LAS VEGAS — Under coach Jim Boylen, the Utah basketball team has played well against UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center.
In 2008 and 2009, the Utes lost close games in the final minutes after leading at halftime, and last year they handed the Rebels a rare home-court loss with a team that finished 14-17.
Like last year, a losing Ute team (10-11) will try to knock off a UNLV team that has been ranked part of the season. The Rebels are 14-6 overall with a 4-3 record in Mountain West Conference play.
"Every game has been a nail-biter … they're just dogfights," said Boylen of his three games in Las Vegas. "They're usually ugly, physical, up-and-down games. We have a lot of respect for Vegas. These games are very tough games, and we expect another one Wednesday."
The Utes are coming off a disappointing loss to Colorado State Saturday afternoon, which dropped them below .500 in both MWC play (3-4) and overall. When asked if this is a "hinge" game for his team, Boylen said he doesn't think so.
"I don't see it that way. I don't coach that way," he said. "We need to bounce back from a disappointing home loss. It's a road game against a team we're wrestling with for position. We're going down there to win and play Ute basketball. We'll be ready."
The Utes are expected to use the same starting lineup they've used for the past several games with Josh Watkins at the point; Will Clyburn, Shawn Glover and J.J. O'Brien at the wings; and David Foster at center. Jason Washburn and Chris Kupets are the top players off the bench.
The Rebels counter with their usual smaller, center-less lineup consisting of 6-foot-8 forwards Chace Stanback (13.1 ppg) and Quintrell Thomas (5.1 ppg); and guards Oscar Bellfield (11.1 ppg), Anthony Marshall (10.4 ppg) and Derrick Jasper (6.9 ppg). Tre'Von Willis, an all-MWC performer last year, comes off the bench this year and averages 12.1 ppg.
"They like to turn you over and get easy baskets," Boylen said. "They would much rather have an up-and-down game than a half-court game. They have a driving team and a jumpshooting team. They put a lot of pressure on your defense. They're well-coached. Coming off a bye week, I'm sure they've prepared well."
Following tonight's game, the Utes return home to face Air Force Saturday at 6 p.m. as the second half of the MWC schedule begins. The Utes will play UNLV at home on March 5.
Utes on the air
Utah (10-11, 3-4) at UNLV (14-6, 4-3)
Tonight, 8:30 p.m.
Thomas & Mack Center
TV: The mtn. Radio: 700 AM