After a pair of tune-up games, UNLV is set to take on its first power conference opponent when Oregon comes to town on Friday as part of the Global Sports Classic. The 4-0 Ducks have been hard to peg, surviving a scare against Northern Arizona and rebounding to demolish a decent Vanderbilt team, and they’ll present some challenges for UNLV.
Like the Rebels, Oregon likes to push the ball and play a free-flowing style. There’s no dominant scorer, but they have a balanced attack that can score from all angles.
Here are five keys to watch for when the UNLV takes on Oregon, along with my official prediction.
1. Singling out Singler
Senior small forward E.J. Singler is probably the Ducks’ most versatile player (12.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists per game), and the Rebels will need to account for him whenever he’s on the floor. I think Bryce Dejean-Jones will take this matchup, with Justin Hawkins also seeing big minutes against Singler. If that duo can hold him in check and force the Ducks’ offense to flow through other players, they probably won’t be able to score enough to keep up with the Rebels.
2. Take the points
This game will see a pair of Las Vegas point guards squaring off — UNLV senior Anthony Marshall is a Vegas lifer, while Oregon freshman Dominic Artis is a Findlay Prep grad. While Artis is having a good debut campaign (10.0 points, 2.5 assists), Marshall should have the clear upper hand here. Marshall has been terrific on both ends of the court in the Rebels’ first two games, and that should continue against his inexperienced counterpart.
Oregon has been good but not great on the boards this season (+8.75 per game), while the Rebels have been suprisingly dominant (albeit against a pair of undersized opponents). The trio of Mike Moser, Anthony Bennett and Quintrell Thomas are all averaging more than 7.0 rebounds per game, and I expect those three to get most of the PF/C minutes against Oregon. If the Rebels win the rebounding battle by double digits, they should also win the game by double digits.
4. Arsalan Kazemi
Kazemi was ineligible for the first two games of the season, but the senior transfer from Rice has been effective since taking the court. A 6-foot-7 power forward, he averaged 12.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in three seasons at Rice (earning second-team All-Conference USA honors last year), and he may eventually prove to be Oregon’s inside player once he gets acclimated. Kazemi hasn’t been a big part of the offense yet (just 3.5 points per game), but in Oregon’s win over Jacksonville State he grabbed eight rebounds, blocked a shot and came away with five steals. The UNLV big men can’t allow Kazemi to creat that kind of havoc in the paint.
5. Handle with care
UNLV has been shaky in the turnover department, giving the ball away 36 times in two games, and the Rebels’ carelessness with the ball kept Jacksonville State in the game much longer than necessary last week. Now that UNLV is playing power conference opponents, they won’t be able to get away with so many miscues. Patience will be key — the Rebels want to force the issue and attack constantly, but driving into crowded defenses is not the way to do it. The halfcourt offense has been better than expected to this point in the season — 0.905 points per possession, compared to 0.889 in transition — so the Rebels should trust it and limit the turnovers.
Prediction: UNLV 86, Oregon 78
Player of the Game: Anthony Marshall — 15 points, 7 assists, 3 steals
Follow Mike Grimala (@MikeGrimala) on Twitter for 24/7 Rebels updates.