CSU took a big step toward an NCAA Tournament bid Saturday by beating San Diego State and could take a giant leap with a win in Las Vegas against UNLV Wednesday night.
The No. 11 Runninâ€™ Rebels enter the game 20-3 (4-1 Mountain West) and have won 10 out of their last 11 games and 12 straight at the Thomas and Mack Center.
CSU (14-6, 3-2 MW) won its last game in Las Vegas, defeating the Rebels 78-63 last season.
â€œI think our guys feel like, â€˜Hey weâ€™ve done this before, we can do it again; letâ€™s go in there and win,â€™â€ CSU coach Tim Miles said.
In order to repeat their victory from last season, the Rams will have to contain one of the fastest, most dangerous offenses not only in the MW, but also in the country. UNLV leads the conference in scoring at 80 points per game, topping 100 points twice, largely because they like to get out and run.
â€œIt starts with eliminating their transition (game), and you do that by hustling and making good decisions on offense,â€ Miles said. â€œIf you can make it a half-court game, I think youâ€™ve got a shot at them.â€
One of the primary reasons UNLV has been so dominant this season is the emergence of sophomore UCLA-transfer Mike Moser. Moser ranks fourth in the MW at 14.7 points per game and third nationally with 11.7 rebounds per game.
â€œHis rebounding brings a whole new element to the game because of his length and athleticism,â€ Miles said. â€œHeâ€™s a game changer.â€
CSU had trouble controlling dominant inside players in their losses at New Mexico and Wyoming, giving up double-doubles to Drew Gordon and Leonard Washington, respectively, in those games.
â€œHeâ€™s one of the best rebounders weâ€™ve seen,â€ CSU junior Dorian Green said. â€œWe need to keep a body on him, play tough and make him work for everything.â€
As a whole, UNLV is the top rebounding team in the MW, pulling down 39.6 boards per game compared to CSUâ€™s 30.8.
â€œItâ€™ll be tough because weâ€™re looked at as one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference,â€ CSU senior Will Bell said. â€œBut nothing worth doing is easy.â€
Dealing with UNLVâ€™s ball pressure and limiting turnovers that can lead to transition baskets for the Rebels will go a long way in determining the gameâ€™s outcome.
â€œWe canâ€™t give up easy baskets, and we have to make them pay on the press,â€ Green said.
CSU countered UNLVâ€™s pressure well in last seasonâ€™s win, and at that point thought the victory could propel the team to the NCAA Tournament.
The Rams sit in a similar position this season after their victory over San Diego State and are determined to end this season in the NCAA Tournament rather than the NIT.
â€œThis is one of the best teams in the country and would be another (NCAA Tournament) resume booster for us,â€ Green said. â€œThis is what college basketball is all about, and we need to take it one game at a time.â€
Menâ€™s Basketball Beat Reporter Kyle Grabowski can be reached at email@example.com.
UNLV at a glance:
Season Record: 20-3, 4-1 MW
12 straight home wins
Defeated then-No. 1 North Carolina Nov. 26 in Las Vegas