Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 | 10 a.m.
Updated Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 | 1:19 p.m.
- UNLV’s progress will be put to the test Saturday at North Carolina
- ‘Program builder’: An oral history of the game that put UNLV back on the map
- Stars from 1977 UNLV team remember their Final Four game against North Carolina
- UNLV, not North Carolina, will be ranked team for Saturday showdown
- Birch surprises himself with stellar offensive performance in UNLV’s victory
- Rebels must focus on the task at hand before their holiday break
- UNLV senior on watch list for award given to nation’s top point guard
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
UNC 79, UNLV 73
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — UNLV missed several free throws down the stretch and couldn't overcome either that or its poor first half to take down North Carolina, falling 79-73 at the Dean Smith Center. The Rebels drop to 11-2 while the Tar Heels improve to 10-3.
UNLV had three players score 15 points, including Anthony Bennett, who also had 13 rebounds. The other 15-point scorers were Anthony Marshall and Katin Reinhardt. UNC's Dexter Strickland led all scorers with 16 points.
The Rebels were completely out of sorts in the first half and were lucky to only trail by nine at the break. When the second half started they looked much better and even took a brief lead, 49-48, on a Reinhardt 3. To UNC's credit, the Tar Heels battled back and kept UNLV at an arm's length for most of the rest of the game.
UNC could have made it much easier on itself UNLV could have climbed back into the game had either said shot well at the free-throw line. UNLV hit 11-of-21 while UNC was 20-for-33.
That plus giving up second-chance basket off offensive rebounds hurt the Rebels all game. In the end it was too much to overcome against a talented UNC squad that played good but not great.
UNC was missing its second-leading scorer because of a concussion and Mike Moser returned for UNLV less than three weeks after suffering his elbow injury, but it was the Tar Heels who had the upper hand nearly the entire game.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's game.
UNC 64, UNLV 61
7:45 remaining in the second half
UNLV briefly took the lead on a Katin Reinhardt 3, then after a 10-2 UNC run the teams have been battling back and forth. They're now playing the type of game we were expecting from the start: fast, with a lot of athletic plays in the open court.
Anthony Bennett went baseline for a dunk that almost no one else in the country could finish, and the Rebels are moving the ball around much, much better on offense, which is leading to good shots.
On defense the Rebels' posts are pushing the Tar Heels out of the paint and making life difficult, but the wings are making up for it by streaking into the lane to finish near the basket. The good news here is that there's life on both sides, which is more than you could say for the first half.
UNC 46, UNLV 42
15:57 remaining in the second half
Anthony Bennett has woken up, and with him a fired up UNLV looks like a different team on offense. For the most part UNLV is attacking the rim, with the exception of Bryce Dejean-Jones, who's still making one-shot possessions with bad jumpers.
Even Dejean-Jones has looked a bit better in the second, though, taking a pass in the corner and driving right to the basket. When UNLV asserts itself it forces UNC to make decisions on defense. It puts the onus on the Tar Heels, and that's what the Rebels want. They want to make UNC make some mistakes.
UNC 39, UNLV 30
UNLV has committed 11 turnovers with just six assists and it took a 3-pointer from Mike Moser in the final seconds to cut the Rebels' halftime deficit into single digits.
Anthony Marshall has seven points for UNLV while Anthony Bennett and Bryce Dejean-Jones have each scored six. Brice Johnson is leading UNC with eight points and P.J. Hairston has seven. UNC is shooting 53 percent from the field with UNLV is at about 38 percent.
The Rebels' offense today has mostly consisted of dribbling around and waiting for picks that either don't come or come too late. Basically, UNLV is not doing a good job of creating angles and advantages for itself, and even when it does the Rebels hare having trouble finishing. They've missed several shots inside of five feet.
All that said, the UNC lead is only nine, which is by no means insurmountable in this environment. UNC has played good, not great, so if UNLV can raise its level of play the game could be even sooner than later. That's going to take a lot more assertiveness from the Rebels, particularly the guys off the ball who need to do more to get open and set up the offense.
UNLV also needs to do a much better job boxing out the Tar Heels, because it will be very difficult to pull back into the game if UNC keeps getting easy second-chance points.
UNC 34, UNLV 20
3:07 remaining in the first half
The actual number (7) is even for both teams, but watching this game it seems like North Carolina is grabbing every offensive rebound, or at least making the most of the second-chance opportunities they do get.
UNLV's offense looks completely out of sorts, as it spends most possessions dribbling around the perimeter waiting for something to happen. Katin Reinhardt and Bryce Dejean-Jones are struggling from the field, though Reinhardt does have the team's only 3, and the Rebels are often getting the ball stolen away in the post.
The Rebels need some kind of spark to get back into this, and it's not at the three-point line. It's got to come with Anthony Bennett finding himself in position down low and working through post moves. That could open up everything else, but the Rebels seem hesitant to go to that offense, or at least they're struggling to get into it.
UNC 17, UNLV 6
11:20 remaining in the first half
Less than three weeks after a gruesome elbow injury that some said could end his season, Mike Moser is back on the floor for UNLV. Moser, who only returned to practice on Wednesday, entered the game with the Rebels needing a spark. So far he hasn't been able to provide it, but clearly Dave Rice believes Moser is healthy enough to provide something to UNLV today.
UNC 8, UNLV 4
15:15 remaining in the first half
UNLV is playing to type with a sloppy opening stretch at North Carolina. Anthony Bennett had a jumper blocked and then airballed a 3, one of four missed outside shots so far.
The Rebels' first basket came on a wide-open runout that could have been called for a foul. Getting out and running is what the Rebels want to do, but so far they haven't been able to come up with the stops to do it.
Carolina is doing a good job with its pressure defense but UNLV is still getting some good looks, just not hitting them. A big reason for that is that a lot of the passes have been a little off, either skipping to the recipient or sailing too high, which is forcing the Rebels to come out of an attacking position to corral the ball. By the time they do, the Tar Heels are on them.UPDATE: Bullock out for UNC, Moser warms up for UNLV
North Carolina junior guard Reggie Bullock is out of today's game against No. 20 UNLV with a mild concussion. The Tar Heels reported that Bullock, the team's second-leading scorer and leading 3-point shooter, collided with a teammate during a drill in Thursday's night practice.
This could be huge for UNLV, which has often struggled to close out on outside shooters. At 6-foot-7, Bullock is a tremendous weapon on the outside and without him UNC may struggle to get some easy baskets.
For the Rebels, junior forward Mike Moser is warming up with the rest of the team. On Wednesday, Moser said there was "no way" he would play today, and UNLV coach Dave Rice was non-committal on Moser's availability. Rice did discuss the possibility of Moser dressing today, and it appears that he will, though the odds are still against Moser seeing the court.
Bullock's injury may make it even less likely that UNLV would put Moser out there, because the Rebels now have a better chance to pull off the upset even without last year's leading scorer.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — At a place like North Carolina, a place that has some of the deepest roots in college basketball, the idea is that every year you reload, not rebuild.
The Tar Heels had four players drafted in the top 17 of last year’s NBA draft, and they’ve done a good job replacing three of them. The last one, though, has caused problems that have a lot to do with UNC’s 9-3 record and the lack of a marquee nonconference victory.
Asked whether No. 20 UNLV (11-1) would have an inside size advantage when the Rebels play at the Dean Smith Center at 11 a.m. today on ESPN2, UNLV guard Anthony Marshall was hesitant. His team is better matched up inside than it was last year, he said, but the main difference is at point guard.
“They really don’t have a guard over there like Kendall Marshall who can find guys on the fly like he did,” Anthony Marshall said, “so we can get up and pressure the ball some more.”
Kendall Marshall, who’s now in the Phoenix Suns organization, averaged 8.1 points and 9.8 assists per game last year. He was relatively quiet in UNLV’s 90-80 victory against UNC last year, shooting 38 percent and dishing out eight assists. His importance was amplified in the NCAA Tournament when the Tar Heels lost while he was on the bench with an injury.
Marcus Paige, a freshman from Marion, Iowa, has tried to fill in, but his turnover rate — the percentage of personal possessions that result in a turnover — is 28.9, which is high even for a point guard. However, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 3.6 in the past five games, so it’s possible he’ll continue to improve.
What that means for today’s game, though, is uncertain. Paige and senior guard Dexter Strickland are talented players, but they likely haven’t seen perimeter defense like they’ll see from UNLV’s Justin Hawkins, Bryce Dejean-Jones and Anthony Marshall.
In a game that could include enough speed to rival the UCLA-Missouri thriller from Friday night, a few extra turnovers up top could be the difference.
THE OTHER SIDE
North Carolina projected lineup
G — Marcus Paige, 6-0, Fr, 7 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.7 A-TO ratio
G — Dexter Strickland, 6-3, Sr, 8.8 ppg, 4.8 apg, 2.9 A-TO ratio
G — Reggie Bullock, 6-7, Jr, 13.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 47.5 3fg%
F — James Michael McAdoo, 6-9, So, 15 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.7 spg
F — Brice Johnson, 6-9, Fr, 8.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 62 fg%
Sixth man — G, P.J. Hairston, 6-5, So, 12.2 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 88.2 ft%
Best name: James Michael McAdoo
Extra storyline: Strickland and UNLV’s Justin Hawkins were part of a rotating group of guards to play for the same AAU team in Southern California that was chronicled in the book “Play Their Hearts Out.”
Useless Wikipedia factoid: UNC has had a live mascot, named Ramses, at athletic events since 1924, when a student manager brought him to a game the Tar Heels ended up winning in the final seconds.
Kenpom line: UNC -3
Vegas line: UNC -3.5
Bern’s take: As much as I look over numbers and think about what I’ve seen from both teams this year, there’s one thing I keep coming back to: It’s the Rebels AT the Tar Heels. Put anything else in between those mascots and I’d probably predict it differently, but the Tar Heels haven’t lost a nonconference home game since 2005 and the Rebels still don’t look like a great road team. UNC 84, UNLV 78