Analysis:

UNLV Extras: Team shooting better on the road than last season

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV head coach Dave Rice talks to his team during a timeout in the Rebels’ 66-61 loss to Colorado State on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo.

If you’re worried or freaked out because UNLV went 2-2 to open league play, take a deep breath and count to 37. That’s how many at-large teams will get into the NCAA tournament, and the Rebels are still well within that field.

A .500 record over a stretch that includes likely the three toughest games of the entire league schedule is good enough, especially when it comes at the start. Of course, the Rebels would prefer to be 4-0. And I’d prefer to have summer homes in San Diego and Fort Collins (seriously, the Mountain West has some amazing cities).

Basically, everything is still in front of the Rebels (15-4, 2-2), and having those games behind them already should be a good thing going forward. Here are a couple of other observations from UNLV’s recent contests:

A noticeable absence

During the most important minutes of the past two, both winnable, games, UNLV junior forward Mike Moser has been on the bench. Despite Moser tweaking his previously injured right elbow against Colorado State, UNLV coach Dave Rice said after each game that Moser had been available.

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UNLV forwards Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser watch during the final minutes as the Rebels pull away from San Diego State during their game Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 at Viejas Arena in San Diego. UNLV upset SDSU 82-75.

Against San Diego State on Wednesday, Rice opted for a four-guard lineup late in the game. The move also put Anthony Bennett on the bench for the final 3:43 (Moser was out the last 7:06). That was an in-game decision Rice made to go small, and it paid off, which made Moser’s absence more of an afterthought following a big victory.

Against Colorado State on Saturday, Moser was on the bench for the final 6:30. It’s impossible to say whether playing Moser down the stretch would have led to a UNLV victory, but the fact the Rebels lost highlights the decision to go without the 2012 first-team all-league choice.

Moser has had a frustrating season. He was averaging nearly a double-double through six games, though that also included 2.3 turnovers per game and an up-and-down field-goal percentage. Then Moser dislocated his right elbow at Cal, and since then it’s been a battle to get comfortable on the court.

Moser played spot minutes at North Carolina and at New Mexico, then played 40 minutes in the home overtime victory against Air Force. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds in that game, though it was inefficient — 6-for-14 on 2s, 0-for-4 on 3s, 2-for-7 on free throws — and earned him a paltry 76 Offensive Rating, according to kenpom.com.

Still, it seemed like a positive step toward moving back to regular starters’ minutes. Then came foul trouble and the small lineup at SDSU and the elbow scare at CSU.

It would have been unfair to expect Moser to jump right back in, but as UNLV exits its much-discussed four-game league debut and approaches February, it’s fair to wonder about Moser’s role the rest of the season and his plans for next year.

There’s still time for Moser to show the pro potential that had him nearly declare for the NBA draft last season. It just hasn’t made an appearance in a while.

Reports from the field

There are a lot of factors that go into winning or losing a basketball game. Although players and coaches may say differently, these usually change a bit on the road due to the extra challenges such as home-court advantage or fatigue.

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UNLV guard Anthony Marshall drives to the hoop for the Rebels first basket against Colorado State Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Moby Arena in Ft. Collins, Colo. Colorado State won the game 66-61.

One thing that’s always important, and something UNLV struggled with in nearly every road conference game last year, was field goal percentage. Admittedly this isn’t a perfect stat, but with only a few exceptions, a team's chance of victory rises along with its shooting percentage.

In that regard, the Rebels have made a decent improvement in three road Mountain West games this year. Here was the team’s field goal percentage last season against the same three teams it has faced this year:

1/14 at San Diego State: 35.3

2/18 at New Mexico: 31.1

2/29 at Colorado State: 39.3

The common denominator, other than the fact that they’re all under 40 percent, is that all three were losses. They’re also spread out through the conference season, indicating this was a long trend and not just a short funk. UNLV opened the conference season with the loss at SDSU; the defeat at New Mexico, which is the only road league game under Rice decided by more than seven points*, was the team’s third straight road loss.

Fast forward to this season and the results are a little better — 1-2 vs. 0-3 — and the Rebels’ field goal percentage is up across the board:

1/9 at New Mexico: 40

1/16 at San Diego State: 51.6

1/19 at Colorado State: 41.1

Keep in mind that while UNLV is a markedly different squad from last season, all three of these teams are very similar, with only one or two changes in their rotations.

Based on results, you already know this doesn’t mean UNLV has solved its road issues. But last season, the Rebels couldn’t win games a lot of times simply because they shot themselves out of games. And early indications are that won’t be as much of a problem this time around.

*The Rebels are 3-7 under Rice on the road in conference play. The margin of defeat in those seven games is 6.6 points per game, and it’s 4.3 ppg if you throw out the 20-point loss at New Mexico. Throw in the wins without that lopsided defeat and the margin, win or lose, is 4.4 ppg. Which is to say nothing has come easy.

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

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  1. The road record will balance itself out over time. They're playing better on the road than they did last season. They've been in every road game.

  2. Ha! 2-2 but an appalling 2-2. The CSU game was absolutely atrocious Marshall had to single handedly score for the team one, because Bennett has been incognito in big games and the ret of the team sucks, two, because Bryce jones is one of the worst players to out on a UNLV uniform. Let's see how they fare at Boise, Wyoming, UNR and Fresno. Better split the games or they're BYE BYE! Team is trash regardless. They have no shot at advancing past the first game IF they make the tourney. Ok be rooting against this team the remainder of the year. Coach has proved he can do so little with so much. What a joke.

  3. Wow James.. The level of bitterness in your posts has almost gotten to the point where we should begin worrying about your mental health.

    The Rebels have played 3 of the top 4 teams (Rebels being the 4th) on the road already and they are 2-2. Could they be 4-0? Yes, but considering they let down against Air Force they could easily be 0-4 as well. It's extremely hard to win on the road in the mountain west; take SDSU for example, losing by double digits @ Wyoming after scoring 9 points in the first half. I think 12-4 or even 11-5 will win the conference this year, so your post about the season being over and the team being garbage is childish nonsense.

  4. @UNLV-123 - I can't see the Rebels being worse than 12-4 in conference. They had a chance to win all four conference games so far. Every game from here on out is easier.

  5. I hope you are right phillips. This team seems to be good news, bad news. The good news to me is that in all four of their losses they had a chance to win the game in the last two minutes. That is a positive that if the Rebs can continue to keep tough games close they will get better at closing the deal. The bad news is that they have stumbled in those games and due to fundamental mistakes (missed layups, missed freethrows, forced shots and poor defensive rebounding)lost those games in the closing minutes. The good news is that they are 15-4(2-2) and very much in the thick of the conference race as they have played the three toughest road venues already. The bad news is outside of SDSU they do not have many real quality wins. Four of the best teams they have played they have lost to so I am not sure what that says about how good we are. I keep thinking that we have hands down the most talented and deepest team in the MWC and that should pay dividends. Hopefully a couple of good wins at home can help the boys continue to gel and continue to get better as crunch time approaches. Runnin' Rebels!

  6. This team will only get better, not worse. We start two freshmen, and BDJ is for all purposes a freshman as well-he often plays like an idiot savant, but his upside is phenomenal. I frankly don't care much how they do in conference this year because despite they hype, I don't believe Bennet and Moser are yet ready to make the jump to the NBA, and the arrow really points to next year, with Roscoe Smith becoming eligible, Bennet earning his gold tooth and Reinhardt regularly dropping 20 a game. In spite of expectations, we saw what a senior team like CSU can do to a team of underclassmen. We need more experience to compete at the highest level.

  7. It can only look up, I saw some plays that were good, and Colorado State has that hungry look.

    New Mexico vs Colorado State is going to be a great game.