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Preview: California vs. UNLV

Preview: California vs. UNLV

UNLV looks to end a three-year NCAA Tournament drought as it faces California in a second-round East Regional showdown Thursday in San Jose. The fifth-seeded Rebels have failed to win a game in each of their last three trips to the Tournament, including a 68-64 loss to Colorado last year. UNLV, which won the national championship in 1990 under Jerry Tarkanian and lost to Duke in the Final Four in 1991, has advanced to the Sweet 16 just once since then.

California, which placed second in the Pac-12 Conference with a 12-6 record, will be making its second straight NCAA tournament appearance and 13th since 1990. The 12th-seeded Bears were upset by Utah 78-69 in overtime in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 tournament on Thursday in Las Vegas but have won nine of their last 12 games - including victories over tourney teams Oregon, UCLA, Arizona and Colorado. UNLV defeated the Bears 76-75 on Dec. 9 in Berkeley when forward Quintrell Thomas grabbed an airball and scored with 1.2 seconds remaining.

TV: 7:27 p.m. ET, truTV

ABOUT CALIFORNIA (20-11): The Bears, who won the national title in 1959, were the Pac-12's top defensive team, holding opponents to 39.6 percent. It's the lowest mark for Cal opponents since the 1960 national runner-up team held foes to 36.5 percent shooting. Cal features one of the nation's premier backcourts led by 6-7 junior guard and Pac-12 Player of the Year Allen Crabbe, who is averaging 18.7 points. He's joined by 6-3 junior Justin Cobbs, a Minnesota transfer who was a second-team all-Pac-12 selection after averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 assists. The duo combined for 47 points in the tournament loss to Utah.

ABOUT UNLV (25-9): Despite the loss to the Lobos on Saturday, the Runnin' Rebels have played well down the stretch, winning seven of their last nine - including four wins over tournament teams (Colorado State (twice), San Diego State and Boise State). However, Dave Rice's squad also lost at home to lowly Fresno State. The rematch with the Bears figures to be an emotional one for junior forward Mike Moser, who suffered a dislocated elbow going after a loose ball less than five minutes into the first meeting. That injury sidelined him for almost a month and has limited his playing ability since.

TIP-INS

  1. UNLV F Anthony Bennett scored a total of 57 points in the Mountain West tournament, a record for a freshman. The old mark was 52 set by Rebel Dalron Johnson in 2000.

  2. With 21 points in the Pac-12 tourney loss to Utah, Crabbe became the 10th Golden Bear in school history to eclipse the 1,500-point mark. He has scored 1,510 points in 96 career games.

  3. UNLV C Khem Birch, who was named the Mountain West's defensive player of the year and has 64 blocks in 15 games, did not play in the first meeting per NCAA transfer rules. The 6-9 sophomore was a mid-year transfer from Pittsburgh last season and didn't become eligible until Dec. 17.

PREDICTION: UNLV 70, California 65