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November 28, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

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Instant Analysis: Four observations out of Rebels win against Wyoming

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall hits the deck while defending Wyoming guard Derrious Gilmore during their game Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV vs. Wyoming: Jan. 24, 2013

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall is fouled by Wyoming forward Larry Nance while contesting a rebound during their game Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

If we’ve learned anything in the initial two weeks of Mountain West Conference play it’s there are no easy games.

So, when fans at the Thomas & Mack Center headed for the exits with about three minutes to play Thursday in UNLV’s 62-50 victory against Wyoming, they signaled a first for the Rebels in five league games — a comfortable victory. Each of the previous four Mountain West games, you see, weren’t decided until the final minute.

Here are four observations from the Rebels’ win:

Finding ways to spell Anthony Marshall: Anthony Marshall has been the Rebels’ most valuable player the past two weeks during the start of league play, and continued to show his importance early in victory against Wyoming. The Cowboys opened hot and led 8-0 before most fans found their seats. But Marshall slowly helped the Rebels cut into the deficit, and when he went to the bench for a breather about 11 minutes into the game, the Rebels were ahead, 18-15. He had six points, three assists and no turnovers in the scoring spurt. It’s no secret the UNLV guard rotation is thin and some will argue the senior Marshall, who played primarily shooting guard his first three seasons, isn’t a true point guard. I disagree. He’s been a great facilitator on offense, has played with patience and leads the Mountain West in assists at nearly six per game. The one problem is overusing Marshall. He averages 32 minutes per game, playing 36, 43, 34 and 38 minutes in the Rebels’ initial four Mountain West games. Thursday, he scored 12 points in 35 minutes with nine assists and just two turnovers. While he hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down, he could potentially be worn out in March during the tournament part of the season when he’ll be most needed. Unfortunately for UNLV, they don’t have many options to give him extended rest. Freshman Daquan Cook has replaced Marshall briefly in a few games, and the backcourt of Katin Reinhardt and Justin Hawkins hasn’t worked. So, like it has been all year, as Marshall goes, so do the Rebels.

Has the opposition figured out Anthony Bennett?: Anthony Bennett, the Rebels freshman standout and likely NBA lottery pick later this year, is typically the best player on the court each game. In league play, however, his impressive performances have been limited to a few plays each game instead of what became a norm earlier in the season — Bennett scored at ease, and in highlight-reel fashion, seemingly with each touch of the ball. He scored nine points in each of the road games last week against San Diego State and Colorado State, and while he had arguably his best outing in league play Thursday against Wyoming with 17 points, it wasn’t that complete domination we’ve grown accustomed to. He was even blocked twice going to the basket. The opposition is obviously focused on limiting his production, which means UNLV needs to remain creative in finding ways for him to score. He should be option No. 1 each possession and have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

That solid UNLV defense: UNLV opened the second half on a 16-4 scoring run in playing its best basketball of the night to lead by double-digits the rest of the game. That’s a credit to the defensive intensity. The Rebels didn’t give the Wyoming players many solid looks at the basket all night, forcing them into some ugly attempts at the end of the shot clock. Wyoming only scored 25 points each half and made just 41-percent of its field goal attempts, including 3-of-18 on 3-points. That perimeter defense was one of the keys last week at San Diego State with the Rebels limiting San Diego State to 3-of-19 on 3-pointers.

Reinhardt’s smooth stroke: Katin Reinhardt entered shooting just 30-percent on 3-pointers. Several games he has taken ill-advised shots from the outside that seem rushed. But he’s just a freshman, and for probably the first time in his basketball life, not impacting the game with his shooting range. The talent, however, is there. Like all shooters, he simply needs to find his rhythm. Credit coach Dave Rice for allowing Reinhardt to always have the green light and giving him the freedom to adjust to the pace of the college game. He made 2-of-4 attempts on 3-pointers against Wyoming and each looked great — smooth stroke and nothing-but-net. The 6-foot-5 guard was a top-50 recruit, one of the best high school players last year in Southern California and a proven winner. He’ll eventually find his stroke for the Rebels and carry them on his back.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Good points; the only thing left out that is concerning is the number of turnovers. The team still forces passes inside when they don't need to and doesn't always protect their possessions like they should. Also, Bennett needs to be more active on defense and not so easily affected when his play is stifled. I'm not sure why the NBA would pull someone so soon when they obviously need another year to mature on the court.