No matter how it plays out, expect Friday’s semifinal matchup between UNLV and Colorado State (8:30 p.m., CBS Sports) to be decided in the final minutes. The teams have split two games this season, and both could have gone either way, so the little things will almost certainly decide which team advances to the Mountain West championship game at Thomas & Mack center.
Let’s take a closer look at some of those “little things” with an Over/Under preview.
Over/Under: 2.5 offensive rebounds for Pierce Hornung
UNLV vs. Colorado State is probably the only game in which smart fans are tracking the rebounding numbers just as closely as they’re following the score. The teams have split two games that came down to the final possession, and the team that won on the glass also won both games. In the first meeting, it was a Pierce Hornung offensive rebound that sealed CSU’s win — no surprise, since he’s averaging a ridiculous 4.3 offensive boards per game. Luckily for the Rebels, Mike Moser has been rebounding well lately, including 10 boards on Wednesday against Air Force. If he holds Hornung to the under, I think the Rebels have a great chance of advancing to the championship game. UNDER.
Over/Under: 6.5 points for Dorian Green
CSU point guard Green is battling a balky ankle, an injury that forced him to sit out Wednesday’s win over Fresno State (snapping a streak of 127 consecutive starts). He practiced Thursday and said he’ll try to play against UNLV, which I take to mean he’ll be out there for tipoff. After all, you don’t start 127 straight games without being a tough dude. Still, I can’t imagine he’ll have 100 percent mobility, and with Anthony Marshall (an All-Conference defender) keying on him, it’s not shaping up to be a very productive night for Green. Give me the UNDER.
Over/Under: 8.5 minutes for Savon Goodman
Goodman saw a brief resurgence late in the season, playing good minutes against Colorado State and Wyoming, but he was unable to sustain it. The freshman forward was ineffective in games against Nevada-Reno and Boise State, and his plus/minus rating was a disastrous minus-12 in just four minutes (yes, FOUR minutes) in season-ending loss to Fresno State. So it wasn’t shocking when Goodman didn’t see the floor against Air Force on Wednesday. Despite the fact that he played well in the last CSU meeting (four points, three rebounds in 16 minutes), I don’t foresee Dave Rice trusting him in an elimination game. Go with the UNDER.
Over/Under: 10.5 turnovers for UNLV
After the Air Force game, Dave Rice was proud of the fact that the Rebels have committed 10 or fewer turnovers in each of the past four games. But the last time they played Colorado State, they kicked it away 17 times. Anthony Marshall committed four of those TOs, but redeemed himself by hitting the game-winning jumper in the final seconds. It would be better for UNLV if it didn’t come down to that on Friday night, so Marshall must focus on taking care of the ball. CSU only forced eight turnovers against Fresno State in the first round, so I like UNLV’s chances of coming in UNDER here.
Over/Under: 13.5 points for Anthony Bennett
Bennett certainly looked healthy enough against Air Force, dropping 23 points in 28 minutes on 10-of-14 shooting. But that was with three days off, and after having played just 17 minutes against Fresno State. This will constitute a much shorter turnaround for Bennett, and Colorado State is an extremely physical team. If he’s nursing a sore shoulder, CSU’s rough-and-tumble front court will exploit it. But Bennett says he’s feeling better, and I’m going to take him at his word. Put me down for the OVER.
Final score: UNLV 66, Colorado State 65
Player of the Game: Bryce Dejean-Jones — 16 points, six rebounds, four assists
Birch, Dejean-Jones Impress Against Air Force
Open Fire: Rebels Cruise Past Air Force
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Mountain West Tournament: Players to Watch
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