Runnin’ Rebels gear up to take on No. 2 UCLA

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Jordan McCabe at the top of the key running the point at the 2021 Roman Main Event against Wichita State. Photo by Jordan Anders-McClain.

The Runnin’ Rebels are back at the Mack to host one of the most anticipated match-ups of the season. UNLV will be facing it’s second ranked opponent in a week, as they gear up to take on the No. 2 UCLA Bruins on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. 

Last week, the Runnin’ Rebels faced their first ranked team, then No.4 Michigan (now No. 20), in game one of the 2021 Roman Main Event. The Rebels put up a tough first-half battle against the Wolverines but fouls ultimately got the best of the team in the match-up.

With the Runnin’ Rebels set to take on their second ranked top 5 opponent, their game plan of staying down, being solid and disciplined on defense stays the same. 

As far as offense, Runnin’ Rebels guard Jordan McCabe stayed after practice to get in extra shots leading up to the big game. 

“We had Michigan and Wichita State, then Whittier, now we have UCLA so when we look at all those games it doesn’t matter the level, every game has to be the same,” McCabe said. “Now would you expect us to go in and put our stamp on top ranked teams in the country and surprise some people and establish what UNLV is gonna be from here on out.”

“Our standard for practices, for preparation and everything we do has to be at a top 25 level, so that means every practice should be the same especially since we are a new group.”

UNLV is coming off a huge 101-45 win over Whittier College from Wednesday night while UCLA is heading into this match-up on a loss against Gonzaga on Tuesday night, which marked the Bruins first loss of the season. 

UNLV vs. UCLA Match-ups

Bryce Hamilton & Jordan McCabe vs. UCLA’s Johnny Juzang & Jaime Jaquez Jr

Through six games this season, Bryce Hamilton is leading the Runnin’ Rebels with 15.8 points per game (ppg) while Jordan McCabe is shooting 55.2% from the field and 47.4% from behind the arc. 

Both Hamilton and McCabe will need to play big roles on offense and defense coming Saturday afternoon as they are matched up against UCLA’s All-American guards Johnny Juzang and Jaime Jaquez Jr. 

Juzang leads the Bruins with 18.3 ppg while shooting 44.8% from the field and 36.1% from behind the arc. On the other hand, Jaquez leads UCLA in rebounds, steals, and is the second-leading scorer. 

“It’s a difficult ask for any team, Gonzaga and Villinova did a pretty good job on guarding them [Juzang and Jaquez Jr],” McCabe said. “They are gonna do what they are gonna do, so our job is to maintain what makes us UNLV, and that’s our defensive intensity in the full court, trying to create a little bit of havoc.” 

“You just try and not let All-Americans get what they want. Johnny, and a couple other guys that are considered in that group, but we’re just gonna stick to our principles and not get out of what we do. Just play as hard as we can for 40 minutes and that’s the only way you’ll have a chance.”

Each of the two pairs are expected to play heavy minutes on Saturday, it will be a heavy battle between UCLA’s offense and UNLV’s defense. So far this season, the Bruins as a team are shooting 46.5% from the field. On the other hand, UNLV’s defense has held their opponents to a field-goal percentage of 37.6 and have held four of their six opponents to less than 64.0 ppg. 

UNLV’s bench vs. UCLA’s bench

UNLV’s bench, before their win against Whittier on Wednesday, was averaging 12.6 ppg. The bench put up a season-high 61 points against Whittier and off the bench Justin Webster led the Rebels in scoring with 17 points.

It was just the game the bench needed heading into this match-up against UCLA’s bench. The Bruins bench averages 22.5 ppg led by guard Jaylen Clark, who is shooting 51.7% from the field. 

So far this season, UNLV is 3-0 when the bench outscores the opponents’ bench. For a match-up like this, UNLV’s bench must carry the momentum from Wednesday’s win into this game.

A battle in the paint & foul trouble

This match-up will be a battle in the paint as UCLA has scored 517 points through six games, 42% of those points coming from inside the paint. UNLV on the other hand has tallied 418 points, 46% of those being in the paint. 

While UNLV has the upper hand in the paint between the two teams, UNLV players  tend to get into foul trouble early. Getting early back-to-back fouls is something they have struggled with every game this season. 

Averaging 16 personal fouls a game, at least one UNLV player has gotten into foul trouble early in each of the games played while McCabe was the first player to foul out this season during UNLV’s close loss to Wichita State last week. 

Battle of the Boards

UCLA has outrebounded its opponents in four of six games played so far this season, posing a 4-0 record when doing so. The Bruins are averaging 40.0 rebounds a game compared to the Rebels who are averaging 38.2 rebounds. 

The Rebels are 3-0 when outrebounding their opponents, leading the team in rebounds is Royce Hamm Jr who is averaging 11.7 rebounds per game (rpg). Hamm is ranked second in the Mountain West Conference and fifth overall in the nation in rebounds per game. 

The Game

This will be the seventh meeting between the Bruins and the Runnin’ Rebels, the last time the two teams faced off was on Nov. 15, 2019, at the Pauley Pavilion, where UCLA beat the Rebels 71-54, making their record 6-0 all-time against UNLV.

The Runnin’ Rebels seek to make it five straight wins at home as well as upsetting the No. 2 Bruins to gain their first-ever win against UCLA. 

Make sure to catch the game on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m. where UNLV will also be retiring the jersey of Freddie Banks, who helped the Runnin’ Rebels to the 1987 Final Four.

Students can get their tickets for free at unlvtickets.evenue.net

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