Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 | 5 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013 | 8:18 p.m.
Following an embarrassing road loss, its fourth in a row, Las Vegas Sun reporters Ray Brewer and Taylor Bern discuss the state of the Rebels as they prepare to host rival San Diego State on Saturday.
- UNLV-San Diego State rivalry full of memorable showdowns
- Neither Rebels nor Aztecs where they expected to be entering Saturday’s game
- Mountain West basketball tournament to stay in Las Vegas through 2016
- Tarkanian a finalist for induction into basketball hall of fame
- UNLV Extras: Examining the reasons for the team’s constant road struggle
- UNLV coach expects his program to ‘grow up’ after no-show at Air Force
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
UNLV 72, San Diego State 70
Justin Hawkins swatted away San Diego State's final inbounds pass and UNLV held on for a 72-70 victory against San Diego State on Saturday night in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Anthony Bennett scored 21 points, Khem Birch finished with 16 and both of them were crucial to the Rebels first getting and then holding onto their lead. So were Mike Moser and Justin Hawkins, who gave UNLV really good minutes off the bench, and Bryce Dejean-Jones, who was guarding Jamaal Franklin when he was called for traveling with 2.5 seconds left. At that time the Aztecs trailed by just one and could have won on Franklin's shot, though Birch was there to block it had he actually gotten the shot off.
UNLV played with the type of intensity that's been lacking lately, specifically going after loose balls with all of their energy and keeping SDSU off the offensive glass down the stretch after the Aztecs had originally built its lead with those putbacks.
The Rebels are now 19-7 overall and 6-5 in league play, and they stay home for a game Wednesday against Colorado State, which won at Air Force earlier Saturday. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from the Rebels' victory.
UNLV 62, San Diego State 56
7:47 remaining in the second half
Anthony Bennett is 5-for-5 from the field in the second half. Mike Moser is moving around like he used to pre-injury, including diving after loose balls. And Justin Hawkins is playing at both ends with the precision he's been lacking the last month.
Those are the three biggest reasons UNLV has turned its deficit into a lead in the final minutes against SDSU. The next biggest reason is the Aztecs haven't grabbed nearly as many offensive rebounds in the past few possessions. The crowd and the Rebels' pressure also seem to be getting to SDSU, which has thrown the ball away a few times lately.
Whatever they do, the Rebels can't lose the intensity they've been playing with. That's been the key to getting the players' going and they need it to carry them to the end.
San Diego State 47, UNLV 44
15:56 remaining in the second half
San Diego State already has three offensive rebounds in the second half, and though it's only led to one second-chance score that's a trend that can't continue if UNLV is going to pull out a victory.
The Rebels' answer to the Aztecs' rebounding success is three straight jumpers from Anthony Bennett, two of them from 3. He's clearly in a good zone with his offensive game, so it will be interesting to see how SDSU tries to guard him the rest of the way. J.J. O'Brien had him 1-on-1 for all three of those shots.
San Diego State 40, UNLV 34
J.J. O'Brien has a season-high 15 points and San Diego State takes a 40-34 lead against UNLV into halftime at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Aztecs led by double digits at one point but the Rebels rallied thanks largely to Mike Moser, who has eight points and four rebounds. He looks more like his former self today than he has in any game since the home victory against Air Force.
The Rebels went seven minutes without a made field goal during one stretch, which is when SDSU build its lead up to 11. The rally started when UNLV started doing some of the same things SDSU has been excelling at thus far. Namely, offensive rebounds.
While the Aztecs still lead in that category and they're getting better second-chance looks overall, UNLV has started to clean up its messes and finishing contested shots in the lane. That's been a big improvement over how they started the game.
SDSU leads points int he paint 28-16 while the teams are tied in points off turnovers and second-chance points. Khem Birch has 10 points and two blocks.
UNLV's second-half needs to include more consistent offense. They're good when they go inside or attack the glass, but too often today they're settling for shots. Can't do that and beat this team.
San Diego State 25, UNLV 21
7:12 remaining in the first half
Even more interesting than the Anthony Bennett vs. JJ O'Brien battles from earlier is Bennett vs. Jamaal Franklin.
Neither guy is the type to back down from a challenge, and they both do a lot of the small chippy stuff that annoys opponents. That's the recipe for fireworks, and so far the two have had to be separated twice. The second time ended with refs reviewing the play to see if Bennett hit Franklin in the head only to determine it was a bump to the chest, resulting in an offensive foul.
Earlier both put their chests into each other and had to be separated going into the first media timeout.
In the actual game, SDSU has built its lead with offensive rebounds and second chance points. They're also creating good shot opportunities while UNLV has been bouncing back and forth from some good, crisp offense and the bad shot selection that plagues them on the road.
San Diego State 9, UNLV 7
15:50 remaining in the first half
The best matchup early on is Anthony Bennett vs. J.J. O'Brien. The guys are trading shots and challenging each other at both ends of the floor, making for an entertaining battle within the game.
Bennett won first with a block and a 3, but O'Brien came back with a nice post move and then a transition 3. Also important for the Aztecs, point guard James Rahon suffered a right shoulder sprain and his return right now is unclear.
If Dave Rice’s actions back up his words after Friday’s practice, expect to see a lot more of freshman Savon Goodman.
The Philadelphia native has appeared in only three conference games, but his most playing time (nine minutes) came Wednesday at Air Force despite being Goodman late to the team bus for the game. When UNLV (18-7 overall, 5-5 Mountain West Conference) takes on San Diego State (18-6, 6-4) on NBC Sports Network may set a new high for minutes because UNLV’s coach had nothing but good things to say about Goodman.
“For people who want to have a vision of how I want our program to be in coming years, it would be the toughness Savon Goodman brings every day in practice and every day in the game,” Rice said.
Goodman has bee squeezed out of the rotation because of the logjam at power forward. Anthony Bennett is entrenched there, and UNLV has a few other older big men who split time there when Bennett’s on the bench.
Goodman played some small forward earlier this season, but Rice emphasized that the 4 spot is his natural position, and that’s where he’ll be next season. The effort Goodman brings to the game is apparent to anyone watching the game, but the important thing for turning that into playing time is that he’s started to catch up to the team’s concepts at both ends of the floor.
“He’s made a tremendous amount of progress,” Rice said. “He makes something happen every time.”
Goodman is still prone to making the mistakes that come with being a freshman and not entirely grasping UNLV’s schemes, but his mistakes are never because he’s not trying. Given their recent performances, that sounds exactly like what the Rebels need.
THE OTHER SIDE
San Diego State projected lineup
G — James Rahon, 6-4, Sr, 8.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 42.4 fg%
G — Chase Tapley, 6-3, Sr, 11.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.5 A-TO ratio
F — Jamaal Franklin, 6-5, Jr, 17.1 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 3.9 topg
F — JJ O’Brien, 6-7, So, 8.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 57.8 fg%
F — Deshawn Stephens, 6-8, Sr, 4.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 47.1 ft%
Sixth man — G, Xavier Thames, 6-3, Jr, 7.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 27.5 fg%
*Stats from conference games only
Extra storyline: Xavier Thames (lower back) is supposedly healthy. If he struggles, freshman Winston Shepard, a Findlay Prep grad, could see an expanded role.
Last meeting: UNLV played its most complete road game in a long time, coming away from Viejas Arena with a victory for the first time since 2008.
Kenpom line: UNLV -1
Vegas line: UNLV -4
Bern’s take: I had a strong feeling UNLV would win at SDSU earlier this season. I don’t feel nearly as confident in this one. For a long time, I’ve thought the Rebels would win, and that’s still the most likely outcome. But as of this afternoon, I just don’t think that’s what’s going to happen. San Diego State 72, UNLV 68