Continuing its six-game homestand the open the season, the 24th-ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels play host to the Anteaters of UC Irvine on Wednesday night.
UC Irvine enters the fray a game under .500 on the season at 3-4, and the team is in the midst of a three-game slide in which its lost to Southern Miss, Sam Houston State and Pepperdine. The SHSU game went to overtime before being decided, and the USM game wound up being pretty close as well, but the recent setback to the Waves on Saturday was a double-digit affair (72-62). UCI, which is 0-3 in true road games, will kick off the Big West Conference portion of its schedule on Dec. 29 at home against UC Davis.
UNLV is 3-1 early on in the 2012-13 campaign, thanks to double-digit wins over Northern Arizona, Jacksonville State and Iowa State. The team's lone setback came against Oregon last Friday, and all games were played as part of the Global Sports Classic at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels hit the road for the first time next Tuesday at Portland, and they will open Mountain West Conference play at New Mexico on Jan. 9, 2013.
UNLV owns a commanding 31-9 lead in the all-time series with UC Irvine, but this is the first meeting since the Rebels claimed a 77-55 victory on Dec. 23, 1997 in Sin City.
Despite putting up 75.3 ppg, the Anteaters don't have what anyone would consider an offensive superstar. Daman Starring is averaging 13.7 ppg, hitting 50 percent of his field goal attempts, while Michael Wilder and Chris McNealy net 10.9 and 10.0 ppg, respectively. The team as a whole is hitting 44.3 percent of its total shots, including 36.4 percent of its three-point tries, while the opposition turns the trick at just 35.3 percent overall and 29.4 percent from beyond the arc in posting 63.3 ppg. Irvine is +8.0 in rebounding margin, but -0.4 in turnovers. Starring tied his career high with 25 points, and McNealy tacked on 15, but it wasn't enough as the Anteaters dropped their third straight game in falling by 10 points at Pepperdine. UCI shot just 34.3 percent from the floor, despite hitting more than twice as many three-pointers as did the Waves (9-4). Pepperdine dominated in points at the charity stripe (26-7), and won the battle on the boards as well (42-34).
Despite a lackluster shooting effort overall, UNLV is scoring a robust 82.5 ppg. The Runnin' Rebels are hitting 43.8 percent of their total shots, which includes a disappointing 30.2 percent showing from three-point range. Fortunately, the effort at the defensive end has been on point as foes are hitting their field goal attempts just 34.7 percent of the time, and their long-range tries at a dismal 24.4 percent clip. Anthony Bennett (19.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is off to a tremendous start, as is Mike Moser who averages a double- double consisting of 11.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest. All five starters are averaging double digits in the scoring column, and the team owns a +8.5 rebounding margin as well. Bennett poured in 22 points, Anthony Marshall finished with 16 and Moser was his usual self in posting 15 points and 12 boards for UNLV as it wore down Iowa State last Saturday, winning 82-70. The key stat in the game was the home team's 28-8 edge in points from the foul line.