Anyone taking UC-Irvine lightly needs only to look back two weeks to Nov. 13, when the Anteaters went to Pauley Pavilion and almost shocked UCLA before falling, 80-79. No. 24 UNLV will have to be on top of its game on Wednesday or risk another upset bid.
The Rebels are battling some injury concerns, as both Anthony Bennett and Anthony Marshall missed time this week. They are expected to play against Irvine, but UNLV will need contributions from across the board in order to put this one in the W column.
Let’s play a little game of “Over/Under” and take a look at the key numbers that could determine the outcome. (Note: These lines are set by me. For entertainment purposes only.)
Over/Under: 26.5 minutes for Anthony Bennett
Bennett missed Monday’s practice with a back issue, and though he returned to action on Tuesday, this is probably the most important line to watch against UC-Irvine. Bennett is averaging 26.3 minutes per game, and he played a season-high 32 minutes in the Rebels’ last game, a win over Iowa State. He also played 31 minutes against Oregon (the day before Iowa State), and though there’s no way to tell if the back-to-back workload had any negative impact, I expect the coaching staff will pull back a little. It’s early in the season, so look for Bennett to play UNDER 26.0 minutes against UC-Irvine. Better safe than sorry.
Over/Under: 12.5 field goal attempts for Mike Moser
Moser’s season high in shot attempts is 12 (twice), but he’s also mixed in two games of just six attempts. I think the offense is more effective when Moser is asserting himself and looking to score, and the Rebels seem re-focused on exploiting their advantage inside with both Moser and Bennett. I expect that trend to continue against UC-Irvine, and Moser should get his share of touches in the halfcourt. I can see him putting up 14-15 shots, which would put him comfortably OVER.
Over/Under: 7.5 3-pointers made by UC-Irvine
The Anteaters have a pair of dangerous shooters in guards Daman Starring and Michael Wilder, and containing them will be priority No. 1 for UNLV. Starring is Irvine’s leading scorer (13.7 points per game), while Wilder is second (10.9), and they do most of their damage from beyond the arc — the duo have combined to shoot 40.6 percent on 3-pointers (28-69). It will be crucial for the Rebels’ perimeter defenders to close out quickly, but I think the Anteaters will go OVER this number, partially because of the next entry…
Over/Under: 14.5 offensive rebounds for UC-Irvine
UNLV was wounded by Iowa State’s ability to grab offensive rebounds, and Irvine is also adept at getting to the glass. The Anteaters are 11th in the nation in rebounding (44.4 per game), and they pull down 13 offensive boards per game. Senior center Adam Folker (6-foot-9) is the main threat, and I think he’ll be able to have success clearing out space inside. Those offensive rebounds will lead to easy putbacks and open 3-pointers (see above), and though I think Irvine will go OVER here, the Rebels can’t afford to let them go much beyond 14.5.
Over/Under: 17.5 transition points for UNLV
Between their defensive rebounding struggles and still-developing offensive chemistry, the Rebels haven’t been able to kick their transition attack into high gear yet. They posted just eight fast-break points in each of their last two games, and UC-Irvine prefers to play at a slower pace as it is, so I’d lean toward the UNDER here. Throw in Irvine’s offensive rebounding ability and I just don’t see this being the Rebels’ breakout game. Instead, I think it’ll be another halfcourt affair, with UNLV eventually pulling away for a 12-15 point win.
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