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Addition of Birch this week adds instant intrigue to the Rebels


Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Savon Goodman drives to the basket against Ron See, center, and Paul Titchener during UNLV’s game against the La Verne Leopards at the Orleans Arena Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012.

UNLV vs. La Verne

UNLV Rebel Daquan Cook guards Jake Vieth during their game against the La Verne Leopards at the Orleans Arena Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. Launch slideshow »

UNLV men's basketball dispatches La Verne easily

KSNV reports that UNLV men's basketball team defeated La Verne 91-44 during finals week, Dec. 13.

I’ll be honest, this wasn’t an enjoyable game to watch. That’s what happens when you put two teams of vastly different skill sets on the same court. Because I’m not a UNLV fan, watching Anthony Bennett dunk over another undersized, skinny La Verne post player in the Rebels' 91-44 rout didn’t do a lot for me.

That said, I do agree with UNLV coach Dave Rice that this was better than a full week off. Even better than that would be a Division I opponent, but I understand that getting those teams to travel to the Orleans Arena during finals week is easier said than done.

The Rebels got a chance to put on their uniforms and begin their month without Mike Moser. Freshman Daquan Cook got his first minutes and it got a lot easier to imagine what this lineup will look like with sophomore forward Khem Birch, considering the Pitt transfer will make his debut Monday at UTEP.

So, what did we learn?

If Savon Goodman puts it together this year, watch out

Goodman’s minutes have fluctuated wildly this season, going from three minutes against Oregon to 24 minutes against Hawaii and everything in between. I think that’s what his season will likely be: a typical freshman roller coaster full of highs and lows.

However, Moser’s absence opens a window for Goodman, and if he can produce like he did against La Verne — 13 points and nine rebounds — against better competition, he may carve out more time for himself.

Even in Thursday night’s game Goodman was making some of the same mistakes that have landed him on the bench in other games. He’s aggressive to a fault, often over-running defensive assignments or getting wild on offense. The necessary control probably just comes with more time on the court, but if he figures it out sooner than later then Goodman could have a consistent spot in the rotation going forward. Because he’s clearly talented.

With Birch in, expect to see more Amoeba

I’ve said this for a while, but I fully expect UNLV to use more of the Amoeba zone defense when it has Birch to anchor the center of the attack.

The Amoeba is a scheme developed at Pittsburgh and brought to UNLV by former assistant Tim Grgurich. It’s a gambling attack that uses elements of both zone and man-to-man defenses that’s designed to create a lot of turnovers that turn in to run outs at the other end. That’s exactly how UNLV wants to play.

The drawback is that when teams beat the Amoeba it’s usually for uncontested layups. There’s not telling exactly how well the defense would work for the Rebels, but I think they’ll try it more going forward, possibly as early as Monday.

Odds and ends

— After the game Rice described Cook as a “true point guard.” It’s that fact that should get him playing time going forward. Anthony Marshall is a converted shooting guard and Katin Reinhardt has yet to see a shot he doesn’t like. Cook can carve out his niche by consistently being a pass-first presence.

And please don’t read that as a condemnation of Marshall and Reinhardt. I’m just saying those two and Cook are different.

— I’m looking forward to seeing how this team performs in the next two games: Monday at UTEP and Wednesday at home against Northern Iowa. I’ve always thought it’s beneficial for a team to play two games in three days because it mimics the NCAA Tournament. Doing that with a travel day in between adds an extra challenge that I think is a good thing for a team to face and work through in December.

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

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