UNLV men’s basketball faces the St. Katherine Firebirds of California on Tuesday, January 12th at 2:00 pm PT. Watch it LIVE on YurView LV – Cox Channel 14 for customers in Las Vegas. The game is only available for customers in Nevada. Stream the game live at bit.ly/2NG0UAF
UNLV (1-6, 0-2) looks to get off to a strong start in 2021 when they play California NAIA school St. Katherine (1-0, 0-0). This is an important non-conference home game before the Runnin’ Rebels return to Mountain West Conference play on Jan. 16 versus New Mexico.
The Rebels are playing their second game in a week after a loss at Colorado State on Jan. 9. The game is only their second game in five weeks, after four games were either canceled or postponed between Dec. 9 and Dec. 22.
The matchup against St. Katherine is an opportunity for the Rebels to use their size and skill advantage to gather a much-needed victory.
Here is a preview of the must-win matchup:
Runnin’ Rebels. UNLV may want to live up to their name against an undersized and assumingly slower opponent. They need to beware as St. Katherine scored more points (81) in its only game on Nov. 6 than UNLV has scored in any of its seven games this season.
Where will the Rebels get scoring from?
From a high-octane backcourt, as its lead three-guard combination of junior Bryce Hamilton, sophomore Caleb Grill and junior David Jenkins, Jr. account for 47 of the Rebels’ average of 70 points per game. They will need to get off to a quick start and create fast-break opportunities if they want to ease past St. Katherine before the Jan. 16 game at New Mexico.
Battle of the Boards. Regardless of the game tempo, the Rebels need to exploit their size advantage over a remarkedly small St. Katherine team, whose rebounding efforts are led by 6’ 6” senior forward D’Angelo Fields.
The Rebels will counter with their leading rebounder, 6’ 11” senior Cheikh Mbacke Diong, who is averaging seven rebounds a game. His rebounding efforts will be supported by the 6’ 4” Hamilton who is averaging six rebounds per game, establishing himself as one of the leading rebounding guards in the Mountain West Conference.
The Rebels need to finish with a rebounding advantage of at least 10 to 15 in this game to ensure an easy victory. Anything less may mean a long night for the Rebels.
Three-point threats. With an advantage in size, the Rebels have to be wary of falling in love with the three-point shot, as it will be easy to shoot over the smaller St. Katherine team on the perimeter. St. Katherine shot a meager 32 percent, 6 for 19, in their only game against San Diego Christian on Nov. 6, so the Rebels should look to have St. Katherine prove their long-range shooting skills and look to mop up the boards with efficient rebounding.
The majority of the Rebels’ three-point shooting should come from its guard trio of Grill, Jenkins, Jr. and hometown Las Vegas 6’ 6” freshman Nicquel Blake, all of whom are averaging at least 35 percent from the three-point line.
Game Analysis. A well-rested Rebel team should be ready to set the tempo on Tuesday, whether it is a fast-paced game with easy layup opportunities or a slowed down half-court style with a Rebel rebounding advantage.
If the Rebels can get in an offensive rhythm in this non-conference game, it could set the tone for a successful Mountain West Conference season in 2021.
Rodric Bradford is a Las Vegas sports, entertainment and business writer and has served as a correspondent for over a dozen Las Vegas media outlets. A longtime member of the Nevada Hotel Lodging Association, he can be found on Twitter @j_rodric.