Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012 | 10:53 p.m.
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With one shot 20 seconds into Saturday’s game, UNLV’s Mike Moser eclipsed his point total from the season opener. That 3-pointer was only the beginning for the Rebels’ junior forward, who took the team’s first four shots and finished with a game-high 19 points and 10 rebounds in No. 18 UNLV’s 77-58 victory against Jacksonville State (3-1) at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Against Northern Arizona, Moser did everything but score, registering 11 rebounds and no turnovers. This performance wasn’t nearly as clean — he had five of UNLV’s 19 turnovers — but UNLV coach Dave Rice wanted to make sure he got Moser involved offensively from the beginning.
Rice often says the Rebels’ offensive leaders each night will vary by what the defense gives them, though occasionally it looks like he’s comfortable forcing it to one guy, too.
“We made a concerted effort to get him going,” Rice said.
UNLV (2-0) had five guys finish in double-figure scoring. Freshman Anthony Bennett nearly matched Moser’s double-double with 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 22 minutes. SeniorJustin Hawkins came off the bench and scored 16 points while starters Anthony Marshall and Katin Reinhardt both scored 11.
Marshall was again solid at the point, dishing out six assists to two turnovers, but it came in a game-high 36 minutes. During the postgame press conference Rice referenced last season’s tired collapse in regards to preventing it this year with more balance. It’s early, but playing a guy that many minutes consistently was a big part of the problem and something Rice said this offseason he would address.
Rice may go into a game with target minutes for his point guard, but during a game it’s hard to keep to that if he doesn’t trust someone else to run the show. That was an issue at the same position last year with Marshall and starting point guard Oscar Bellfield both averaging a team-high 32 minutes per game.
That may take care of itself in the coming weeks with Reinhardt’s continued development and putting more on the shoulders of Hawkins, who plays starters minutes regardless of when he enters the game. If it doesn’t then UNLV may need to make a concerted effort to rest certain guys, particularly Marshall and Moser, more than it wants to to benefit the team long term.
“I don’t think we’ll have the same tired basketball team we had at the end of last year just because we’re going to play ourselves into shape and I have so much confidence in our bench,” Rice said.
UNLV closed the first half with a sizable run for a 32-14 lead that helped cover its offensive issues. The Rebels committed 11 first-half turnovers and shot 2-of-10 behind the three-point line. The problem, like Marshall’s minutes, was something they encountered often last season: really slow opposition.
Jacksonville State used up the shot clock as much as possible in order to keep the ball out of UNLV’s hands. It worked, to a degree, because the slow pace frustrated the Rebels to the point they got sloppy.
“I got a little wild, just wanted to get the game going faster,” Moser said. “A little frustrated from how they were playing.”
The Gamecocks couldn’t take more advantage of those turnovers because they shot just 21.7 percent from the field in the first half. Jacksonville State missed plenty of decent looks during that stretch but UNLV’s defense deserves just as much, if not more credit, for that outcome. Anytime an opponent scores just 14 points in a half you’re doing something right.
“We had a couple lapses but our athleticism made up for it,” said Hawkins, who had two steals.
Behind Bennett and Moser, UNLV dominated the boards, outrebounding the Gamecocks 41-24. Controlling the glass like that allows the Rebels to more easily weather droughts on offense or defense, something that becomes more important when the competition moves up a considerable notch Friday at the Mack against Oregon.
UNLV plays games on back-to-back days right after Thanksgiving, first hosting the Ducks and then playing either Iowa State or No. 24 Cincinnati on Saturday in the Global Sports Classic. With two games in 48 hours conditioning is going to be even more important to survive, as is relying on defense and rebounding to carry the team no matter what the offense is doing.
The Rebels obviously need to get better throughout this season, a process that may need to be expedited this week in practice. The players have said they’re eager for more games because they’re tired of beating up on each other.
“Be careful what you wish for,” Rice said, “because good games and tough games are coming up very soon.”