Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 | 1 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer break down the UNLV basketball team's 101-78 victory against TCU and look ahead to the Rebels' big home game Saturday against New Mexico.
- Instant Analysis: No hangover for UNLV after Saturday setback, Rebels hit century mark
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 101, TCU 78
- BLOG: UNLV scores triple digits in 101-78 victory against TCU
- UNLV’s Anthony Marshall plans to turn negative comments into a win against TCU
- Pittsburgh transfer forward Khem Birch ready for a fresh start at UNLV
- About 3,000 tickets remain for Saturday’s home game against New Mexico
- UNLV’s Mike Moser named to The Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list
- UNLV falls two spots to No. 14 in Associated Press rankings
- UNLV’s poor shooting and lapse on defense combine for loss at San Diego State
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
There were flashes of it in earlier games. Twenty points against UTEP. Twenty-two against California.
However, UNLV junior guard Anthony Marshall's transformation into the most dangerous Rebel on the court occurred in the second half of the New Year’s Eve victory at Hawaii. And it continued Wednesday night in No. 14 UNLV’s 101-78 victory against TCU at the Thomas & Mack Center.
For much of the season that title could have been passed among several players, mostly Mike Moser and Chace Stanback. With a career-high 27 points against TCU, Marshall continued a four-game stretch that has him looking as confident as he ever has in a Rebel uniform.
“Anthony Marshall is playing as well as any guard in the country right now,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “(He’s) just playing with so much confidence and finding guys. He’s become truly a go-to offensive guy.”
In 30 minutes, Marshall also registered nine assists, five rebounds, three blocks and just one turnover. In his last six games he’s averaging 19.3 points, a stretch that includes being the second-half catalyst in the victory over Hawaii and nearly carrying the Rebels (17-3, 1-1 Mountain West Conference) to a win last Saturday at San Diego State.
“Credit goes to my teammates,” Marshall said. “The defense is really sitting on them right now … so that allows me to get in the lane and create.”
When Moser struggled in early December, Rice pointed out that he was atop opponents’ scouting reports. Same thing during Stanback’s swoon in mid-December.
The difference for Marshall is that from his position as one of the team’s primary point guards, opponents’ attention is a good thing. That means he’ll be able to find open teammates, which is generally what he’s trying to do anyway.
“He’s taking what the defense gives,” Rice said. “He’s so quick with the ball, he’s shooting the ball with so much confidence that he becomes a very tough cover. … He’s such a team-oriented guy.”
Stanback scored 21 points, including 5-of-7 behind the three-point line, and Moser registered his ninth double-double of the season with 16 points and 15 rebounds. Any concerns about a hangover effect from last weekend’s 69-67 loss to the Aztecs were quickly put to rest. The Rebels jumped out to a 19-2 lead and shot 12-of-14 from the floor in the first eight minutes.
“It was wearing on us all weekend, all through practice,” Moser said of the last-second loss. “It was good to release that frustration on somebody else.”
At San Diego State, the Rebels missed a lot of open shots early in the game, which eventually forced them to abandon their style and resort to more of a one-on-one style. That’s not what Rice wants to see. Against the Horned Frogs (10-7, 0-2), the Rebels made their coach very happy with 28 assists on 37 made field goals.
“The difference offensively was the pace, that’s Runnin’ Rebel basketball,” Rice said. “Not just because we made the shots, but we were locked in defensively to start the game. When we got a stop, we pushed it up the floor. We were just a little bit off Saturday with our pace.”
Junior forward Quintrell Thomas was solid off the bench with nine points and four rebounds. And despite an uncharacteristic 0-for-6 shooting at the free-throw line, junior guard Justin Hawkins registered seven points with five rebounds and five assists. Sophomore guard Reggie Smith scored seven points, including a layup to hit the century mark with 32 seconds remaining.
With UNLV’s victory clearly in hand for much of the night, intrigue along press row turned to scoreboard watching at the Pit, where road underdog San Diego State pulled off a 75-70 victory.
Saturday’s New Mexico-UNLV clash at the Mack was already going to be big. Now, it’s likely the loser will be two games back of the Aztecs just three games into the conference season.
“There’s no doubt that New Mexico’s going to come in as a desperate team, and we certainly are a desperate team as well. And not because we lost a game, but because that’s the attitude we need to take,” Rice said. “We talk about that as a team all the time, that every game needs to be more important to us than it is to our opponent.”
UNLV is undefeated in Las Vegas this season and only one of their victories at the Mack was by less than 11 points. This will likely be a tougher test than any of those games, with conference implications already hanging in the balance.
The most dangerous Rebel on the court isn’t worried.
“I feel like the situation was going to come up sometime, whether it was farther into the season or early in,” Marshall said. “We’re a confident group, we have a lot of veterans on this ballclub and we know what it takes.”
It takes skilled players making smart decisions that put their team in a position to succeed. Marshall is filling that role better than he ever has.
“I think he’s really coming into his own right now,” Moser said. “He’s finding guys, which is making it really easy to find his own shots. Guys are stretching the defense for him, giving him gaps and he’s really just making plays right now.
“He’s making it really easy for everybody else.”