Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012 | 11:30 p.m.
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- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
One duo will make all the headlines, the other will be mostly passed over, at least for tonight. However, both pairs made strides in No. 24 UNLV’s 85-57 victory against UC Irvine that should help the Rebels in the future.
The game itself was largely forgettable. The Anteaters (3-5), who beat UNR by 14 and lost by one at UCLA, didn’t put up much of a second-half fight in front of 13,876 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center. Trailing by 10 at the half, they gave up a dunk to UNLV junior Mike Moser on the first play of the second half and from the 10-minute mark on they were never closer than 19.
Moser is a part of one of those duos. He’s in the one that will be noticed whether you watched the game or only saw a box score, and for good reason. Moser finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, plus a couple of assists in 32 minutes.
His partner is Anthony Bennett, a freshman flourishing under Moser’s wing. Bennett matched Moser with 19 points and added six rebounds, two steals and a block. The Findlay Prep alum’s game was particularly impressive because he did his work almost exclusively in the paint, shooting 5-for-8 from the floor and 9-of-12 at the free-throw line with just one 3-point attempt.
“Attack them inside and work my way out,” said Bennett, who’s leading the team with about 19 points per game.
Asked if he was surprised at Bennett’s early success, Moser shook his head the same way he had when asked a similar question after Bennett’s first practice this summer.
“Look at him. He’s 6-9, he can bounce it, he can shoot it and if you let him too close to the basket he can dunk on your head and flex afterwards,” Moser said. “He’s talented. He’s going to continue to do that.”
Bennett’s development, and especially how he continues to progress when both he and Moser are on the court at the same time, may be the single most important factor for UNLV (4-1) this season. If they flourish together, there’s no telling how far the Rebels can go.
The development of Bryce Dejean-Jones and Savon Goodman doesn’t carry the same weight as Bennett and Moser, at least not on the surface. Instead of working in tandem, their contribution is manning the same spot, using up all 40 minutes at small forward against UCI. And their production doesn’t touch the numbers from Bennett/Moser, though that’s beside the point. UNLV had a clear advantage with its big men — “I feel like I had mismatches all over in the post,” Moser said — so to a degree everyone else’s job was to get out of the way.
Dejean-Jones and Goodman performed that job supremely well. The key to getting to the type of balanced team UNLV coach Dave Rice is searching for is being able to contribute and make an impact whether or not you’re getting the ball on offense. The small forwards combined for 12 rebounds, something Rice had emphasized leading into the game. They also scored nine on a combined eight shot attempts and had two steals with just one turnover.
Unlike Moser and Bennett, who share an inside-out offensive ability and pro-level athleticism, Dejean-Jones and Goodman are markedly different players. Dejean-Jones is a slashing scorer accustomed to creating his own shot. Before this year Goodman almost always played on the interior, where he’s fed the ball rather than starting with it on the outside.
“This is his first opportunity to play exclusively on the perimeter,” Rice said. “… He’s making great strides.”
Goodman’s size does give the Rebels the versatility to post him up occasionally, too, which adds another wrinkle to the offense for an opposing team to prepare for. Dejean-Jones took a lot of heat after the Oregon game for his shot selection, but Wednesday showed that he could have an OK game and make Rice happy without shooting nearly every time he touches it.
Both duos owe more than a small bit of credit to senior Anthony Marshall, who impressed with nine assists to just one turnover at point guard. He also scored six, grabbed three rebounds and recorded one highlight-worthy block. With Marshall and freshman Katin Reinhardt, who scored most of his 13 points in the second half, running the show, things operated rather smoothly for the Rebels. The game may have been a bit sloppy, but it’s not often this team will commit only seven turnovers as a team.
Add Marshall and Reinhardt to the list of tandems making this team run so far. It seems clear this team works best when they’re working together.