Analysis:

UNLV Extras: Can Rebels learn from victory against New Mexico?

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones reacts after the Rebels recovered a loose ball against New Mexico Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV beat New Mexico 64-55.

UNLV vs. New Mexico - Feb. 9, 2013

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett celebrates a dunk against New Mexico during their game Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

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.

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UNLV forward Carlos Lopez-Sosa tries to get the crowd louder during their game against New Mexico Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV beat New Mexico 64-55.

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.

“Losing isn’t fun, especially if it’s against Boise State or Fresno State.”Bennett

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.

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

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  1. This next week will really tell us whether UNLV is beginning to understand just how hard you have to bring it every game, or whether it is more lip service from coaches and players. If UNLV can beat Air Force on the road and SDSU and CSU at home that puts them at 8-4 and right back in the thick of things. Those are big ifs given the Jekyl and Hyde nature of this team. Sure would be nice if the Rebels could find their offense again. In the non conference the Rebs averaged over 78ppg. So far in conference they are averaging only a little over 66ppg. A 12 ppg drop off is a major concern to say the least. If the Rebels continue to shoot a poor percentage and go through scoring droughts this number is not likely to improve. Air Force will no doubt play most if not all of the game in a zone. Time for the boys to shoot better than the 33% clip we shoot threes at.

  2. Getting up for these games should not even be talked about. March is just around the corner, the Rebels should think about running the table in the conference and getting in to the big dance with a nice seed. This is the time of the year that effort and intenistey should not be a problem. But the way this team has preformed you just never know? Hoping for the best.....

  3. Everyone just continue to trash talk this team. I prefer the "no one respects us" mentality.

  4. @Jerry - Exactly. It was that "us against the world (or at least the NCAA)" mentality that put the fire in the belly of the '90-'91 team. Great effort against UNM, guys. Keep it up. GO REBS!

  5. Are you kiddin me, this team is nowhere near the mentality and not even close to the talent or heart of that team...They should talk to Stacey and get some motovation, Rice cant inspire this team maybe Stacey can....

  6. After watching the game against New Mexico, I've finally come to peace about who the Rebels are this year. As talented as they are, they are still mainly freshman and sophomores. Freshmen and sophomores that make alot of mistakes and want to make names for themselves instead of being melded into a unit for the betterment of the team. Against NM, we watched Katin fire up a few 35 footers and watched Birch dribble the length of the floor while BJD was wide open. Who knows what would have happened in that game if NM made more of their free throws or Katin doesn't hit a few of those 3's. Remember Marshall when he was a freshman? The kid was out of control, made many mistakes, and couldn't shoot the ball from 3. What a difference 4 years can make. So I have to admit I let my expectations get too high this year. The sad part is we won't get to see how good this team could be a few years down the road with Bennett.

  7. you think Stacey Augmon has just been sitting on his thumbs at practice? C'mon man, come with something better to say.

  8. Hey Wayne do you watch the games, do you ever see him talk to a player or have something to say in the time out huddle????Duh get in the game...

  9. Unfortunately you cant teach attitude. Anthony Bennett and Bryce Dejean Jones have it to a degree. Guys like Augmon, Johnson, Butler, Scurry, Hunt, and Anthony all played with a chip on their shoulder from the moment they put on a Rebel uniform. I think we all remember the days where every game at least one if not more of the Rebels would square off with an opponent. Trash talk, hard fouls, and an in your face mentality. They played with an anger and aggression that most of our guys on the current roster do not have. I am pretty sure that no matter how much Augmon talks to these guys that they will ever have that chip on their shoulder.

  10. Well said Gumby, that was my point to, somehow,someway someone has to light the fire and it has to be done very soon or its one and done once again in the tourney....

  11. J-Hawk, Moser, CLoSo, Q - Love all of their attitudes - Even when they're not getting the minutes.

    Regarding Bennett's comments about BS and FS, I cringed too, but maybe he was saying that it's tough to lose to teams you're supposed to beat, hopefully??? Definitely need to respect EVERY opponent, and act like each game means the championship - because they may have meant exactly that.

    I'm worried about the AF Game. They took us to OT, IN OUR HOUSE! Altitude, Road-Loss-Syndrome, Asthma - let's hope they can break thru whatever the ailments!

    They should do some strength and endurance training up at Mt. Charleston! Then, they'd be going down the hill to play these Mtn teams.

    GO REBELS!!!

  12. @rebelgrad95 (Jason Taylor) - I definitely agree with you about going up to Mt. Charleston for conditioning. However, that would have to be done in the offseason, and it would have to be a team effort by the players. The coaches only get two hours of practice time per week in the offseason.

  13. Can Rebels learn anything from UNM victory? yes the team can but you still have the other factor who can't seem to learn anything.