Moser confident despite sitting at the end of UNLV’s two previous games

UNLV coach Dave Rice and the junior forward are both positive about Moser’s role for the Rebels heading into Thursday’s game vs. Wyoming

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

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.

Sitting on the bench at the end of close games doesn’t come naturally to Mike Moser.

When he was in street clothes with his right arm in a sling it was easy to be plugged into the game from the bench perspective the entire time. Now that Moser’s been cleared to play it’s more difficult to take in the game after he’s already spent more than two years — one season at UCLA, redshirting at UNLV and his recent elbow injury — mostly sitting down and watching for the ways he could help the team once he’s out on the court.

“I definitely feel like I’m healthy enough, capable enough,” Moser said. “Just waiting on that opportunity.”

It may come Thursday night at 6:15 when UNLV (15-4, 2-2) hosts Wyoming (15-2, 2-2) at the Thomas & Mack Center. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.

UNLV coach Dave Rice said he and Moser, who will remain in the starting lineup, have had several conversations lately, including both on Sunday and Monday.

“I think the biggest thing is making sure he knows I have confidence in him,” Rice said.

Both said the talks are always positive and focus on the future rather than what already happened. Regarding the San Diego State game, in which Moser sat the final 7:06, Rice wouldn’t have needed to say anything anyways. UNLV won 82-75.

“A win feels better than playing any day, I don’t care how many minutes,” Moser said.

In that regard the Colorado State loss Saturday was a little more difficult to take from the bench, where Moser sat the final 6:30. Still, Moser doesn’t throw fits about being out there. In fact, he pointed to the beginning of the game, when he was quickly yanked after giving up two offensive rebounds, as a point where he could have done more to make himself a late-game option.

“He probably lost confidence in me early at Colorado State. That probably affected some of it,” Moser said. “I guess I’ve got to play better so I can make him feel like he can play me down the stretch.”

As for the elbow injury, while Moser said it has been up and down that hasn’t been the reason for his late-game disappearances. Rice made it clear Moser was cleared in both games; it was simply a coach’s decision. Another factor in that decision, Rice said, is that Moser is still getting adjusted to his new spot at small forward.

Moser played that role during the team’s exhibition trip to Canada but he was mostly a power forward who could stretch the defense pre-injury this year. As he gets more comfortable with the elbow and with his spot on the floor, Moser may find himself out there more often in important situations.

“I think he’s going to continue to be a big part of what we do and an even bigger part than what he’s been the past few games,” Rice said.

Click to enlarge photo

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett grabs a rebound from Colorado State forward Greg Smith during their game Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013 at Moby Arena in Ft. Collins, Colo. Colorado State won the game 66-61.

Another Rebel suddenly trying to get comfortable is freshman Anthony Bennett, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder. In conference games he’s averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds, which is good no matter who you are, but those numbers are down and include two season-low nine-point games. Bennett hasn’t yet learned how best to play through contact and the swarming, physical defenses he’s seen so far in conference play may better prepare him for the NFL than the NBA.

“Conference play is different,” Rice said. “In terms of how teams scout, in terms of how physical the games are and Anthony Bennett was fantastic in nonconference so teams are going to set their defense around him. He’s the first person on their scouting report so they’re going to guard him hard and know where he is.”

Rice said he’s confident Bennett will make the adjustment because he continues to want to learn, plus Bennett’s going to break through at least a few times on sheer talent. There is, after all, a reason he’s slotted as an NBA draft lottery pick this June.

The travel and the altitude seemed to catch up with UNLV even at the beginning of the loss in Fort Collins, and no one showed it more than Bennett. Getting back to Las Vegas with just one game in nine-day span should help the Rebels refresh and recharge. That’s good for now, but the team still has to improve on that area of its game.

“When we’re tired and we’re mentally fatigued we’ve got to be tougher,” Rice said. “We’ve got to go get defensive rebounds, we’ve got to screen harder and we’ve just got to find a way to play harder.”

If Rice finds his guys lacking in effort while fatigued again he may want to look to Moser, who at this point would do anything he can to help the team on the court rather than cheer it on from the bench.

Reinhardt hurts back

Freshman guard Katin Reinhardt suffered a back injury while taking a charge about midway through Tuesday’s practice. He watched from the sidelines the rest of the time UNLV was in the Mendenhall Center.

Rice said he would know more about the injury Wednesday but if Reinhardt can’t play Thursday then it will be senior guard Justin Hawkins getting his second start of the season.

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

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  1. It says that the game will be on CBS College Sports but in my area it shows that CBSCS has CSU @ New Mexico at 5pm and San Diego St @ Nevada at 7pm. Is that right?

  2. Never mind, I am an idiot. Got to get the right frickin day!

  3. Thanks gumby because I was wondering if these two games are televised tonight.

  4. Mike Moser has been a shell of his former self. He looks like he was a one-year-wonder. I hope I'm wrong.

  5. Phillips - Obviously the injury did not do Mike any favors but the arrival of Bennett and Birch have made Mike very much a complimentary player. It seems to me that last year he was able to shine due to the fact that the Rebs had very little scoring punch(due to Chace's inconsistencies)and very little rebounding prowess. On that team he was a huge factor because he played at the four and caused match up nightmares for opponents. He just is not a particularly effective small forward. Which is a shame because if he becomes an NBA player that is where he will have to play. This year the Rebels have so many more scoring options and so much more size that he is lost in the mix. Kind of similar to me in a way to David Butler's situation in 89-90. He was the man until LJ showed up and he had to completely change his role. He did a fantastic job and the team became so much better but it might have cost him an NBA career. Mike's offensive game really has not expanded much and so far the main reason he has been on the bench at the end is he has shown no ability to stop anyone on defense. I too hope Mike can get squared away but he is definitely at this point just a role player.