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Rebels putting more emphasis on feeding the post, especially in transition

Rice wants to make sure Anthony Bennett and others get plenty of looks down low. Also, there’s a surprise name among the Rebels’ captains

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett dunks during the team’s First Look scrimmage Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack.

Inside-out was a mantra often ignored last season, especially during the stretch run that signaled UNLV basketball’s premature end.

It’s a simple idea — work the ball inside to a post player who then can make a move for a shot or draw attention and pass back out to an open teammate. But it’s easier said than done, at least in the Rebels’ offense. Any open shot with your feet set is a good shot, according to UNLV coach Dave Rice, unless a teammate is more open, then you should have passed it.

And when playing in transition, as the Rebels expect to do often this year, the post player is usually the forgotten man on the floor. If he doesn’t have a breakaway dunk, he’s often watching the guards and wings sprint into the lane or pull up for presumably open jumpers.

Rice always wanted to work the ball inside-out last year and, arguably, the most frustrated he got on the sidelines all season was when that wish was ignored multiple possessions in a row. This year, he still wants guys taking open shots, but it’s even more important to feed the ball inside whenever possible.

“I have a lot of confidence in our ability to score out of the low post,” Rice said. “So in addition to hurrying the ball up and shooting open shots, we have placed more emphasis, especially in transition, in throwing the ball to the low post.”

Rice said he likes the variety of scoring options the Rebels will have down there, though it only takes watching a couple of minutes of practice to know UNLV can’t afford to ignore freshman Anthony Bennett the way it sometimes did Brice Massamba last season. Bennett has his own inside-out game with the ability to knock down contested 3-pointers. But when he’s down low, the priority for everyone is to pass first, ask questions later.

Newcomer is one of four team captains

Three of Rice’s team captains this year were no-brainers because seniors Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall and junior Mike Moser are the faces of the program. However, at this point, maybe only the diehards could probably pick Roscoe Smith’s face out of a crowd.

Smith came to UNLV this offseason from UConn and he must redshirt this season because of NCAA transfer rules. Despite the fact he won’t play a minute, Rice tabbed Smith as his fourth team captain.

“Roscoe brings great credibility to the team being a two-year starter on a national championship team, but it’s more than that,” Rice said. “Just the way he was able to help lead our group from the day that he got here. And the other thing, too, is I think it will motivate Roscoe and help him get through the redshirt year, which is tough.”

The practices thus far, especially Tuesday’s, have been as competitive as any I’ve seen. Smith isn’t the sole reason for that, but he has a lot to do with it.

Much like Bryce Dejean-Jones last year, without any games, the practices and scrimmages are the only competition Smith will get this year, so he goes all out. And that will be big for UNLV as the year continues. Physically, Smith is nearly a carbon copy of Moser — both are 6-foot-8 and 205-210 pounds with good jumpers — and practicing against someone like that who’s motivated this season can only help.

“To have a guy on the scout team whom I consider one of the main leaders is important to the development not only of Roscoe but of the team as a whole,” Rice said.

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

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  1. Going to be incredibly important to establish an inside scoring threat. The Rebels have not had anything close to a consistent post scorer in many years. The biggest fear I have is Anthony Bennett floating around the perimeter and casting up threes. The fact that he has a nice touch from three can make him all the more eager to bomb away. Many us of hope he can have a Larry Johnson type impact on this team. He certainly has the skill set to do it. However, what made Larry so great was the fact that he knew that he could go outside and hit the three, or put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket. But he also was very good at knowing that those skills were not necessary for the team to thrive. What he needed to do was stay close to the basket and punish people with his scoring, rebounding and defense. What made him great was knowing his role and not trying to do to much or showing all of the scouts his array of skills every night. He was about winning. I am so hopeful that the coaches stress this to Anthony and he becomes a dominant inside force that we need to take this team to special places. Runnin' Rebels!

  2. Reminds me of the old times when David Butler in transition.

  3. Besides Bennett, Moser is also capable of scoring down low. He has a nice turn around jumper. I also heard that Khem Birch developed a good hook shot.

  4. This sounds good...sells tix & is more fun to talk about......But you cant have a fill lanes & go transition game or a secondary inside/out transition game...if we dont defend & rebound at a high level FIRST. All the great Rebel teams were smothering defensively & outstanding rebounding teams. And I'm not just talking on ball or first pass pressure...but spots 1-5 denying everything, getting a body on a body, and getting to the glass. If not, they got the hook.

    If this group can hang their hat on that end too & Rice enforces a superior defensive standard....then we wont be trading baskets with inferior teams on the road anymore, minutes & fatigue wont be an issue, and these type of offensive tweaks will definitely help expand our offensive options & effectiveness.

    Offense is the Cart. Defense is the Horse. The LV Sun can put the Cart before the Horse in their articles. I just hope the Rebels arent making the same mistake in their priorities & preparation. Defense will dictate how far we go this year. Just like it always did in the past.

  5. Blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-blah-REEEEEEE-BELLLLLLLLLS!

  6. I don't think getting touches for Anthony Bennett will be a problem. Did you see how he ran the court in the scrimmage? He runs the court like a gazelle. So he will get his points in transition, he is money from 3, and I think he will get tons of open putbacks, layups, and dunks.

    I really believe the Rebels will be an elite defensive team this year. With Birch in the middle blocking and contesting shots, and the rest of our players are super long and athletic. With guys like Ant, Bryce, JHawk, Moser, Katin, Cook, Bennett, and Birch we should be one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Plus we basically got rid of our three worst defenders from last year in Bellfield, Stanback, and Wallace, so our perimeter defense should be much improved.