Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 | 6 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013 | 9:05 p.m.
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UNLV 66, UNR 54
Khem Birch scored 14 points, Anthony Bennett had 13 points and nine rebounds and UNLV (17-4, 4-2) led almost the whole way in a 66-54 victory against UNR (11-9, 2-4).
Katin Reinhardt scored nine and Bryce Dejean-Jones had 11 points for the Rebels, who finished with a 44-28 advantage on the boards. UNLV shot just 37 percent from the floor in the second half and 39 percent overall, but 22 trips to the free-throw line and that big rebounding advantage helped offset that. Plus, UNR wasn't any better, finishing at 38 percent from the floor after a lot of shots fell harmlessly to the court near the end.
Bennett didn't play the final four minutes, a curious decision we'll learn more about in postgame. Mike Moser and Justin Hawkins combined to shoot 2-for-11, though Hawkins made up for his struggles with another night of really great defense.
Deonte Burton and Jerry Evans Jr each scored 14 points for the Wolf Pack, who committed 16 turnovers. UNLV had 19 assists on 23 made baskets with 13 turnovers. The Rebels also had five blocks.
UNLV returns to action Saturday on the road at Boise State, which seems much more winnable than it did two weeks ago. Whether the Rebels can actually pull it off, though, remains to be seen.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's Rebels' victory.
UNLV 54, UNR 45
7:22 remaining in the second half
The Rebels are keeping the Wolf Pack at arm's length but it doesn't yet feel like the visitors are out of this one. UNLV isn't doing enough with its offensive possessions to completely finish off UNR.
Malik Story is a big reason UNR is hanging tough. His outside shot has been just good enough to keep enough Rebels out of the paint for Deonte Burton to drive into the lane and finish at the rim. UNR leads second-half shooting percentages 46.7 to 25. That's another big reason UNLV can't feel too comfortable yet.
UNLV 39, UNR 31
15:51 remaining in the second half
The action has picked up speed in the opening possessions of the second half, with the Rebels extending their lead by a point at the end of it.
Make no mistake, UNR can run a little bit. But in this building it's unlikely to work out in the long run against a UNLV team that's better at that style of game. As far as the Rebels are concerned, the teams could play the rest of the game at this speed because if it does they'll likely win by double digits.
UNLV 34, UNR 27
Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch each have eight points as UNLV uses a 6-0 run in the final two minutes of the first half to take a 34-27 lead into halftime against rival UNR.
The Wolf Pack had cut the deficit to one late in the half but couldn't grab the lead or close as strongly as they had played for much of the first half. Deonte Burton leads all scorers with nine points, including an alley-oop dunk you'll be seeing on highlight reels for the rest of the season.
Bennett has eight rebounds to go with his points, though he also has three turnovers. Bennett is a big reason UNLV has taken a 22-16 rebounding advantage at the break after trailing for much of the first half.
UNLV is shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 30.8 behind the three-point line. UNR is hitting 35.7 percent from the floor and 25 percent (4-for-16) behind the line. It's actually impressive the Wolf Pack have shot so poorly from deep yet only trail by seven.
Mike Moser didn't start the game and he's 0-for-4 shooting in 12 minutes. The starter at the 3, Bryce Dejean-Jones, has five points, three rebounds and two assists, though he also has three turnovers and two fouls. Overall it's been the inside and the guards, not the wings, carrying things for the Rebels.
The front court is where UNLV could really do some damage moving forward because UNR doesn't have the size to match up. And for UNR, its plan is going to be even more Burton, who played all 20 minutes in the first half.
UNLV 19, UNR 15
7:11 remaining in the first half
The best back-to-back possessions thus far featured three blocks in about 45 seconds, including two great ones.
The first one was courtesy of UNLV's Khem Birch, who went up above the rim and put a shot back past the three-point line. That's kind of what he does.
More impressive was UNR's Deonte Burton, who chased down Mike Moser in the open court and cleanly swatted away what Moser thought was a wide open dunk. Burton then got another block in the same possession on Birch.
Add those swats to the Wolf Pack's 13-11 rebounding advantage and you have a clue as to how they're within four right now.
UNLV 7, UNR 5
15:29 remaining in the first half
We knew the starting lineup was going to be different, but coach Dave Rice's gameday coach was still a surprise. Khem Birch will come off the bench because he missed practice on Sunday, but Mike Moser also started this game on the bench.
The starters were Anthony Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Anthony Bennett and Quintrell Thomas. Dejean-Jones will sit most of the first half now after committing two quick fouls, so even though he didn't start it's possible Moser will see most of the minutes at the three. Still, it's interesting that Rice changed his mind in the last day and decided to bring Moser off the bench.
With two players ranked in the top seven in league scoring, it’s not hard to find UNR’s strength. Guards Deonte Burton and Malik Story are responsible for 46.4 percent of the team’s offensive scoring.
Burton and Story have each scored at least 20 points a combined 12 times already this season. Preventing that tonight will start with Anthony Marshall on Burton, who said his plan is to pressure Burton into passing the ball. That’s easier said than done, but it also makes sense. If you can make guys like Jerry Evans Jr. or Jordan Burris be the ones who have to score to beat you, you’re in good shape.
That’s what UNLV (16-4, 3-2) will try to do when it hosts UNR (11-8, 2-3) at 7 p.m. on CBS Sports Network.
This is the 74th meeting between the in-state rivals on the basketball court. UNLV holds a 54-19 series advantage, including winning the last six. UNR’s last victory in Las Vegas was on Nov. 26, 2005.
If the Wolf Pack are to match that feat as heavy underdogs tonight, it will have to have huge nights from Burton and Story plus a really bad showing from the Rebels’ front court. UNR really doesn’t have anybody to match up with Anthony Bennett inside, or Mike Moser and Khem Birch for that matter. The latter won’t start because he missed practice Sunday night but Birch is expected to still play close to starters’ minutes.
In his absence the lineup will most likely be Marshall, Katin Reinhardt, Bryce Dejean-Jones, Moser and Bennett. Considering how important it’s going to be to contain the Wolf Pack on the perimeter, this could be a big night for Justin Hawkins, who’s a superior defender to Reinhardt at shooting guard.
That’s where it starts and ends for the Rebels tonight: defending UNR’s guards. Do that and it should be an easy night.
THE OTHER SIDE
UNR projected lineup
G — Deonte Burton, 6-1, Jr, 16.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3 apg
G — Malik Story, 6-5, Sr, 15.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
G — Jerry Evans Jr, 6-8, Jr, 8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.4 apg
G — Jordan Burris, 6-7, Jr, 7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 apg
F — Kevin Panzer, 6-9, Jr, 4.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.5 bpg
Sixth man — F, Devonte Elliott, 6-10, Jr, 6.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 0.8 bpg
Best name: Marqueze Coleman, G, 6-3, Fr
Extra storyline: This is the first meeting as members of the Mountain West, but the Rebels and Wolf Pack were previously conference mates briefly in the Big West.
Useless Wikipedia factoid: “The Wolf Pack's mascot is an anthropomorphized wolf named Alphie, who took over the duties of cheering from his uncle, Wolfie, in 1999. In 2007, Alphie was joined by his younger brother, Wolfie Jr.”
Kenpom line: UNLV -17
Vegas line: UNLV -13.5
Bern’s take: The pace could be one of the quickest this season as both teams like to run. In the Mack that usually means good things for the home team. UNLV 82, UNR 67