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July 27, 2015

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Rebels basketball:

UNLV Leftovers: Season could hinge on results of next two games

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall defends Air Force guard Tre’ Coggins during their game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won in overtime, 76-71.

UNLV vs. Air Force: Jan. 12, 2013

UNLV forward Mike Moser dunks on Air Force during the first half of their game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. Launch slideshow »

The next two games — Wednesday at San Diego State and Saturday at Colorado State — have the chance to define UNLV’s season.

It’s more likely that this week won’t be the be-all and end-all for this team, but just the thought that it could be is interesting. For instance, if the Rebels were to break through and win both games, it could propel them to a league title. And if they lose both, especially if they’re not close in either, it could weigh on a team that never figured things out on the road last year.

No matter what happens, there’s enough time for the team to trend either way after these contests. But considering the stakes on these games and what it could mean to steal one or two road games, as well as what it would mean to start league play 1-3, it could be a very interesting week for the Rebels.

Marshall lets game speak

After UNLV lost to New Mexico — actually, at 10:03 p.m. to be precise — Anthony Marshall sent a tweet suggesting he wouldn’t return to Twitter until after the season.

“Done with this .. see y'all March/April!,” Marshall tweeted.

On Saturday, he didn’t take a shot for the entire first half, finishing 0-for-1 from the floor with 12 assists and two turnovers. This season, he has a 2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but that clearly wasn’t good enough for him.

“I had some games where I had a high number of assists, but I had some games where I took a lot of shots also,” Marshall said. “For us to be successful, I don’t need to do that.”

Marshall is having the best shooting season of his career with a higher percentage on fewer shots, but the senior seems to be aware of what a lot of people say about him. Marshall said the impetus to change his offense came from his own dissatisfaction rather than outside voices.

There’s certainly some truth to that, but for a guy who’s so aware of all that’s said and written about him and a Twitter fiend who just quit cold turkey, I have to believe his reduction in shots was in part a reaction to things he’s heard.

“Before this game, I really didn’t do a good job of running this team as a point guard,” Marshall said. “I’m so used to playing the two. From here on out, I just want to put guys into position to be successful.”

Rotation

Senior forward Quintrell Thomas didn’t play a single minute for UNLV on Saturday against Air Force. It's the first time this season he didn't play.

His numbers figured to go down once Khem Birch made his way to the starting lineup, but to go from starting one game to not playing at all because of a coach’s decision two games later was a little surprising.

I don’t think this will become Thomas’ norm, but it still may happen again. With the trio last year of Brice Massamba, Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Thomas, the latter two often had to settle for inconsistent court time. This year may very well be the same for those two, with a different guy getting most or all of the minutes one night and someone else doing it the next time out.

Speaking of the rotation, freshman Savon Goodman appears to be the odd man out. He has sat out the past two games, and considering the talent ahead of him at the three and four spots, it’s hard to find time for him on the court.

In conference play, the rotation should always get shorter. Against Air Force, the Rebels played nine guys with seven getting at least 21 minutes. That seems about right.

Free throws

Once again, free throws played a major factor in a UNLV game. In the loss to New Mexico, it was about the Rebels’ inability to get to the line — 4-for-5 — while the Lobos had 29 attempts.

“I thought we did a good job shooting 80 percent from the line,” Rice said with dry wit Wednesday. “… Anytime you can shoot 80 percent from the line, you’ve got to be happy with your percentage.”

Against the Falcons, the Rebels didn’t have any trouble getting to the line; they just couldn’t do anything once they got there.

After shooting 9-for-10 on free throws in the first half, UNLV went 5-for-17 in the second half, which was a big reason it needed overtime to get the win. The Rebels were 4-for-4 in the extra session.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or taylor.bern@lasvegassun.com. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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