Rebels basketball:

UNLV Extras: Backup freshman enjoys possible breakthrough game

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Daquan Cook takes the ball up court during their game against Wyoming Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won 62-50.

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 »

There was one particular quote from UNLV coach Dave Rice that I thought probably summed up a lot of fans’ feelings when they watch a game like that from Quintrell Thomas on Thursday night.

“You’re just happy for guys who hang in there, who maybe don’t play as many minutes at times as they’d like to and yet when they get their opportunity they help their team win,” Rice said.

Everybody loves an underdog, and almost every guy who comes off the bench probably views himself an underdog at least part of the time. It’s the “Nobody believes in us” theory at its finest.

So does it ultimately matter who got UNLV (16-4, 3-2) all its points and rebounds in a 62-50 victory against Wyoming (15-3, 2-3)? Maybe, maybe not. But it often makes people feel better for the often unheralded guys when one of them comes up big.

And it has to make the coaches more confident about their depth moving forward, too. A couple more observations:

Cook’s roller coaster hits a peak

It’s tough to figure out just what UNLV coach Dave Rice expects out of Daquan Cook.

The freshman from Baltimore came to Las Vegas as the forgotten piece of a heralded recruiting class, and at first was going to redshirt along with freshman forward Demetris Morant.

Rice has always had nothing but praise for Cook, but the decision seemed to be more about how far the 6-foot-1 (listed height), 170-pound point guard would have to go to handle the physicality of Division I basketball. Then, not long after that decision, Rice announced the staff had changed its mind and would use Cook this year.

Had that been the original decision nothing would have seemed out of the ordinary. Cook adds depth at point guard, where he could give rest to senior Anthony Marshall. But then games came and went without Cook getting on the court.

His first appearance wasn’t until the La Verne blowout at the Orleans Arena. Prior to Thursday’s game Cook had appeared in 11 games, and more than half of them consisted of two minutes or less on the court.

Some of the performances were good, some not so much. The common theme was that none offered a great view into his potential for this season because he was rarely on the court long enough against legit competition so see anything. Whether you want to call Wyoming “legit” or not is up for debate, but against the Cowboys in a 62-50 victory Cook played nine minutes and looked good doing it.

He had two assists, no turnovers and one rebound. During part of Cook’s run, Marshall was on the court as the shooting guard, giving student and teacher a chance to work together.

“I love the progress that Daquan Cook is making running the team,” Rice said. “He’s learning so much from Anthony Marshall.”

The move to have both on the court, Rice said, was equal parts giving Cook court time, keeping Marshall involved while taxing him less and throwing out a different lineup because Bryce Dejean-Jones was in foul trouble. Whatever the reasoning it looked good and it gives opponent something else to see on tape.

At this point I think it’s impossible to say whether this is a trend or an aberration for Cook. He’s just going to have to be ready for anything night to night.

Getting tough

This isn’t what Anthony Bennett signed up for. Asked whether league play was tougher than he anticipated, Bennett agreed.

“Way more physical,” he said.

Getting used to that seems like the next step in his progression, though maybe that’s overstating it. Even when he’s struggled Bennett has produced, and he’s shown that he’s willing and able to pass out of the post. It’s a lot harder to double down and bang Bennett around in the paint if he keeps kicking out to open shooters who knock down shots.

That’s not how it’s always worked for UNLV but that’s at least part of the plan. Inside-out means just that, inside and out, where the ball goes close to the basket with the option of coming back out. Where the progression seems necessary is that Bennett, especially on the road, has had trouble even establishing himself enough inside to receive an entry pass.

Bennett has said before that he’s not used to and doesn’t particularly like getting double-teamed. In conference play that’s basically all he’s seen, and that probably won’t change soon.

“It’s been an adjustment in league play with how physical teams are being with him,” Rice said.

That adjustment certainly isn’t complete, and can’t be until Bennett can play through it on the road as well as at home. Just like the team, though, Bennett probably benefits long-term by getting the three most difficult road games, all of them against physical defenses, out of the way first.

If he can learn from those he should be fine.

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

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  1. Bennett has looked lazy on defense....defense is what I wanna see....to play like caged animals...not bored ones.

  2. QT well done as always you will hear it from the crowd come Senior night that is a guarantee! Daquan pick your spots before the season is over you'll make a play needed.
    Go Rebs!