GAME NOTES: The UNLV Runnin' Rebels play the second of what is to be six straight home games to open the 2013-14 season, as they host the Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara at the Thomas & Mack Center tonight.
UNLV, which isn't scheduled to leave Sin City for an official game until Dec. 7 when it takes on Arizona, easily captured a win in its season opener last Friday night with a 67-48 romp over visiting Portland State.
As for UCSB, it hosted Hawaii Pacific in the opener last week and hammered home a 76-50 win inside The Thunderdome.
The Gauchos are coming off a season in which they won just 11 games in 31 opportunities and were a disappointing 3-13 on the road, a mere 1-7 away from home against non-conference opponents overall.
In terms of the all-time series between these two programs, UNLV holds a commanding 30-8 advantage, although the last win at home for the Rebels came back in 1996.
Two seasons ago the Rebels, who were nationally ranked and a perfect 7-0 at the time, needed double-overtime to capture a 94-88 win over UCSB on the road.
The Gauchos held visiting Hawaii Pacific to a mere six field goals in the first half of their meeting last week and, although all but one of those were 3-point efforts, the visitors still trailed by double figures at the break and eventually lost by 26. Of the 34 points scored by UCSB in the opening half, 20 came from Alan Williams who eventually finished with 27 points and 17 rebounds.
Also scoring in double figures were Michael Bryson and Kyle Boswell with 13 and 10 points, respectively, the latter contributing five assists and the team logged an assist on all but three of 24 made baskets in the meeting.
Last season, the Gauchos were one of the top passing teams in their conference, issuing 14.7 assists per contest in order to rank 46th in the country in that department.
Despite losing a number of key players from last year's squad, the Rebels still managed to dominate their first opponent of the campaign, Portland State. Defensively, UNLV held the Vikings to just 31.1 percent shooting from the floor overall and 0-of-7 behind the 3-point line, all while forcing 20 turnovers.
At the offensive end, Khem Birch took charge with a double-double consisting of 13 points and a game-high 17 rebounds, while Roscoe Smith delivered a double-dip of his own with 16 points and 10 boards. Kevin Olekaibe, a transfer from Fresno State, posted 14 points, but he shot only 3-of-9 out on the perimeter and 5-of-14 from the floor overall. Off the bench, Kendall Smith accounted for 10 points and four assists for a team that suffered 18 miscues and shot a dismal 13-of-28 at the charity stripe.
While the Rebels did end up with an unsightly 18 turnovers, they did manage to hand out 18 assists on 23 made baskets which falls right in line with what the program was able to accomplish last season when it ranked 10th in the nation with 16.1 dishes per outing.
The Thomas & Mack Center has been a huge advantage for the Rebels over the years and seeing as how the hosts have not beaten UCSB in the building for close to two decades, now is as good a time as any to come back out on top.
Game Date and Time