Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012 | 9:38 a.m.
- Rebels have plenty to learn from in 62-60 victory at UTEP
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 62, UTEP 60
- After a year off, Birch excited to make his UNLV debut against UTEP
- Addition of Birch this week adds instant intrigue to the Rebels
- Rebels satisfied with lopsided victory against La Verne
- Freshman guard will make UNLV debut Thursday night against La Verne
- UNLV-TV students will help broadcast La Verne game on VegasTV
- Moser expected to return from elbow injury in about a month
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
Because he didn’t play at all down the stretch, I found myself forgetting that Monday night’s 62-60 victory at UTEP was Khem Birch's debut. He had some nice stretches, and running in the open court, Birch is something to see.
UNLV coach Dave Rice said he’s going with the same starting lineup, which includes senior Quintrell Thomas ahead of Birch at center, indefinitely, but Birch will be given an opportunity to prove himself in late-game situations. It may even come Wednesday against Northern Iowa.
That’s one takeaway from an often-ugly game in El Paso, Texas. Here are a few more:
The case for Anthony Marshall
Whether it’s national media or local fans, I’ve seen one Rebel take far more criticism than the rest of his teammates. That would be Marshall.
It always figured he would get nitpicked at point guard after moving over from being primarily a shooting guard. But is the negative talk warranted?
First, the negatives. Marshall doesn’t yet pass the eye test as someone who can consistently get the ball to his teammates in positions to succeed, which often shows up in wild drives to the basket that result in kick outs that must reset the offense. Also, his turnover rate is also at the highest point of his career, the result of handling the ball more.
However, when you look at his advanced stats on kenpom.com, most of what you find are not only career highs but also solid numbers for any player. While using the fewest percentage of possessions in his career, Marshall has increased his effective field goal percentage (58.7) and true shot percentage (61.4), which both give more weight to 3-pointers, by 11.7 and 8.8 percentage points, respectively. Those are huge jumps, though obviously this is still a small sample size.
The 3-pointers are the most impressive thing. Marshall already has more than half as many made 3s as he finished with last year, and he’s done so in fewer attempts than he had made attempts as a junior. So far he’s 11 for 19 beyond the arc, compared to 20 for 78 last season.
He has also increased his assist rate and free throw rate while taking the fewest percentage of shots in his career. So, basically, Marshall is producing more efficiently while also handling his point guard duties. His 1.14 points per possession rank second on the team, falling behind only freshman Anthony Bennett, whose 1.26 points per possession rank 80th in the nation.
Criticism comes with the territory, but right now you won’t find a bigger Marshall supporter than Rice. And, overall, I’d say Marshall has earned that confidence.
UTEP brought out the best and worst of Bryce Dejean-Jones
Last year, fans couldn’t wait to get Dejean-Jones’ toughness in the lineup, and with good reason. He scored nine second-half points against the Miners, helping the Rebels stave off an upset.
The downside of his attitude was also on display, though. Dejean-Jones got into a shoving match with a UTEP player midway through the second half and was then called for a technical foul. Rice was overheard on the TV broadcast laying into Dejean-Jones for giving the Miners two free throws and the ball because he couldn’t control his temper.
Dejean-Jones has always played with an edge on the court. That’s something the Rebels mostly lacked last season, but it does come with a downside. No one can say for sure if Dejean-Jones will be able to strike the right balance between aggression and control, though it’s clear he’s not there yet.
Odds and ends
• Here was freshman Daquan Cook's night: one minute, 1-for-1 shooting, two points, one foul and one turnover. What that doesn’t show is Cook getting blown by at the top of the key for an easy UTEP basket.
Still, from Cook’s perspective, it’s tough to work through those freshman mistakes if you’re not on the court, and he may have figured that made shot would buy him some more time.
• Carlos Lopez-Sosa had a nice stat line: 3-for-4 shooting, including a 3, seven points, two rebounds, one assist, one block and one turnover in 17 minutes. I don’t know what this will do for him long-term, but he deserves some credit for producing in this game.
• Full disclosure: I grew up a couple of miles from the Northern Iowa campus and grew up a diehard Panthers fan. I’m not nearly as fanatical as I was back then, but UNI is still my favorite team and I have been looking forward to this game for the past year. My brother ran track and cross country there, and my mom has worked at the university for more than 30 years.
That said, I don’t plan on treating this game any differently from others, as far as my view of the teams involved. Certainly I know more about UNI than most UNLV opponents, but from press row I will cover this game the same as any other.