Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 | 9:25 p.m.
- Rebels back on the road, where rival Aztecs are ready and waiting
- After going 1-1 last week, Rebels fall out of Associated Press poll
- UNLV Leftovers: Season could hinge on results of next two games
- Rebels fit into some different roles and fend off Air Force in overtime
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 76, Air Force 71
- Tale of UNLV’s league-opening loss can’t be told by one number alone
- Mountain Best: Counting down the league’s 10 best nonconference victories
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
UNLV 82, San Diego State 75
SAN DIEGO — Anthony Marshall made key plays down the stretch and UNLV walked away with an 82-75 victory that showed the Rebels have the ability to win games in the final minutes.
Marshall finished with 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting after taking just one shot in last Saturday's victory against Air Force. Bryce Dejean-Jones scored 14 and Khem Birch scored 12, including a crucial putback after an offensive rebound in the final minute.
Jamaal Franklin led all scorers with 27 points while Findlay Prep grad Winston Shepard scored 18 with five assists and one turnover.
In the final few possessions, UNLV grabbed a couple of offensive rebounds for easy layups and kept the Aztecs from getting some of their own. Winning can often come down to something as simple as boxing out, and it was clearly huge for the Rebels at Viejas Arena on Wednesday night.
UNLV went with a four-guard lineup lacking both Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser in the final minutes. It looked like a strange decision though it's hard to argue with the results. We'll see in postgame if there was more to it (health) than Dave Rice's decision.
The Rebels move to 15-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play while SDSU drops to 14-3 and 2-1. There's no rest for UNLV, which plays at Colorado State on Saturday.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.
UNLV 66, San Diego State 65
7:06 remaining in the second half
SAN DIEGO — The Rebels' 10-point lead turned into a one-point deficit in about five minutes. That's what happens when you go about five minutes without making a basket.
UNLV battled back by going to what worked in the first half: attacking the basket. Marshall drove hard to the rim and Birch regained the lead on a transition dunk. The Rebels' problems have come when they get into half-court situations. Instead of playing aggressive in those situations, UNLV is dribbling it around and not looking inside.
The Rebels have gotten back to those attacks in the past couple of possessions but it can't disappear again. SDSU is ready to win this game. UNLV must prove it is, too.
UNLV 56, San Diego State 48
15:59 remaining in the second half
SAN DIEGO — The start of the second half has been a constant struggle for UNLV. Not so tonight, where the Rebels have extended their lead thanks to Anthony Marshall's aggressiveness and a pull-up jumper from Anthony Bennet you can't possibly defend.
Bennett went off one dribble and up in traffic for a smooth 12-foot jumper. When it's that or a dunk an opponent will always take the jumper, so if Bennett's in a groove there's little you can do to stop him.
As good as UNLV has played, though, it's not like SDSU is just going away. The Aztecs are still capitalizing on UNLV mistakes by getting out in transition. Each team is charging toward the basket on almost every possession, which makes for a really exciting game.
UNLV 48, San Diego State 42
SAN DIEGO — Three UNLV starters — Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser and Khem Birch — all had two fouls barely more than halfway through the first half, yet when they were sent to the bench, the Rebels still found a way to extend their lead.
Savon Goodman and Quintrell Thomas, who both sat out the entire Air Force game, came in and gave UNLV a smaller lineup that San Diego State wasn't prepared for. The Rebels have twice as many rebounds (22-11) and 13 assists on 19 made baskets, but the home team has been the benefit of the foul calls. The Aztecs' Winston Shepard, a Findlay Prep grad, has as many made free throws (nine) as UNLV does attempts.
Obviously that's tough to overcome, but the Rebels have been doing it so far by dominating the glass and the paint, where they lead in scoring 26-14 despite getting only 28 of a possible 60 minutes from Bennett/Moser/Birch.
Shepard has gotten to the line by beating the Rebels off the dribble and drawing contact at the basket. That's something both teams have been trying and succeeding to do often tonight. Plays like that are why this game is on pace to sail over the pregame total of 138.
Neither team can probably slow it down enough to get under that number, but it will be interesting to see if either side does try to slow it down at all. Both of them have been good to great in transition, so I don't expect anyone to pull up and slow it down, but it's possible Steve Fisher or Dave Rice think that tactic may get them an advantage down the stretch.
UNLV 31, San Diego State 29
7:27 remaining in the first half
SAN DIEGO — UNLV is going to have a much harder time keeping this lead in the final minutes of the first half than it had getting there. That's because Mike Moser, Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch each have two fouls.
That means all three are now on the bench, bringing in Savon Goodman and Quintrell Thomas for a much smaller lineup. Whether that also means a more vulnerable lineup, we'll see.
UNLV 12, San Diego State 7
15:04 remaining in the first half
SAN DIEGO — Anthony Bennett finally was called for the first technical of his career, and it hasn't mattered a bit as UNLV has run out to an early 12-7 lead.
Bennett has four points on two dunks. The first drew a technical after he said something to an Aztec, and the second came in transition as Anthony Marshall thread the seam and found him in a tight window.
Khem Birch also has a dunk and Mike Moser, who hit a 3-pointer, was pulled out of the game early to go over something with assistant coach Heath Schroyer. We'll see if he takes advantage of something in SDSU's defense now that he's checking back in.
SAN DIEGO — There was a chance tonight at 7:15 on CBS Sports Network was going to be the last time UNLV played at Viejas Arena. I’m thrilled that’s not going to be the case.
In case you missed it, this afternoon the Mountain West and San Diego State announced their decision to keep the Aztecs in the league as full members in all sports. This had been expected ever since Boise State spurned the Big East to stay in the Mountain West and the Broncos put a clause in their agreement that gave SDSU the first chance to be the 12th football member and 11th for all other sports. Really, this has been a legit possibility ever since the Big East started to crumble months ago.
"With today's announcement, SDSU's membership continues uninterrupted and helps the Mountain West maintain a solid foundation going forward,” league commissioner Craig Thompson said in a statement. “The Aztecs remain a perfect fit geographically and provide the conference with a highly competitive athletics program that includes a Top 25 men's basketball team, a 2012 MW tri-champion in football and several other league championship programs."
Whatever you think about Aztecs fans, and from what I can tell most of you don’t care for them, to put it mildly, it’s hard to deny this non-move is good for the league. With 12 football teams the league is expected to approve a conference title game at an undetermined location this upcoming season. And the divisions could be separated easily by time zones; Mountain — Boise State, Utah State, Colorado State, Air Force, Wyoming and New Mexico, and West — UNLV, UNR, San Jose State, San Diego State, Fresno State and Hawaii, which is the lone football-only member.
The title game is something league presidents and ADs have wanted for the additional revenue and the extra exposure it offers. Those are the types of thoughts leading this process. What I’m happy about, though, is what it means for this league as a basketball entity.
Say what you want about the Aztecs, they’re entertaining and lately they’re really good. Keeping them and a burgeoning Boise State team in the loop while also adding quality like Utah State next season is very exciting for the future of a league that’s likely to see new heights already this year.
Oh, and I think the Rebels might win tonight.
THE OTHER SIDE
San Diego State projected lineup
G — Xavier Thames, 6-3, Jr, 10.5, 2.2 rpg, 2.7 apg
G — Chase Tapley, 6-3, Sr, 15.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.4 spg
F — Jamaal Franklin, 6-5, Jr, 17.8 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.9 topg
F — JJ O’Brien, 6-7, So, 6.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 54 fg%
F — Deshawn Stephens, 6-8, Sr, 6.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 57.7 fg%
Sixth man — G, James Rahon, 6-4, Sr, 7.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 2.2 A-TO ratio
Best name: Jeremy Castleberry, G, 5-10, Jr
Extra storyline: This game pits UNLV’s Anthony Bennett against former Findlay Prep teammate Winston Shepard, a 6-8 reserve freshman forward.
Useless Wikipedia factoid: The oldest club on campus is The Rowing Association.
Kenpom line: SDSU -5
Vegas line: SDSU -3.5
Bern’s take: Here’s my advice: Bet against UNLV on the road until there’s a significant trend in the other direction. That said, I’ve got a feeling that tonight will go the Rebels’ away. I don’t recommend you put money on it, but don’t be surprised if it happens. UNLV 69, San Diego State 66