Rebels basketball:

Bennett puts on a show in college debut, leading UNLV to 92-54 victory

An opening-game school record 18,187 fans filled the Thomas & Mack Center to watch the 18th-ranked Rebels roll over Northern Arizona

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett celebrates a dunk against Northern Arizona during the Rebels season opener Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack.

UNLV vs. Northern Arizona 2012

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett is defended by Northern Arizona forward Ephraim Ekanem during the Rebels season opener Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV won 92-54. Launch slideshow »

Rebels Basketball Opener

KSNV reports on UNLV Running Rebels' 2012 basketball season opener against Northern Arizona University on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012.

The Strip runs on residencies, with big stars headlining venues all over for mostly limited engagements. Monday at the Thomas & Mack Center, 18,187 people attended opening night of the Anthony Bennett Show, an event not likely to last in Las Vegas more than five months, so see it while you can.

Bennett, No. 18 UNLV’s most ballyhooed newcomer, scored the game’s first points with a big two-handed slam and then proceeded to dominate an overmatched Northern Arizona squad for 22 points and seven rebounds in his collegiate debut, a 92-54 Rebels victory.

“It was a pretty aggressive dunk,” Bennett said of his first official shot as a Rebel. “I wanted the fans to get into it, because once the fans get into it we get into it.”

The Lumberjacks (0-2) may be one of the smallest interiors the Rebels (1-0) will play this year, but this was still Bennett’s first real game since he helped Henderson’s Findlay Prep win a national championship last season. Not only did he dominate the game, Bennett didn’t need to be on the court more than half the time to do it. He collected his 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting, including 1-for-3 on 3-pointers, in just 20 minutes.

Bennett had a completely different visage than the guy who missed six 3-pointers and often hung his head in last week’s narrow exhibition victory against Dixie State. On Monday in front of school-record crowd for a season opener he was smiling and flexing on the court half the time, then jumping off the bench to be the first guy to congratulate his teammates the rest of the game.

UNLV coach Dave Rice said a lot of that credit goes to junior Mike Moser, who has been in Bennett’s ear the past few days about staying positive and playing his game. Moser even practiced what he preached against NAU, overcoming a 1-for-6 shooting night to impact the game in other ways.

“When you have a good team and you want to become a very good team it takes guys like Mike Moser, who scores two points and doesn’t care because he goes and gets 11 rebounds and he gets four assists and no turnovers,” Rice said.

Bennett wasn’t the only guy making his Rebel debut. Fellow freshman Katin Reinhardt had 14 points, 10 of which came during a 21-0 run that stretched over both halves and effectively ended the game after NAU had pulled within six less than five minutes to go in the first half.

Sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones hadn’t played in more than a year and a half since transferring from USC and scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting. He also had six turnovers, though some of that could be due to the broken left hand he suffered in early October. Dejean-Jones had the hand wrapped in ice at the postgame press conference, though the pain wasn’t enough to stop him from doing something like diving to the floor in the final minutes of a blowout.

“I don’t think about that until after,” Dejean-Jones said.

Freshman Savon Goodman scored 11 points in 16 minutes, making it all four newcomers in double figure scoring. The fifth Rebel to reach that plateau was senior Anthony Marshall, who had 14 points, six assists and two turnovers in his first game as the primary point guard. Marshall was 6-for-6 from the floor, helping UNLV shoot 50 percent as a team.

The Rebels shot 27 3-pointers, but unlike the exhibition against Dixie State most of these were open shots within Rice’s defensive-fueled running offense. The bad shots this time came in spurts rather than littering the entire second half like last Wednesday, which may indicate some improvement in that area as UNLV moves on to Saturday’s home game at 7 against Jacksonville State.

“We tried to make a consistent effort to get the ball inside, at least touch it,” Marshall said. “When we throw it inside they have to play our bigs or we’re just going to go in and score, so once they do come over and double it allows us to kick out and make an extra pass, and that’s when we get the open shots that we want.”

NAU did well in its season opener Saturday at Oregon, even leading the Ducks late in the game before losing by 10. They simply didn’t have the size to compete with UNLV, though.

The Lumberjacks started a four-guard lineup, and starting forward Ephraim Ekanem played only eight minutes because of a hand injury. UNLV outscored NAU 42-8, which may actually be more important than the Rebels’ 21-0 advantage in fast-break points. The reason is UNLV always knew it could run against this team. And while dominating the paint should have been guaranteed, the Rebels have a history of bypassing those easy points for long-range shots.

Everyone got into the act with inside points against NAU and it started with Bennett. The first McDonald’s All-American to go straight to UNLV from high school since Freddie Banks in 1983, Bennett has a lot of attention on him this year.

“Anthony has a lot of pressure on him, just like our team does, in terms of the expectation,” Rice said, “and no one has higher expectations of Anthony than Anthony has of himself.”

Through one game he proved capable of handling the weight of that pressure and leading UNLV’s offense. It won’t be the last time he leads the team in scoring, either, which is one of the reasons it’s easy to see why he’s already an NBA prospect. It would take a drastic reversal of fortune, most likely something health-wise, to keep Bennett from making the jump at the end of this season.

The main question is just how long this season will go, and after one game the Rebels like their chances of extending the show a weekend or two in March.

Note

Rice announced that walk-on freshman guard Charles Rushman will redshirt this season, giving UNLV just 10 available players until sophomore Khem Birch becomes eligible in December.

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

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  1. Nice job team! Way different this week as opposed to last week. The team kept attacking the rim, mostly taking good shots when NAU left shooters wide open, and played stifling defense. It was also great to see some of the different looks that Coach Rice put out there in the second half. Also, it looks like Q is the greatly improved from last year. He will be a quality replacement when a big needs a breather, and he could be a lock down defender for the other team's big. Coach Rice will have ridiculous options for the looks he can throw at teams.

    The only thing I would like to see is the shooters setting their feet before firing off a shot as it appears some of the misses/air balls were from off balanced forced shots.

    Anyway, the biggest difference I see in the team so far is attitude. The team has a real swagger. And it's great seeing the team play to the crowd to fire them up. Moser/Bennett/Birch/Q might be unstoppable in the post with Marshall's penetration, Katin's shooting, and the kick outs BDJ and Goodman offer.

  2. Great start. Much improved from last Wednesday. Great to see the kind of impact AB can have. His inside presence is going to have a major impact on our chances to have a great season. The Rebs shot the ball much better largely in part to as Rebel Mike mentioned taking more open looks. However, can someone tell Savon Goodman that he is not a three point shooter! Reminds me of Stacey Augmon as a freshman. Should not be attempting any shot outside of 10-15 feet. Also love what Katin and BDJ give us. Lots more offensive weapons this year. Should be fun! Runnin' Rebels!

  3. Great win for the Rebels! However, I disagree with most on here in that I think Anthony Bennett will probably return for next season. As good as he played last night, he'll have a different role in the NBA than he did last night. He's going to be playing mostly on the perimeter in the NBA. He still has a lot of work to do on his perimeter game, particularly his ball handling. And, the best part is that he knows he has a lot to improve on. Nothing worse than somebody who doesn't think they need to get better.

  4. I'm glad the team played well. It's important for the younger players to experience success early in the season. Now let's keep this momentum going and continue to work on our defense and conditioning....which will help us prepare for the tourney.

  5. lets keep selling the games out to make up for that $3 million the football team is losing this year

  6. Q still can't finish down low against 6'4" guys, but he does look quicker.

  7. Once again it's payback time as the basketball team avenges the football team's losses. Spankings for NAU.
    Here, Reno, c'mon, don't be afraid. It'll only hurt for a little while...

  8. For the most part I thought UNLV did pretty good, and have what it takes to go far. One thing I did notice though, was that we kept leaving their perimeter guys open for 3's, so maybe we can get a little better better on defense in that area, other than that the Rebels looked great.

  9. To all of us who are Rebel fans out there. Let us bow down and sing praises for the Alpha and the Omega here, TeamSG1, for he knows everything and anything about this world has to offer. He is the most interesting man in the world and the sexiest man alive. The reason for our existence, his words are the guide for mankind. So let us all kneel down to our Savior, TeamSG1!

  10. Daniel Jackson, nice post. Except those who are actually from Las Vegas disagree with you. Vegas once featured the greatest college team ever and Vegas knows what competing with the 'big boys' is all about. This season UNLV's squad is deep with talent, and in regard to NAU, could have beaten them 140 to 35 if they wanted to. Take note, Anthony Bennett (the man featured in this story) only played 20 minutes of the game (that's only half of the game). So in response to your comment, it appears UNLV is not pounding their chest over this win. They coasted rather easily over NAU and are licking their chops to face teams like North Carolina. This is our city, this is our team.

  11. Oh my God TeamSG1, I knew you know everything. You proved Larry Bird wrong when he said God is disguised as Michael Jordan. In fact God is disguised as TeamSG1! You are the truth! We are not worthy! We are not worthy! Give praise and worship to the one and only TeamSG1 !!!

  12. Ha ha Daniel Jackson, UNLV 1990-1991 was the perfect college dream team. HBO made a movie about it last year. Get over it. Your comments drip with jealously. I was at the game this week and loved it. Vegas loves this team. This season will be fun and exciting. You transplants think too much. :)

  13. TeamSG1 is for real! You are the most awesome being in this planet,. Your opinion is what matters, everyone else's dont. Any sports commentator or journalist will be put to shame with his oozing knowledge of sports. You should be in TV for your points of view and it's ridiculous why espn havent discovered you and get paid millions. We Las Vegans are not worthy!

  14. that's funny little daniel, last year you made a prediction before we played san diego st. here that in a month's time the rebels would be out of the top 25 and nobody would care anymore. and then you said something to the effect of "mark it down". i repeatedly attempted to get you to acknowledge this when you were proven wrong (in fact the rebels climbed in the rankings in the timeframe you referred to), to no avail. so you'll have to excuse me for calling b.s. on your new claim that you'll come back and take your medicine if you're proven wrong again. go away troll.

  15. why do you even respond to such an idiot? He is trying to get a rise out of you(but im a hypocrite). So "daniel" your posts make me almost feel embarrassed for you. What exactly is a "big boy" daniel? The UNC team that unlv beat last year? "Most of you will never seen unlv win a nat title". That is the best you can say? Do you troll the other 340 + schools that don't win the Nat title? Grow up man. You have to be a loser to go to The LAS VEGAS SUN and troll about the rebels.. prob a disgruntled lobo or aztec fan that cant handle UNLV being in the nat media every other day.

  16. Jones can straight up shoot the ball. Great all around effort on Defense. It's only one game but this team just begs to be compared to Tark-era teams... confidence, swagger, showmanship, skill. Of course it isn't 1990-91 THE BEST COLLEGE TEAM EVER, but Rice has assembled a lot of talent here and the potential (hate that word) is limitless.
    I was going to post something about "little boy" daniel, but SANDIEGOREBEL et.al. pretty much nailed it.

  17. Lots of wieners being flung around in here. Not contributing to the sword fight.