.

Nance was hobbled by a leg injury for the majority of the game but still finished with 12 points, nine rebounds and several blocks. He was great, and Wyoming's Riley Grabau was solid with 11 points on 4-of-9 shooting. But UNLV had much more depth than the Rebels and it showed.

Besides Birch, four other Rebels scored at least eight points and the team got better in the second half, hitting 54.5 percent from the field while Wyoming shot 43.5 overall.

There were only nine total free throws attempted by both teams combined, and the teams tied with 25 rebounds each.

This was a Wyoming game yet UNLV led it for 39 minutes. The Rebels were never able to pull away but they stayed in front and survived.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's game.

 

UNLV’s last opponent, Colorado State, and its next opponent, Wyoming, are sort of opposites on offense. The Rams entered their matchup with good rebounding numbers and a terrible shooting percentage, while the Cowboys come into tonight’s game as the worst offensive rebounding team in the Mountain West but are ranked No. 1 in effective field-goal shooting percentage.

The thing they share in common is that neither should be judged by its record alone. The Rebels (15-8, 6-4) learned that about the Rams, who are now 4-6 in league play, the hard way in an 18-point defeat Wednesday. They’re trying to avoid the same mistake today against the Cowboys (14-8, 5-4), who are just a couple of plays away from being higher than UNLV in the standings.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center and will stream on ESPN3.com.

Wyoming’s four league losses were by an average of four points, and two of them, both against New Mexico, went to overtime. The Cowboys have a balanced offense and frustrate teams at both ends of the floor with a plodding style.

They have the sixth-slowest tempo in the country, according to kenpom.com, and you needn’t look any further than today’s total score prediction — 123 — to understand what type of game is expected. That would be the lowest closing total of any UNLV game this season, but it’s par for Wyoming’s course.

Wyoming junior Larry Nance Jr., whose father was a three-time NBA All-Star, is averaging 15.4 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3 blocks per game in conference play. He’s the force inside that allows junior guard Riley Grabau to get free for outside shots. Grabau is hitting 41.2 percent on 3-point attempts in league play, and he’s 23-for-23 at the free-throw line.

Those two are the strength of the Cowboys’ offense, and they set up everything else for guys like Josh Adams, a slashing guard who returns after a one-game suspension for hitting a Utah State player. They have the ability to wind down the shot clock and tire out teams before getting open looks by creating mismatches either on the inside or outside.

There shouldn’t be a problem with the Rebels taking any team seriously, but based on Wednesday it’s still an issue. For their sake, hopefully that woke them up because Wyoming is very much capable of coming in and getting a win.

Bern’s prediction: This game is likely going to be ugly, and I expect the lead to change a couple of times in the first 10 minutes of the second half. There’s no confidence in this pick, but I’ll side with the home team. UNLV 64, Wyoming 60

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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