Analysis:

UNLV Leftovers: Moser’s return finally gives Rebels their full roster

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Mike Moser is guarded by North Carolina forward Leslie McDonald during their game Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

UNLV vs. North Carolina in Chapel Hill

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall grimaces while coming off the court during the final seconds of their 79-73 loss to North Carolina Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012 at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. Launch slideshow »

First things first: Coming out of the Dean Smith Center victorious was always a long shot for No. 20 UNLV (11-2). Not only does North Carolina (10-3) have a home nonconference winning streak that dates to 2005, but the Tar Heels are talented. Not to the degree they were in last year’s loss to the Rebels at the Orleans Arena, but this was a team motivated both by that defeat and the fact that it had come up short in its only other big nonconference games this year.

Basically, the Rebels were an underdog for a reason. And because of how the game played out — a really bad start followed by stretches of good and great possessions — it offered a canvas to paint the 79-73 loss however you wanted.

Think the Rebels were underprepared and not ready for bigger stages? You could make that argument. Think the final 30 minutes showed growth from a young team that will now handle road games against teams such as New Mexico and at San Diego State better than it would have before the UNC loss? You could make that case, too, though the better evidence will come Jan. 9 when the Rebels travel to Albuquerque.

The point is most people chalked this one up as a likely loss at the beginning of the season, and depending on your point of view you can make as much or as little out of this game as you want. The caveat to this is that UNC had to play without Reggie Bullock, its second-leading scorer and rebounder, yet the Tar Heels didn’t seem to miss a beat.

UNC lost a starter while UNLV got one back, but you wouldn’t know that just from watching the game. Which brings us to the starter UNLV got back.

Mike Moser was not the Rebels’ problem

After the game, Moser said he wasn’t limited, but UNLV coach Dave Rice and my own eyes said differently. He played 12 minutes before fouling out, tallying just one rebound and a 3-pointer, an important shot that cut the lead to nine just before halftime.

On Wednesday, after Moser practiced for the first time since suffering a dislocated elbow Dec. 9 at Cal, he said there was “no way” he would play at UNC. He said the same thing the next day. Whether that was just misdirection or Moser really didn’t think he’d be ready to play doesn’t matter. The important thing is he was good enough to play, and in trying to fulfill a difficult role, Moser looked very much like a guy coming off an injury.

Rice used Moser in short bursts to give Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch breaks. Those stretches could have been longer, but Moser quickly got into foul trouble, a common problem for guys readjusting to game speed.

I saw a lot of comments after the game that Moser disrupted the team’s chemistry. Although it’s true Rice must figure out how to best handle his rotation now that he finally has his full complement of players, to say that Moser was at the center of UNLV’s struggles against UNC is ridiculous.

First off, the Rebels were already down six points when he entered the game. Then there’s the fact he was barely on the court enough to make a significant impact. And to say that Birch’s struggles — 1-of-4 shooting with four turnovers — were the result of Moser coming back into the rotation, as I saw suggested by several people, is misguided in this instance. Birch’s troubles — trying to do too much with the ball and getting pushed around by bigger post players — were his own.

Odds and ends

• The rotation for conference play, as I see it: Anthony Marshall, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Katin Reinhardt, Justin Hawkins, Moser, Bennett, and Birch, with Quintrell Thomas, Savon Goodman and Carlos Lopez-Sosa occasionally getting bigger minutes in certain matchups. To get the Rebels’ best talent out on the floor, those first seven guys need to all see close to starters’ minutes with the others filling in as needed.

• It seems pretty clear we won’t be seeing much of Daquan Cook. The freshman guard originally was going to redshirt, but the Rebels changed their mind. Since then he has appeared in five games, tallying more than two minutes just twice.

Cook, a 6-foot-1 native of Baltimore, has put on some weight since getting to campus, but he’s still undersized for a Division I point guard. That won’t change much the rest of the season, and unless there’s a significant injury to another guard, I don’t think he’ll see more than the mop-up minutes he’s had at the end of games.

• This was the fifth time this year that UNLV had more turnovers than assists. Two of those other occurrences also were on the road — at Portland and at Cal. In the Rebels’ other loss, at home against Oregon, they had exactly 18 in both categories. Really, this only confirms what you already know: UNLV, just like every other team, is better when it has more assists than turnovers.

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

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  1. I think Cook will see some minutes against the next two opponents. The Rebels should win both games comfortably.

  2. No more excuses. This entire chemistry thing, moser being back, messing up birch BENNETT and all this other garbage is old. It's time to realize the coach isn't up to par and we don't have a floor general. Cook should START against these next two teams because UNLV will get blown to smithereens at the Pit. The same road woes plagues this team....even with top talent. None of that matter anymore. UNLV either needs to wise up and play smart basketball and stop getting pushed around by lanky 18 year old boys (UNC) or have a horrific fall just like last year. UNLV, with losses looming at UNM, CSU, SDSU...can be 14-5 by January 17th and outs them in bubble trouble. Who would've ever though. UNLV better somehow beat BSU, AF, FRESNO AND UNR on the road if they wanna make the tourney and go u defeated at home. It's the only way. Respective losses at the Pitt, SDSU, wyo nd CSU are ok. But anymore can out them on a thin line balancing for their NCAA lives.

  3. I do think moser was a problem in the unc game he was absolutely out worked and muscled on the oars which lead to several easy put backs and his d w lacking. He took minutes away from birch and Thomas who was suited for that Mae with is physical style. I think moser causes chemistry and flow issues on the offensive end in particular.

  4. *boards, *was,*game,*his dang iPad is hard to type on

  5. Defensive rebounding was a big reason we lost to UNC. I noticed Bryce Jones watching jump shots while his man crashed the boards for easy putbacks.

    I also think that with all the switching we do defensively we get bad match-ups and confusion as to who is blocking out who.

    Taylor Bern: I like the way you tell it like it is unlike some of your predecessors.

  6. Now all they need is a head coach.

  7. Taylor is half right....Moser wasnt THE problem but he certainly wasnt the solution either. Given all that transpired injury wise, Goodman should have played those minutes. Moser had no rhythm, no intensity, and no confidence & thus got pushed around on both ends (especially on the defensive glass). Goodman would have made a difference with his effort.

    I'm not hating on Mike, I love his game usually. He just wasnt ready & shouldnt have played...even he thought so as reported. All I'm saying is a huge road game isnt the time to re intro/re adjust one of your starters to game reps. That should have been done this wk vs Chic St & Cal Bakersfield.

  8. Wonderful news fellas Now is the time to go out and win the MWC!

  9. RPI: 14
    SOS: 9
    Record: 11-2

    Very good non-conference resume as of now and they should be 13-2 entering conference play. Anyone panicking at this point is a lunatic. If they lose on the road against a bottom half conference team or lose more than 1 at home then maybe you can begin to worry.. I'd guess they are a 4-6 seed this year.

  10. Unlv-123: Nice to see someone come up with a rational comment from time to time; Very refreshing>

  11. Taking a look at a very talented, but very young team, and considering the same regarding the coaching staff, it is extremely reasonable to expect, and to be thankful for a 13-2 record going into conference play (assuming we make it there).

    This team is growing at the right pace. Mistakes will be made. 7 new faces on the court is more challenging than what the Lakers are going through; the difference is, we're winning!

    My guess is that if we were to meet up with Oregon again, we'd beat them handily. Both of our losses came from teams that played really, really well that day. If they hadn't, we'd be 13-0. Oh... and Cal probably played as well as they possibly could - AT HOME - and we still won.

    Some fans just need to pull the sticks out of their back sides! Otherwise just stay home and yell at our guys from the couch... Let the rest of us go get our Reb On!

  12. Winning on the road is very tough, especially a couple time zones away and at a blue blood program where the team hasn't lost a non-conference game in 8 years...

    Moser looked absent at times, but injury will do that. He was utilized to give some rest to some players. A healthy Moser will really benefit the team. The long sleeves like Franklin though, I dinno about going that route, Moser...