Marco Garcia / Associated Press
Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011 | 9:56 p.m.
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With less than two minutes left in the game and UNLV clinging to a six-point lead, Marshall made for the basket like a sprinter out of the blocks and took off for the rim before his feet had touched the paint. A Warrior defender leaped into the air to challenge the shot.
Both men crashed to the floor after Marshall won the battle with a made basket. Though he touched the rim, it wasn’t quite a dunk, but it was more than just a layup.
“It went in, so that’s all I care about it,” Marshall said. “Call it a hard layup.”
No. 19 UNLV (15-2) needed everything Marshall had to defeat Hawaii 74-69 on the road.
He led the team with 19 points and a season-high 13 rebounds. Marshall, a junior guard, scored 14 of his points in the second half, when the Warriors (8-6) were keyed on stopping senior small forward Chace Stanback.
“Anthony was spectacular,” said sophomore Mike Moser, who notched 15 points and 12 rebounds. “He was getting every rebound, going coast-to-coast, splitting the big fellas; he was really our only action that we had going to the basket.”
In the first half, Stanback led the way with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Aside from him, the team shot 29 percent at halftime.
But instead of riding the hot hand, Rebels coach Dave Rice trusted that somebody else would be able to take advantage of the defensive holes.
“Our philosophy is that we’re going to find the open man, and we felt like Anthony had an advantage in the second half,” Rice said. “Anthony was able to get space where they were face-guarding Chace.”
Stanback didn’t attempt another shot until there was just 2:20 left in the game, but it was a big one. With a 68-64 lead, Rice called for the play Three Down, which is a designed post-up for Stanback.
Down in the right corner, Stanback caught the entry pass and beat his man off the dribble for a pull-up jump shot.
“He made a game-winning-type play,” Rice said.
On the next offensive possession, Marshall rattled in his hard layup and the Rebels lived through a sloppy finish.
Hawaii was able to get the deficit to three with 22 seconds left before Justin Hawkins made a layup for the game’s final points. Marshall had the assist.
At halftime, Stanback scoring just two points the rest of the way would have sounded like a lock for a Hawaii victory. And that’s one of many reasons UNLV is so dangerous.
“We really have the luxury of not having to bank on one guy to carry us through the whole game,” Marshall said. “Chace did it the first half, and then Mike Moser, myself and some others did it in the second half.”
Stanback, the team’s leading scorer, and Moser, the team’s leading rebounder, had displayed their predatory skills in victories earlier this season. Now, after a three-game stretch that included 22 points against California, you have to add Marshall to that group.
“Anthony has become a go-to guy for us,” Rice said.
Defensively, the Rebels struggled to contain Hawaii’s big men Joston Thomas and Vander Joaquim. An injury to senior center Brice Massamba and foul trouble for Moser and junior center Quintrell Thomas took the bite out of UNLV’s interior defense.
And the Warriors responded with 24 second-half points in the paint.
“We couldn’t really defend like we wanted to, not being able to play as physical as we wanted to,” Moser said.
Thomas and Joaquim combined for 31 points and 21 rebounds.
However, the Rebels executed what they considered the most important part of their defense as the Warriors shot 3-of-17 behind the three-point line.
“We thought that was the biggest key in the game, to limit their 3-point shooting,” Rice said. “We felt like we’d have enough to get it done if we controlled their 3-point shooters.”
Hawaii’s perimeter threats — Hauns Brereton and Zane Johnson — combined to make just 3-of-12. And Johnson missed much of the second half, including the final four minutes, because of bruised ribs suffered when UNLV guard Reggie Smith fell hard on him after a layup attempt.
UNLV shot 52 percent in the second half and finished at 44 percent for the game. Hawaii made up for its 34 percent shooting from the floor by hitting 20-of-27 free throws.
Rice said keeping teams off the free throw line is something the team must improve on. Ditto for interior defense.
But the most important thing the Rebels will take with them from the island is a third lethal weapon.
“I really didn’t get off to the start of the season like I would’ve liked to, but I knew my time was coming. You just have to be patient,” Marshall said. “We’re winning games and we’re doing it together.”