Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012 | 9:24 p.m.
- No. 18 UNLV can’t overcome its mistakes in 83-79 loss to Oregon
- Analysis: Lessons need to be learned in mistake-filled loss against Oregon
- Competition jumps to another level this weekend for No. 18 UNLV
- Global Sports Classic: Get to know Oregon, Iowa State and Cincinnati
- Rebels remain No. 18 in AP, USA Today basketball polls
- Moser asserts himself on offense, leading No. 18 UNLV to 77-58 victory
- Prized recruit Hamilton chooses UTEP over UNLV and others
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
The Rebels were angry Saturday evening. Stemming mostly from a loss to Oregon about 20 hours earlier, No. 18 UNLV was ready to blow up on anyone, most of all one another.
"We started the game kind of mad at each other," freshman forward Savon Goodman said.
They yelled and they sneered, barking directions and airing grievances in front of a sparse crowd missing many of the supporters from a day before. No one was willing to lose two games in a row, and until UNLV coach Dave Rice called a timeout early on, the Rebels (3-1) were willing to stave off that fate at the expense of composure.
The message in that break changed the Rebels' demeanor, and while it didn’t lead to a runaway victory it did help them settle in for a sloppy but important 82-70 victory against Iowa State (4-2) in the consolation of the Global Sports Classic.
One example was freshman Anthony Bennett getting after point guard Anthony Marshall for not getting him the ball sooner. Bennett walked away from Marshall and also narrowly avoided getting called for a technical after jawing with an ISU player.
That fire is good, especially from a player as important to UNLV’s success as Bennett, but the key is to harness and direct it in the right areas. That’s what Rice told his players.
“He sat us down," said Goodman, "and said, ‘We’re men. We’re going to go through this the whole season, dealing with each other, so we’ve got to put up and create relationships with each other.’ ”
Bennett finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four blocks as UNLV made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside after attempting 30 3-pointers against Oregon. Junior Mike Moser took the game’s first shot, a short baseline jumper, and finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, showing once again that when he gets involved early he’s a much better player.
Goodman was the biggest difference in the rotation Saturday versus Friday. The first night Goodman, who’s hosting five-star recruit and former AAU teammate Jermaine Lawrence this weekend, looked like a freshman lost in the shuffle. When he touched the ball his movement became rigid and he couldn’t stay on the court, committing two turnovers in three minutes of action.
A day later he was the first-half jolt UNLV needed, recording eight points, two steals, two rebounds and a block in 10 minutes. How he can look so different in such a small amount of time is simply the fate of most freshmen, Rice said.
“They’ll just get better with experience,” he said.
If not for one area of the game this could have been a blowout for UNLV. Marshall had 16 points and eight rebounds while Bryce Dejean-Jones scored nine on eight shots and made four steals. They weren’t completely dialed in (see: 16 turnovers) but there was little doubt from the early moments that UNLV was the better team.
The thing that kept Iowa State in the game was offensive rebounding, a stat they dominated behind Will Clyburn and Melvin Ejim. Both players finished with double-doubles, including a combined 13 of ISU’s 24 offensive rebounds. The Cyclones turned that into 22 second-chance points.
“They’re relentless on the offensive boards,” Rice said, “and that’s how we need to be.”
UNLV’s final surge toward a double-digit victory didn’t start until it kept ISU off the glass. Clyburn cut the deficit to three on a tip-in off an offensive rebound with 7:28 remaining. Over the next three minutes the Cyclones didn’t get a single one as UNLV ballooned its lead to 11.
There’s some blame to pass around the Rebels for not putting a body on a man whenever a shot went up. In their defense, though, ISU put up a ton of shots. Eighty-one of them, in fact.
The Cyclones shot 27-for-81 from the field, including 8-of-28 behind the three-point line, giving them plenty of opportunities to grab second-chance baskets.
The Oregon loss opened a lot of eyes for an inexperienced Rebels team. Moser called it a punch in the face, something he hoped would help UNLV avoid some of the problems it suffered through during last year’s surprising 26-9 season.
“I feel like it sent a message to stop listening to everything around you,” Moser said. “Stop listening to how good you think you are in your head or from whoever’s telling you what you are or whatever magazine’s saying about us or ranked this or that.”
UNLV may not have to worry about that number for a couple of weeks. And when the Rebels return to the court Wednesday at 7 against UC Irvine they likely won’t be nearly as mad, at least not at each other.
The challenge, then, is to find that same place of fear and anger and use it, in unison, against a common opponent: the next one on the schedule.