UNLV basketball:

On the back of one player’s huge run, the Rebels survive a scare at Portland

During six-minute stretch in the second half, Justin Hawkins led UNLV from a nine-point deficit to an eight-point lead, a margin it held for a 68-60 victory

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

The UNLV bench and fans watch as UNLV guard Justin Hawkins, left, shoots a 3-point shot during the second half of their NCAA college basketball game against Portland in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Hawkins sank the basket as UNLV won 68-60.

UNLV defeats Portland in first road game of the season

KSNV reports that UNLV men's basketball team defeated Portland 68-60 for its first road win of the season, Dec. 4.

UNLV vs. Portland

UNLV players Mike Moser, right, and Anthony Bennett, left, celebrate from the bench on both sides of coach Dave Rice during the second half of their game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. Bennett led UNLV in scoring with 18 points as they won 68-60. Launch slideshow »

PORTLAND, Ore. — Dave Rice’s description of his team’s first-half performance Tuesday night wasn’t coach speak. Technically, it wasn’t even speaking.

The words came later — and surely there were plenty more in the locker room for a UNLV team that shot 24 percent and trailed at Portland (3-5) by six — but first was just a sound. It was the whistle that often accompanies Wil E. Coyote when he falls off a cliff, the effect getting softer and softer as he falls to his doom.

No. 21 UNLV (6-1) avoided the thud that usually finishes that scene thanks to its seniors, a defense that kept the Rebels within single digits and a huge second-half advantage in the foul department. Without all of those things, and a few more here and there, the Rebels wouldn’t have survived without starter Mike Moser to defeat the Pilots 68-60.

“Thank goodness that we’re a good half-court defensive team, because our half-court defense kept us within striking distance when our offense was anemic and we couldn’t make a shot whether it was contested or wide open,” Rice said.

Moser is going to get an MRI on Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas though he’s not ruled out of Sunday afternoon’s game at Cal. People may point to his absence as the catalyst for this performance but the problems were far greater than one man.

How bad was UNLV’s offense in the first half? Freshman Anthony Bennett scored the team’s first seven points. That’s good, except that UNLV still had only his seven with less than 10 minutes to play.

Bennett finished the first half with 11 points, exactly half of UNLV’s total, and he claimed the only made 3-pointer. The rest of the team went 0-for-14.

This is a constant battle for the Rebels. Rice wants them to have the freedom to shoot, but only if they first look inside. There was almost none of that in the first half. Most of UNLV’s attempts came early in the shot clock after no more than two passes.

“I would have been fine with all those shots if they’d come inside-out but we panicked a little bit the first half and took a few too many quick, semi-contested shots,” Rice said.

In the second half the Rebels trailed by nine with 16:39 remaining, and what came next would be the stuff of legend if the phrase could apply to a December nonconference game against an overmatched opponent.

From that time until he missed a 3-point attempt with 10:12 left, UNLV senior Justin Hawkins scored 15 points, including four 3-pointers, and dished out two assists with a steal and a block. Near the end of that stretch Hawkins could be found waving his arm in the corner, a demand he said any shooter would make during a streak.

“One of our shooters was going to get hot and it just happened to be me,” Hawkins said.

UNLV went from trailing by nine to leading by eight, a 17-point swing that included a combined 6-for-7 shooting at the free-throw line. That was huge in the second half as the Rebels got into the double bonus with more than 13 minutes to play. Really, this game could have easily been a double-digit victory had the team shot better at the line. In the second half the Rebels were 13-for-21, compared to the Pilots’ 1-for-2.

Usually if there’s a discrepancy in the fouls it favors the home team. While the numbers should never be that out of whack, both coaches agreed the calls went to the more aggressive team.

“A lot of the time the aggressor gets the whistle and we needed to step up a couple of times and take charges versus just trying to contain,” Portland coach Eric Reveno said. “We got them settling for 3s in the first half, and they can make those, but they didn’t so that worked to our advantage. The second half they got to the line and did a great job. That was the difference in the game.”

No one could really blame Reveno if he wanted to throw the referees under a bus. Center Ryan Nicholas had 15 points and 19 rebounds, a terrific performance all for naught. The second-half calls were so one-sided — 16 to four — that it had to be more than a little frustrating for the Pilots.

Still, UNLV did earn at least a few of those calls.

“There’s no doubt we were more aggressive on the offensive end,” Rice said.

Offensively it was like the Rebels were running a relay race the whole game, where only one guy could run at a time. Bennett, who finished with a game-high 18 points, came out of the blocks decently and eventually Hawkins grabbed the baton, surging UNLV into the lead. The other two legs of the race would go to seniors Anthony Marshall (16 points, six rebounds, four assists) and Quintrell Thomas, who had nine points and seven rebounds.

Thomas was a key piece on defense, too, the thing that carried UNLV while the shooters struggled. Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt combined to shoot 2-for-19, including 0-for-10 behind the three-point line.

Tuesday certainly didn’t calm any nerves for people who watched the Rebels struggle like this on the road time and again last year. The problems are still there and even more than the Oregon loss this game proves how much improvement UNLV still has to make.

That’s a major concern, no matter what word, phrase or sound you use to describe it.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. All the "they're gonna be great" "such potential" "putting it together" won't mean anything if they don't even make it to the post season. I see no offensive movement, I see no blocking out, I see no coordinated effort. UNLV is playing like an NBA team with not enough talent, careless shooting, lots of falling down on loose balls, reckless fast breaks, and the intensity of a 25 watt light bulb.

    A team as good as the hype would have blown out every opponent by at least 25 scoring 100 points a game.

    Any improvement is not apparent.

    7 games and a smattering of exhibitions would start to show something. Instead it shows a team that is NOT coming together. The time for excuses is about over. There are some great teams in the WAC and UNLV must play each of them twice. If they play like they have these last few games they are going to get crushed often.

    Am I the only one who sees some serious issues? I hope I'm wrong.

  2. All the "they're gonna be great" "such potential" "putting it together" won't mean anything if they don't even make it to the post season. I see no offensive movement, I see no blocking out, I see no coordinated effort. UNLV is playing like an NBA team with not enough talent, careless shooting, lots of falling down on loose balls, reckless fast breaks, and the intensity of a 25 watt light bulb.

    A team as good as the hype would have blown out every opponent by at least 25 scoring 100 points a game.

    Any improvement is not apparent.

    7 games and a smattering of exhibitions would start to show something. Instead it shows a team that is NOT coming together. The time for excuses is about over. There are some great teams in the Mountain West and UNLV must play each of them twice. If they play like they have these last few games they are going to get crushed often.

    Am I the only one who sees some serious issues? I hope I'm wrong.

  3. Once I read that Ezark doesn't even know what conference, I confirmed that he has zero credibility. The Rebels are seven games into the season. There's no reason to panic. They're definitely getting better.

  4. Phillips - Panic may not quite be the right word but they have two major problems that are not going to go away. Problem number one is the Rebels are an extremely low IQ basketball team. Careless turnovers and stupid shots seem to be a staple so far. Number two they are lazy. Sure they play hard man to man for a pass or two, then they break down and give someone an open look. More than half of the offensive rebounds they give up is because they turn their back and let their man waltz in for an easy put back. This weekend against Cal could be ugly. Cal is a good team and will expose these weaknesses. Are they 6-1, yes. Have they beaten anyone that will make the NCAA tourney? No. This will be the best test since Oregon and I would not hold your breath. UNLV will have to play by far their best game of the season to have a chance in this one.

  5. Granted a lot of players were playing out of position, but this should have been a blowout for the Rebels. Turnovers, poor shot selection, and not getting back on defense were the Rebels achilles heel. On the positive, Bennett is a "Beast." I had my doubts about him, but he carried the team last night.

  6. gumby2323 - Last time I checked, Oregon was receiving votes to be in the top 25. They are most definitely a top 25 team.

  7. I said have they beaten anyone any good. They lost to Oregon.

  8. I think it's fair to say that Reveno prepared his team better than Rice did. I'm not a Rice basher, but that seemed evident to me. I really wish the Rebels would spend more time watching film and working on free throws than they do on twitter. They might, but you can't tell.

  9. I get the feeling this will be a tough year for fans due to the team not meeting high expectations. There are so many areas the Rebs are deficient in. There's talent there but it's just not coming together. Haven't seen any game-by-game improvement. If they keep playing like this they'll end up 4th in the MWC by the time all is said and done.

  10. Unfortunately come February and March, Rebel basketball fans are going to be very disappointed with this overhyped team. This team is a middle of the pack team in the very good MWC. They are poorly coached, poor shooting and have some showboating players who are not very smart. David Rice is better suited as an assistant. He doesn't make adjustments very well during the game and doesn't use his player's talent to help the team. It's more like 5 players out there with their own agenda. An outside shooting team they are not, yet they keep launching in-your-face rediculous threes. The first real road test will be against Cal, a smarter but less talented team.

  11. It's funny to see comments about how the Rebels will perform in March, based on their performance in November and December. The truth is, we don't know how they will play and we don't even know who will be playing come March. Let me point out a few factual "excuses" about last night.

    1. It was their first road game of the season, and the first road game for the careers of Bennett, Reinhardt, Jones, and Goodman (all of which played big minutes).
    2. They were without their best all-around player as a late scratch, who is also their best option for busting the zone.
    3. They shot 24% in the first half, most likely the lowest they'll shoot all season in a half.
    4. Jones and Reinhardt combined for 6 pts on 2-19 shooting. They won't shoot this badly combined in another game. (I'd put money on it)
    5. They won the game by 8.

    Now, was it a performance worthy of UNLV, and of the hype that the team has for this year? Absolutely not. But college basketball games don't come easy on the road, and even more so if you have young players (ask Kentucky). Also, when the selection committee reviews UNLV's resume they aren't going to point out that they only beat Portland by 8 and not by 30. This isn't the BCS, a win is a win.

    Some things I look forward to in the coming games:
    1. Khem Birch. Doesn't need an explanation.
    2. The continued maturation of Anthony Marshall as a PG. He has been playing better and better at the point guard position, and if his teammates could finish layups at the rim he could be leading the nation in assists.
    3. Jones and Reinhardt adapting to their roles on the team. Jones could be the best defense/rebounding guard in the conference if he wanted to be and he's doing well on that end of the court. I feel like he's pressing a bit on the offensive end and jacking up bad shots trying to "get his". Reinhardt just needs to gain some confidence. He has shown flashes of ability in shooting, passing, and getting to the rim, but he seems a little tentative to take charge of the game, something that should be expected from a freshman.
    4. Mike Moser playing the SF position. His FG% has been down this year, but I feel like it will regress back to the mean a bit as he gets more reps. He, like a lot of other players, has been pressing to get points on the offensive end, instead of making the right play. I also want to see what a lineup of Marshall, Jones, Moser, Bennett, and Birch will look like.. I think you'd have to look hard to find a bigger and more athletic 5 in the country.

    I feel like there will be another 4-5 losses this year for this team, but if they figure things out by March there won't be many teams in the country as dangerous as the Rebels.

  12. Besides all the selfish guard play, poor rebounding (you gave up 13 rebounds to ONE PLAYER in the FIRST HALF) poor shot selection, terrible offensive sets, which included somewhere around ZERO SCREENS unless Lopez is in the game, and DeJean-Jones/Reinhardt being defensive liabilities, they looked great!

    The only positive I got from this game was Bennett's ability to dominate on both ends of the floor. The only person who should be gearing up for the NBA is that kid.

  13. both papers pointed out the discrepancies of fouls in the second half, but the Pilots enjoyed the calls in the first half including a technical from a player that was walking away. Portland's calls changed the first half. There were multiple calls on UNLV that showed the Rebel never even touched the Portland player. I would say the better team won DESPITE the referees. Go REBELS!!

  14. People forget that any road win is a good win in college hoops. Especially with one of your best players on the bench.

    Also of note is that they were down by a good margin fairly late in game, shrugged that off (on the road) and took a lead that was never really in doubt. That, is a good thing and something you build upon.

    Is there progress to be made? Yes. But progress is incremental and this win is such an increment.

  15. Nice job keeping your heads on after such a poor first-half offensive performance. And nice to get a road win without your best rebounder and second-best scorer. It's a long season. Go, Rebels!

  16. Wow a lot of Rice bashing. Way to early to panic.
    1. You can only play your scheduled (didn't beat anybody) we're 6-1 bad loss to Oregon adjustment made; point guard needed we took Daquan Cook of redshirt status
    2. This is still a team that is waiting for Khem Birch to come in and start heavy minutes at center. In the meantime everyone else sucks it up.
    3. We're ranked earlier than we have been in years, with a lot of press, teams get pumped up for us.
    4. Showtime yes Dave Rice preaches style as a recruiting tool and it is already paying off in big dividends. Living in SoCal channel 691 Time Warner we get Lakers and Rebels just like the old days.
    5. We'll play our best basketball in March and that is the ultimate goal. It's not how you start it's how you finish.
    Enjoy Rebel Fans!

  17. @ UNLV-123, Come on, enough with the excuses. At seven games into the season UNLV still hasn't figured it out. Mr Rice is doing a poor job of handling these overhyped guys.
    1. A good team should be able to handle a road game. Don't baby these guys "it's their first road game" how pathetic is that.
    2. A quality team should have other members pick up the slack. It was obvious Mike Moser was missed, and no one stepped up. This should be a TEAM effort, not a bunch of "Selfish guns"
    3. As your opening statment states, "you don't know if they will not shoot so poorly again". 4.There are a lot of good teams out there with tough defenses. You don't know when a good defensive team shut them down.
    So stop the excuses, when UNLV lost to Oregon, some pathetic rebel fan blamed the loss to Pro Scouts being present, come on, are you kidding.
    UNLV is an overrated team, they will be exposed soon.

    If you get a chance watch Indiana, Michigan, Duke, Ohio State, or any top 10 team in the country play, then compare to where UNLV is after 7-8 games. NO MORE EXCUSES.

    Go Hoosiers...

  18. @HoosierBoy, Keep trolling. By the way, since you want to compare UNLV to Indiana, how many of Indiana's starters are freshmen? Don't look it up, the answer is 0. In fact, I think they only have 1 freshman on the entire team that actually plays.

    You know who else is better than UNLV? The Miami Heat.

  19. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  20. Kentucky starts three freshmen and two sophomores once again. It's not an excuse that they're struggling. It's just a fact of being young. The same thing goes for the Rebels. When you're young, there will be ups and downs. The best example of this is St. John's, who started five freshmen last season. Sure, they were all top 100 players, but they're freshmen.

    HoosierBoy is not even remotely humble. It wasn't too long ago that Indiana was a garbage program and perennial bottom-feeder in the B1G.

  21. Haha, I found myself in the picture. That was an exciting 3, Hawkins was screaming for the ball.

    Overall, not the best game, obviously, but they had a little luck and found a way to win.

  22. No true PG is a big problem....Marshall having to work so much on both ends is making him less effective. Not overly impressed the overall defensive effort either...we dont defend as well as we did under Kruger. I really like Rice's schemes on the offensive end though...we just dont execute them with consistency.

    And the latter two are, imo, the result of a lack of credibility & accountability from Rice. He's gotta use the power of the bench to get his team to do what he wants. Take a stupid shot? Hook him! Dont defend or help on D? Hook him! Dont box out? Hook him! I dont care who it is. We make the SAME mistakes 4 or 5 possessions in a row....then we take a TO & correct it. That is just throwing away 3 or 4 possessions & that is the difference between winning & losing vs a quality team.

    I'm all for playing with "freedom" but this team needs a dose of "fascism" for its own good...otherwise we can & have descended into anarchy out there.

  23. It is ridiculous to think that these freshman don't have experience. Playing for Findlay Prep and other big schools in big tournaments give these kids LOTS of experience. The problem is that they are all in it for themselves and think that someone else will do the hard work. They have NBA mentality. When they go up against Cal this weekend they will get crushed by 20. Then we'll hear excuses and "what we can take away from a loss like this" But maybe they need a couple whippings before conference play. 4th place in MWC will be tough to get an at-large bid to NCAA where they will miraculously pull together and play to their potential.

  24. You are absolutely right djonian. This team is infinitely more talented than most of Kruger's teams but so far their lack of discipline and attention to detail is showing. Everyone would love to see this team run but they have not shown that they can dictate tempo through constant pressure defense, or keep teams off the offensive glass to start the break. Then when they do get out and run they take poor shots and make careless turnovers. I did think that the second half against Portland that they made better decisions and took a step forward however, this team needs to focus on making the simple play. Every player on the team needs to watch J Hawk play. He has been the glue that is holding this together so far. He has always been great about making simple effective plays without the flash. I have my fingers crossed against Cal.

  25. @HoosierBoy LOL I'm glad that I can provide you with some entertainment. You're right, I was so angry after reading your post that I resorted to using FACTS to support an argument. I realize that's WHOA CRAZY CRAZY, but sometimes you just have to take things to the extreme.

    Hey, I'm curious as to why you chose the website of a lower level Las Vegas newspaper to harass fans of team that hasn't played your Hoosiers in any meaningful game for what, 25 years? Are you a Vegas resident? Are you just extremely bored? Do you have have nothing meaningful in your life?

    Hope to hear from you.

    Love,

    UNLV-123

  26. Our defense lacks the intensity of years past. DeJean-Jones looked lost in the handful of games I've seen, he can't finish or shoot.

    Not sure why people rag on Carols, he plays with toughness. In the majority of the games, we haven't looked like a top 20 team.

    Gonna get slammed for this, but Bennett needs to give 110% all the time. Seems like he takes plays off. We need to execute as a team, not as good individual players.

    Lastly, Moser aside, J-Hawk is our best player, pound for pound.