Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Feb. 11, 2013 | 12:23 a.m.
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- Take 5: Resetting the storylines halfway through Mountain West play
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- Rebels have only simple explanations for complex loss at Fresno State
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
As you would expect after a victory, there was a decidedly different feeling to the postgame press conference than there had been after the past two losses. Everybody was upbeat, happy and generally more open with either insight or jokes.
This yielded a lot of interesting remarks, a few of which we’re going to break down here:
“There’s no doubt Mike Moser has been frustrated.” — UNLV coach Dave Rice
The junior forward played just two minutes against New Mexico in UNLV's 64-55 victory. He didn’t reinjure his elbow or hurt anything else, and it wasn’t because of foul trouble.
This was a coach’s decision and one that made some sense. Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 11 of UNLV’s first 22 points and Anthony Bennett finished with 17 points and 12 rebounds, providing great minutes at the three and four spots. Rice rode the hot hands and treated Moser like he would a fringe rotation guy, and the way Moser has been playing lately you couldn’t say it’s undeserved. He was a nonfactor before getting tossed against Boise State, and in 20 minutes against Fresno State, his ORating was 21, according to kenpom.com. The starters all registered at least 80, with Anthony Marshall coming in with a game-high 141.
Down there with Moser was senior guard Justin Hawkins, whose ORating against the Bulldogs was 11 and who played only six minutes against UNM. Hawkins is 3-for-25 over the past six games, and at home against a good team, the Rebels played good enough defense without him to lead the whole way.
Both of these guys, especially Hawkins, whose health status is more certain, will be factors for UNLV down the stretch. They were both hopping off the bench and congratulating teammates during the game, but eventually Rice will need one or both to snap out of their funks.
“We have to talk about Carlos Lopez-Sosa.” — Rice
OK, let’s do that.
Just like last season, Lopez-Sosa hasn’t found a consistent role in the rotation. This was predictable dating to the summer, when Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas talked about working as hard as they could to find playing time.
The difference was Lopez-Sosa always seemed to take it more personally. That’s possibly because the college basketball machine already chewed up Thomas at Kansas, where he was told certain things that never came to pass because the Morris twins (who both play in the NBA) suddenly became available and went to Lawrence. I think his eyes are open a little wider.
I thought Lopez-Sosa’s attitude could actually be detrimental to himself, if not the team — in the past few weeks he’s tweeted some cryptic things about proving haters wrong — but the on-court results have been stellar.
Lopez-Sosa has thrived in practice as a scout team player, and he played very well in 15 minutes against New Mexico. He scored two points, both at the free-throw line, grabbed five rebounds and had two assists and two steals with only one foul. His effort was so obvious that the crowd basically gave him a standing ovation.
He’s not going to suddenly get consistent minutes the rest of the year, but if he plays like that when his number is called, Rice will feel comfortable going to him in important situations.
And if Lopez-Sosa ever learns to score off his pass fake, which somehow fools everybody, then he’ll really be on to something.
I think if Rice were still in the room when Bennett said, this I would have seen him cringe.
Treating those teams as less than San Diego State or New Mexico is exactly how you lose those games. There was a quote from Moser from before the conference season about how he didn’t understand last year how tough the league was and how difficult it was to play at Boise or Air Force, schools you don’t grow up recognizing as having good teams.
Clearly the message hasn’t made it through to the younger class, something that was probably evident just by the Rebels’ play in both of those games. Going back on the road Wednesday against Air Force, the Rebels would be wise to bottle the emotion they played with Saturday and unleash it for the second straight game.
Speaking of the Falcons...
“It’s my understanding that the Air Force team will be wearing camouflage uniforms, so I certainly hope that we can find them on the floor.” — Rice
The Falcons are having Military Night for Wednesday’s game at 6 p.m. Las Vegas time on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. That means $5 tickets and possibly a packed house for the team that last week put itself in the NCAA Tournament conversation with a victory at home (including a court storm) against San Diego State.
Air Force’s bid took a serious hit Saturday afternoon when it blew a late lead at UNR. The Falcons led by seven with 2:32 remaining, giving them a nearly 95 percent win probability, according to kenpom.com. The Wolf Pack then scored 15 of the final 18 points to pull out a five-point victory.
So just like Boise State was desperate when UNLV came to town, so too will the camo-clad Falcons be prepared to do anything for a victory.
Now please deposit a dollar in the pun jar on your way out.