The Runnin’ Rebels don’t look to be a very good basketball team, at least based on their first three games on the season. That’s because UNLV has lost its last two games after opening the season with a win against Purdue-Fort Wayne.
In the Rebels’ most recent loss, they lost to UC Berkeley, which was one of the worst teams, if not the worst, in the Pac-12 last season. To be sure, the Golden Bears are under new leadership in former Georgia head coach Mark Fox, but UC Berkeley has been so bad for so long that even an overtime loss to them says a lot.
On the other hand, in his weekly press conference, UCLA head coach Mick Cronin had praise for UNLV’s Amauri Hardy, who scored 15 against the Golden Bears on Tuesday. Cronin said, “Hardy is a great player who creates a lot of offense for himself and his teammates off the dribble,” Cronin said. “Amari Hardy’s a very, very good player. I tried to recruit him at Cincinnati some. He can get his own points. He doesn’t need screens. He doesn’t need the pick-and-roll. He doesn’t need screens and he can go get it.”
Here’s Cronin’s full press conference, courtesy of UCLA Athletics.
Two other Rebels were in double figures against UC Berkeley. One was senior guard Elijah Mitrou-Long, who scored 16, and the other was junior forward Donnie Tillman.
So, the Runnin’ Rebels have the ability to put up some points.
Cheikh Mbacke Diong is a junior forward from Senegal who leads the Runnin’ Rebels in rebounding with an average of 12.0 per game so far. But, aside from Diong, the Rebels don’t seem to have much in the way of rebounders and that gives UCLA a distinct advantage as the Bruins have shown a hunger for the boards so far under Cronin.
UNLV’s fifth starter looks to be Australian junior Jonah Antonio. Antonio looks to be the Rebels’ biggest three-point threat. Against Purdue-Fort Wayne, he hit 5 of 9 on his way to scoring 17 points. So, the Bruins will need to guard him closely on the perimeter in hopes of keeping him from lighting things up.
Don’t look for much scoring from the Runnin’ Rebels bench. Against UC Berkeley, the UNLV bench only contributed a total of ten points despite the fact that the game went to overtime.
I like UCLA’s chances to remain undefeated on the season and against the Runnin’ Rebels. One of the things which I think has stood out so far has been Cronin’s ability to make halftime adjustments allowing UCLA to come from behind. Of course, Cronin wants his guys to play a full game but, for now, I’ll take the comeback wins as Cronin continues to push his guys to play a full 40 minutes.