Boise State Presents Small Challenge For Rebels

BennettAnother game, and yet another team that will probably try to attack the Rebels with a small-ball lineup. That’s the likely game plan for Boise State when UNLV visits on Saturday (6 p.m., Time Warner Cable SportsNet), and it’s a strategy that’s served the Broncos well this season.

And even though the Broncos have lost four of their last five games, they’re still formidable — especially at home. Boise can flood the floor with guards and turn the game into a quickness contest, and they have superior outside shooters to spread the floor. That’s how the Broncos have run up a 14-6 record (2-4 in MWC play).

If the Rebels want to extend their winning streak to three games, they’ll have to contain Boise’s small lineup, avoid another shooting slump on the road, and execute on offense in the final five minutes. Let’s take a closer look with an Over/Under preview.


Over/Under: 12.5 points for Bryce Dejean-Jones
Dave Rice wouldn’t confirm that Dejean-Jones would start once again on Saturday, but he did say he expected to stick with BDJ at small forward. With Boise State running out four-guard lineups, Dejean-Jones should get plenty of minutes whether he starts or not. And as we covered on Wednesday, he may be turning the corner offensively. I like this matchup for Dejean-Jones, and I like what I’ve seen from him lately. I’m taking the OVER.

Over/Under: 1.5 crunch-time points for Anthony Bennett
For the purposes of this column, let’s call “crunch time” the final five minutes of the game. It’s worth noting that in two of the Rebels’ last four contests (including Tuesday’s win over Nevada-Reno), Bennett spent the final minutes on the bench while Rice opted to close out the game with a small lineup. And with Boise State all too willing to go small, will we see Bennett on the floor when it matters most? I find it hard to believe that the Rebels can’t find a way to make use of their best player in close games, so I’m going OVER.

Over/Under: 15.5 points for Derrick Marks
Boise State’s sophomore scorer (16.6 points per game) is a handful, but he played just nine minutes in a loss to Colorado State on Wednesday due to flu-like symptoms. I don’t think the Rebels will be so lucky. And while Anthony Marshall has been defending like crazy, Boise State excels at creating movement in the defense and getting favorable matchups for Marks. I think he gets over the flu, then gets OVER this line.

Over/Under: 8.5 3-pointers for Boise State
This would be my biggest concern as a Rebels fan. Boise State shoots 40 percent from 3-point range as a team, which has them tied for the 11th-best mark in the nation. Marks hits 44.0 percent of his threes, and second-leading scorer Anthony Drmic (16.1 ppg) hits at 40.9 percent. Throw in guards Jeff Elorriaga (48.3 percent) and Mikey Thompson (45.7 percent), and the Broncos can field a lineup with four 3-point shooters who are better than anyone on the UNLV roster. I have to take the OVER.

Over/Under: 18.5 assists for UNLV
The Rebels average 17.6 assists per game, fifth-best in the nation. And unlike most of the Mountain West, Boise State won’t be afraid to pick up the pace and run with the Rebels a little bit. A free-flowing game means more possessions, and while Boise can score (75.8 points per game), I think a higher-possession game has to favor UNLV. With not much size to contend with, I see this as the type of game in which Anthony Marshall can run wild. So it looks like we’re making this a perfect five-for-five: Give me the OVER.

Prediction: UNLV 81, Boise State 71
Player of the Game: Anthony Bennett — 22 points, nine rebounds, one steal

Related content:
How Good Can Bryce Dejean-Jones Be?
Marshall’s One-on-One Defense Keys Rebels

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