Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Jan. 25, 2013 | 2 a.m.
- Rebels find the right combination for satisfying victory against Wyoming
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 62, Wyoming 50
- Rebels welcome in a compelling Wyoming squad
- Moser confident despite sitting at the end of UNLV’s two previous games
- UNLV Extras: Team shooting better on the road than last season
- By the Numbers: UNLV’s loss at CSU contains many conflicting figures
- 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
“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.
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.
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.