Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Updated Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 | 9:42 p.m.
UNLV 82, Mississippi State 66
Deville Smith continues his hot streak with 15 points against one of his former teams as the Rebels cruise past Mississippi State 82-66 tonight at Orleans Arena. UNLV heads into Christmas break at 8-4 with one more game — at home on Dec. 28 — before conference play begins.
Deville Smith earned MVP honors for the Las Vegas Classic while Roscoe Smith and Khem Birch each made the all-tournament team.
Kevin Olekaibe led the Rebels with 17 points and Roscoe Smith registered his eighth double-double of the year with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Birch finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.
UNLV eventually came back to earth with its offensive shooting, finishing the game at 44 percent from the field. The Rebels also missed their final five 3-point attempts and finished 11-of-26 from deep.
This is the fifth straight victory for the Rebels after that loss at Arizona. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.
If you need an example of how win-loss records this early in the season can be deceiving, you could come out to the Orleans Arena tonight to watch Mississippi State (9-2). Based on attendance at the Rebels' Sunday night game, good seats are still available.
Tonight at 7:30 is the final of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic. The game will air on CBS Sports Network.
The Bulldogs got here with a five-point upset against South Florida on Sunday. Going by the rankings on kenpom.com, that was Mississippi State’s best victory of the season. The team’s nine wins are against teams that rank, on average, 271st in the country. CBSsports.com puts the Bulldogs’ strength of schedule at 301 out of 349.
So while Mississippi State has the better record, it’s no surprise that UNLV (7-4) comes in as the favorite. Not only are the Rebels a better, more athletic team, they’re also on a nice run against the sports books. UNLV has covered in seven consecutive games, starting with a two-point loss to Illinois and carrying through Sunday’s 92-71 victory against Santa Clara. That game had an announced attendance of 4,376 that felt like no more than 2,000.
The Rebels’ recent success can be traced most easily to the schedule. UNLV’s schedule ranks 127th in the country, and that’s due in large part to the teams responsible for the team’s four losses. All four are top 80 teams, per kenpom, while the Rebels’ best win to date is against Omaha (170).
The Bulldogs wouldn’t even take that mantle — they’re ranked 177 — which is part of the reason the Rebels are minus-8.5 tonight. Mississippi State forces a lot of turnovers and overall its defense is decent, but the offense occasionally borders on anemic. The Bulldogs also have no size to contend with the Rebels’ front court.
Bern’s prediction: If UNLV plays anything like it did yesterday — 61 percent shooting, only small stretches of turnovers — then the Rebels should win easily. That’s certainly no guarantee, but UNLV is going to have to fall flat to this one. That or the Bulldogs must play their best game of the season, which seems unlikely in a sterile crowd environment two days before Christmas. UNLV 77, Mississippi State 65
Season: ATS 8-3, O/U 7-4
The Orleans Arena, a Boyd Gaming facility located just west of the Las Vegas Strip, is one of the nation’s leading mid-sized arenas, and was recently ranked No. 1 in the United States and No. 5 internationally among venues of similar size by Venues Today Magazine.
The Arena hosts more than 200 events each year, including concerts by top names like Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Van Halen, Brooks & Dunn, Black Eyed Peas, Akon and Rihanna; family favorites like The Harlem Globetrotters and Circus Spectacular; and a wide variety of sporting events, including NCAA basketball tournaments, the West Coast Conference and Western Athletic Conference Basketball Championships, mixed martial arts with Superior Cage Combat, and major motorsports events.
The arena serves as home to the Las Vegas Wranglers professional ECHL hockey team, the Las Vegas Legends professional indoor soccer team, and the Lingerie Football League’s Las Vegas Sin. Stay connected to the Orleans Arena on Facebook (www.facebook.com/orleansarena) and on Twitter (@orleansarena).