November 13, 2012; Berkeley, CA, USA; California Golden Bears guard Ricky Kreklow (24) shoots the ball against the Pepperdine Waves during the second half at Haas Pavilion. The California Golden Bears defeated the Pepperdine Waves 79-62. - Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
The California Golden Bears take on the 21st ranked UNLV Runnin' Rebels at Haas Pavilion, and Sonny Dykes will be there to take in the action! Will you? Here's our preview!
Nothing like recovering from a back-of-the-woodshed beating by squaring off against a top-25 squad. In a stark contrast to the Badger's deliberate style, the #21 Runnin' Rebels are ultra-athletic and have fully embraced 2nd-year coach Dave Rice's run n' gun style. Last year, the Bears were simply overwhelmed by UNLV's athletes. We struggled to bring the ball up, turned it over on offense, and failed to protect the defensive glass.
Sound depressingly familiar? Well, at least Cal fans should be well-fed before the game thanks to the food trucks setting up around Haas Pavilion.
Although the Rebels lose their veteran backcourt to graduation, all-conference and honorable mention All-American forward Mike Moser is back (possibly. He's day-to-day with a hip flexor). They also reloaded with a top-10 recruiting class which includes a McDonald's All-American and three noteworthy transfers.
Their only blemish on the year is a mildly inexplicable loss to the Oregon Ducks. Although the Rebels got out and ran, the Ducks matched them run for run and made more shots down the stretch. Thus far, Cal hasn't shown that we have the firepower to pull that off.
UNLV won't quite be at full strength with Pittsburgh transfer Khem Birch still not eligible. There are also rumors that Moser is still limited by a nagging hip injury. Even so, they have more than enough size and athleticism to give the Bears fits, especially if Ricky Kreklow still can't go.
F Mike Moser(Jr), 6'8, 210 lbs, 12.3 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.8 apg
F Anthony Bennett(Fr), 6'8, 240 lbs, 18.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg
G Katin Reinhardt(Fr), 6'5), 210 lbs, 11.3 ppg, 3.3 apg
G Bryce Dejean-Jones(So), 6'5, 200 lbs, 8.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg
G Anthony Marshall(Sr), 6'3, 200 lbs, 9.8 ppg, 6.3 apg
G Justin Hawkins(Sr), 6'3, 190 lbs, 9.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.3 apg
F Quintrell Thomas(Sr), 6'8, 245 lbs, 3.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg
Moser is long-armed, explosive, and can jump out of the gym. He has a real knack for snagging boards and can finish around the rim in a variety of ways. Anthony Bennett has lived up to his billing as the nation's #1 ranked HS power forward. Known as "The Mayor", Anthony Marshall is an exciting slasher who was 2nd-team all-conference last year as well as all-conference on defense. Katin Reinhardt was a top-50 recruit who excels at shooting from deep. Bryce Dejean-Jones is a transfer from USC who might be their most explosive athlete on the wing.
Off the bench, Quintrell Thomas is a powerful transfer from Kansas. Justin Hawkins has a reputation as the MWC's best lock-down defender, but is also dangerous from behind the line.
Keys to the game:
1) Protect the ball.
It feels like I write this every game. However, for this match-up, it's absolutely essential. UNLV will buzz-saw through us like piranha through an unlucky cow if we fuel their transition game with sloppy passes. For comparison's sake, Wisconsin averages 7 steals a game; the Runnin' Rebels average almost 10. After last week's fiasco, you'd think that this would have been a point of emphasis in practice.
2) Control the tempo.
Although Cal likes to run selectively, UNLV _loves_ to run at all times. We just don't have the horses to play to their strength. That's not to say that we won't press a numbers advantage if we get one, but we'll need to pick our spots. A lot of this falls on Cobbs and Smith to maintain composure and not get drawn into a frenetic pace. The rest of it falls on our bigs to control the defensive glass. It's not a great surprise that an athletic team like the Rebels loves to crash the offensive boards.
3) Effort, intensity, and poise.
This is by far the toughest opponent to date. There's no way we're going to out-athlete them. But, we can play smart, and use the energy of the home crowd to elevate our level of play. If our guys are going to make any noise this year, this is a game where we have to refuse to be intimidated. UNLV is going to score plenty of points and they're going to force some mistakes. We have to play through, counter-punch, and avoid letting a run turn into an avalanche. Easier said than done. If Kreklow plays, we have a chance at matching up somewhat with their uber-athletic backcourt and wings. If not, that third guard position could be a match-up nightmare for us. Much like they did against a larger Georgia Tech team, our bigs are going to have to rise to the challenge unless they want to end up on a Sportscenter highlight reel.
Tip-off: Sunday, December 9th. 3pm (PST)
Radio: 910 AM