UNLV vs. UNC: Runnin' Rebels Defense Will Be Too Much for Tar Heels to Handle

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistDecember 29, 2012

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 26:  John Henson #31 of the North Carolina Tar Heels looks to pass as Justin Hawkins #31 and Chace Stanback #22of the UNLV Rebels defend during the championship game of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena November 26, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UNLV won 90-80.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

No. 7 UNLV's defense is going to prove to be more than North Carolina can handle when the two meet at the Dean Dome in Chapel Hill on Saturday night.

The Runnin' Rebels do as good a job at forcing opponents to take bad shots as anyone in the country, holding teams to 37.1 percent shooting from the field.

Not even the explosive Tar Heel offense, one that drops an average of 84 points per game on the opposition (third in the nation) and shoots just over 45 percent from the floor, will find success against UNLV.

We've already seen the Runnin' Rebels defense give Roy Williams' squad fits before, lest we forget that it was UNLV who handed the then top-ranked, undefeated North Carolina squad its first loss of the season last year in the Las Vegas Invitational.

UNLV beat North Carolina by 10, 90-80, in a game that saw the Tar Heels struggle to hit shots, shooting only 42 percent from the field (28-of-66 shooting).

This UNLV defense is better than that one was.

Granted, this is a different North Carolina squad than the one UNLV beat, as the Tar Heels have a trio of freshmen—Brice Johnson, Marcus Paige and Joel James—all playing significant minutes.

But like I said, this is a better UNLV defense than what North Carolina faced last time, due largely in part to the new faces on that side of the court, including arguably the best freshman in the country, Anthony Bennett, who is averaging nearly 20 points and nine rebounds per game.

Yet the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Mike Moser, UNLV's explosive junior forward who destroyed the Tar Heels with 16 points and 18 rebounds—and someone who is a solid defender—could be back on the court for this one after missing time with a dislocated elbow, according to Sporting News.

Whether Moser plays or not isn't going to change the outcome of this one; he'd just make things more painful for the Tar Heels and those in attendance.

UNLV's stifling defense will shut down the high-flying Tar Heel offense, sending North Carolina into ACC play with four losses on the season.