Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 | 12:45 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer break down the UNLV basketball team's 65-54 victory against UTEP. The Rebels started slow and struggled with their shooting all night, but were too much for an inexperienced UTEP squad down the stretch.
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In the first half Wednesday, the UTEP defenders left him open along the perimeter.
“They were daring Anthony to shoot,” Rebels coach Dave Rice said.
The junior Las Vegas native responded with an airball among his four missed 3-pointers in the first half. His confidence shaken but not shattered, Marshall kept firing when he had an open look. As the final five minutes approached with the game still very much in doubt, Marshall connected.
In the final 5:05, he scored 10 points, leading the Rebels with 20 points for the game as they held off the Miners 65-54 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Marshall’s first made 3-pointer put UNLV up by four. And that’s as close as UTEP would get the rest of the game.
After a few free throws, Marshall hit another 3-pointer from the top of the key that pushed the lead to eight. And on the following possession, after UTEP made two free throws, he made another jump shot.
Three shots, all taken with the confidence that everyone on his team believed they would go in.
“We want him to play with confidence,” Rice said. “I believe that if we didn’t continue to instill that confidence in him, he wouldn’t have made those three big baskets down the stretch. … Those are three game-winning plays that he made.”
Marshall punctuated his late-game surge with a dunk in the closing seconds that capped off all the scoring. He enjoyed the finish even more since it came after the Miners’ disrespected him by purposefully leaving him wide open.
“As a player, I felt that,” Marshall said. “… I came up with the shots.”
Most of the Rebels eventually came up with shots.
Chace Stanback, the team’s leading scorer entering the game, hit a 3-pointer in the second half and finished with five points. Mike Moser got a couple of second-half putbacks and finished with six points to go with his game-high 11 rebounds.
Occasionally lackadaisical and simply off-the-mark in the opening 20 minutes, the Rebels came out of the break and shot 57 percent from the floor and attempted 17 more free throws than they had in the first half.
If the slow starts aren’t a Rebel problem, which they may very well be, then UNLV could once again point to the opponents’ tempo as the culprit.
“It’s a sign of respect when a team that has as good of players as UTEP has comes in and holds the ball for 30 seconds per possession,” Rice said. “It puts tremendous pressure on our defense.”
The defense held up. UNLV forced 20 turnovers and kept UTEP under 42 percent shooting for the game, including just 1-for-10 behind the 3-point line.
The problem was that by the time the Rebels got the ball after playing defense, often for as long as 30 seconds before the Miners’ took a shot, they were too excited and either shot too soon or pushed too fast and turned it over.
“Especially me,” Marshall said. “I had some key turnovers that were really forced.”
“We need to be more patient on the offensive end,” Rice said. “Doesn’t mean we need to play slower, but we need to be more patient. … Sometimes we settle for the first open shot.”
Finding the balance between patience and pace is something UNLV will likely have to figure out throughout this season. Three out of the last four opponents have taken the Rebels out of their style, and now there’s a lot of tape for future opponents to study on how to do exactly the same thing.
The Rebels may get a break from these tempo nightmares on Saturday against Illinois, which also likes to get out and run a bit. Of course, after seeing how much the Rebels have struggled in slow games, the Illini may go with a similar tactic.
If they do, it’s not going to be enough for Marshall to swoop in and save the day in the final minutes.
“We’re just going to have to learn how to play these games, because it seems like teams are really concerned about our offensive transition,” Rice said. “So we’re just going to have to guard for longer possessions.”