Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 | 2 a.m.
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- UNLV couldn’t keep Colorado State from playing its game in road loss
- Perimeter defense could be key against very tough Colorado State squad
- UNLV Extras: Rebels’ challenge now is to avoid emotional letdown
- Quirky lineup and determined point guard led UNLV to victory at SDSU
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
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.
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.