Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012 | 9:15 p.m.
- Rebels explore Ottawa after rude awakening their first night in town
- North of the border: Get to know UNLV’s opponents on its Canadian tour
- The first-year successes were nice, but Rebels coach Rice says he’s still developing
- UNLV’s Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas working hard to get on the court
- Roscoe Smith a picture of calm amid the uncertainty about his immediate eligibility
- Moser’s new position a focal point in Rebels’ first practice for upcoming Canada tour
- Rebels begin all-important practices for Canada exhibition tour on Saturday
- All UNLV in Canada coverage
OTTAWA — Mike Moser sounded like a witness whose eyes had finally confirmed the rumors he’d heard all summer.
Taking a seat on the bench during a timeout in the second half of UNLV’s exhibition game at Carleton on Saturday, Moser leaned toward freshman Katin Reinhardt and shared his findings.
“They telling the truth,” Moser yelled into his teammate’s right ear, “the kid can ball.”
Reinhardt had just forced the timeout with his second straight 3-pointer, the exclamation on a personal 9-0 run that started with three made free throws and ended with the Rebels leading by five. Moser and the other returning Rebels have practiced and scrimmaged with their incoming freshman class for the past month, but Carleton was the first real outside challenge. And thanks to Reinhardt’s team-leading 19 points and a crucial steal from senior Anthony Marshall, UNLV escaped with a hard-fought 74-70 victory.
Playing in overheated Norm Fenn Gym on Carleton’s campus in front of a capacity crowd numbering about 600, UNLV struggled to find any rhythm early in the game. In the first half, the Rebels gave up seven made 3-pointers and nine offensive rebounds.
Carleton is a powerhouse north of the border, winning the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) title the past two years and eight of the last 10. The Ravens also recently defeated Buffalo by two and very much looked like the more prepared team in the first 20 minutes.
Really, UNLV was lucky to be tied at halftime. The Rebels hadn’t played badly, necessarily, but they were still in summer mode, UNLV coach Dave Rice said. On defense they weren’t closing out on shooters quick enough and they weren’t taking charge physically, often getting pushed around near the basket.
“It’s huge for all our guys to remember and understand how physical the college game is,” Rice said. “You just don’t feel that (in the summer).”
Rice started his five returners who were eligible last year — Marshall, Moser, seniors Justin Hawkins and Quintrell Thomas and junior Carlos Lopez — but down the stretch he turned to guys like Reinhardt and sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones, who finished with nine points and would have played more if not for four fouls. All 10 guys on the trip played at least 11 minutes.
Reinhardt, especially, took advantage of the opportunity. UNLV fell behind by six midway through the second half, but Reinhardt found his stroke in time to shift the momentum. His final made 3-pointer included a crossover to create space in the corner just in front of UNLV’s bench, and it left the Rebels sitting there shaking their heads.
Still, the freshman couldn’t quite finish the job. So Marshall stepped in.
Leading 69-68 with less than a minute left, the Rebels went back to Reinhardt, but Carleton had him covered well and forced a miss.
After the Ravens missed their shot, Marshall drew a foul and went to the free-throw line, hitting 1-for-2. UNLV shot 74 percent from the line for the game and Marshall would polish off the game by making both free throws with 0.8 seconds left on the clock.
In between those two trips, Marshall made maybe the biggest play of the game. As Carleton, trailing by two, worked into its offense with about 15 seconds left, Marshall sagged off his man and then pounced when the Ravens made a lazy pass near the top of the key.
“I was looking for (the steal),” Marshall said. “… When I got that breakaway dunk it eased up the game a little bit.”
A loss wouldn’t have been devastating — it is an exhibition, after all — but the ability to win a close game away from home is still a very good sign for a team that faded down the stretch outside of Las Vegas last year.
“Is it the World Series? No,” Rice said. “But at the same time, anytime we put our uniform on and we’re on the floor it’s very important we find a way to win the game.”
This game, which is probably against the toughest opponent UNLV will face on this tour, may do wonders for the team the rest of the week and possibly in November, too. At the very least, it’s better than a blowout victory would have been because there’s more to be learned from a tight game.
Marshall made key plays late, something he struggled with last year. The Rebels made adjustments at halftime, playing much better down the stretch after getting through some early jitters.
And Reinhardt, the first highly ranked domino in Rice’s highly ranked recruiting class, stepped up onto a relatively big stage and delivered, confirming the belief of teammates and fans alike.
“I love it,” Reinhardt said. “The more opportunities I get I feel (more) comfortable. The team has faith in me late in the game.
“I like being the guy to knock down an open shot when it’s close.”