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January 16, 2013

The time is now

HOUSE OF HORRORS - The Viejas Arena hasn't been a pleasant place to visit for opposing teams since Steve Fisher took over as San Diego State's head coach, but it has been especially cruel to the UNLV Runnin' Rebels.

UNLV will look to end the misery of Viejas tonight when it battles the Aztecs in a Mountain West rivalry game that has been one-sided in the recent past.

The final scores may look close but the Aztecs have delivered when it matters most against the Rebels, winning six of the last seven meetings at home. SDSU has also won four straight against UNLV in San Diego.

Recently, a general theme of this matchup has been the Rebels inability to score points against an athletic Aztec club that has been, for the most part, bigger and stronger than UNLV teams that have appeared almost intimidated by the atmosphere at Viejas.

In the six losses over the last seven years, the Rebels have only managed to score 67 points twice. In the other losses, UNLV failed to even hit the 60 point plateau, notching 49, 58, 46 and 52.

Once again, SDSU (14-2, 2-0 MWC) is getting it done on the defensive end of the floor, allowing just 59 points per game to opponents. Only two teams have reached 70 points against the Aztecs this season, one of which occurred in an overtime game.

That will be a challenge for a youthful UNLV team that is 30th in the country in points per game (77) to try and push the tempo and force SDSU into a quicker game than it would be comfortable in.

Led by Anthony Marshall's 26 points, the Rebels had a chance to escape San Diego with a win a year ago but fell short, 69-67. Marshall was the only UNLV player that reached double-digits in scoring.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY - The separation of talent between these two programs over the years hasn't always been talent. Most observers think that the mindset that SDSU competes with has been the biggest difference between the two.

That can be argued to everyone is blue in the face, but results are results. There has to be a reason that the Aztecs have had so much success against UNLV, despite the fact that the Rebels have flirted with the national rankings for much of this run.

UNLV is hoping that a recent win over SDSU on the recruiting trail could pay off, as early as tonight.

The two schools haven't gone toe-to-toe in many recruiting battles throughout the years. Differing philosophies between the coaching staff would probably be the reason why.

When Dave Rice got the UNLV coaching job, he immediately went after a player that, not only was a player that typified SDSU's success, was a primary target by the Aztec staff.

Bryce Dejean-Jones was very close to becoming a Rebel opponent before Rice lured assistant coach Justin Hutson over from SDSU and brought with him the high-scoring wing.

Getting the tough-minded Dejean-Jones was, obviously, a win-win for the UNLV program. Instead of having him on their side tonight, the Rebels could've easily been having to prepare for him.

A FULL DECK - The Rebels have been a "work in progress" for the last two months as Rice waited patiently for his roster to be complete.

Now that Mike Moser is fully back from an injury he sustained right before Khem Birch's debut, it's time for UNLV to begin realizing its potential rather than dreaming of what could be.

The Rebels will start a pair of former McDonald's All-American's along with Moser in what should be one of the most dynamic, talented frontcourts in the nation.

No more excuses. No more what if's.

UNLV is in a position to be special this year but the Rebels can't put off their improvement any longer. A victory at San Diego State would be a very nice stepping stone towards getting where the Rebels expect to be.

For more in-depth and insider information, be sure to check out Rebel Confidential.



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