REBELS BASKETBALL:

UNLV downs Washburn in ugly, gritty exhibition opener, 58-50

Anthony Marshall paces improved second half attack; Rebels will host Loyola Marymount in closed scrimmage Saturday afternoon

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Sam Morris

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall dishes off a pass to Carlos Lopez during their exhibition game against Washburn Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. UNLV won the game 58-50.

UNLV vs. Washburn

UNLV guard Kendall Wallace fouls Washburn guard William McNeill as he dives for the ball during their exhibition game Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011. UNLV won the game 58-50. Launch slideshow »

UNLV basketball team off and running

KSNV reports on UNLV Runnin' Rebels' exhibition game, Nov. 1, 2011.

Pretty much every piece of advertising around the Las Vegas Valley promoting the 2011-12 UNLV men's basketball season contains the slogan "Let's Run."

In Tuesday night's exhibition opener at the Thomas & Mack Center against Washburn, it was clear that it had been drilled into the players' heads so thoroughly that they had the look of a team that was pressing in order to do so.

The result was an ugly 58-50 victory over the Ichabods, which proved that the label first-year coach Dave Rice has repeatedly applied to his team so far while transitioning to a new system — a work in progress — is dead on.

"I think the thing that got us through tonight was we had five guys on the floor at all times that battled," Rice told the Sun Thursday night. "We found a way, and I think it speaks to the character of our guys."

As a new coach inheriting a veteran basketball team, Rice and his staff have long known how fortunate they are to work with a group of players used to winning mostly by out-working the competition. That will was what helped UNLV ultimately pull away from Washburn in the closing minutes.

Now, the trick is finding a way to mix that grit with the uptempo style Rice wants his team to put on display.

What set the tone early Tuesday night was Washburn's discipline on the offensive end, as Bob Chipman's club found ways to work the shot clock and not allow UNLV to turn it into an up-and-down affair. Being forced to defend for long stretches made the Rebels look a bit too eager on the offensive end, and in turn, they headed to the halftime locker room trailing 21-20, having gone 4-of-23 from the floor and 0-for-8 from long range.

"Very bad," junior guard Anthony Marshall said of the first half offensive showing. "You always see the crowd getting their little squirms in, so as a player, it's very difficult. We knew that wasn't the way we wanted to play basketball."

It's not that the Rebels did a complete one-eighty in the second stanza, but they looked much more like a cohesive, confident unit, and it all started with Marshall.

In his first game at point guard, Marshall really began to look comfortable after the break, when he scored 12 of his 14 points and registered all four of his assists. He finished the night with 11 rebounds and four steals, as well.

His best stretch came with five minutes remaining and the game tied, 47-47. That's when Marshall fed sophomore Carlos Lopez inside with a nifty pass that led to a momentum-creating dunk. Then, on the ensuing Washburn possession, Marshall ripped down a board off of a missed shot, went coast-to-coast and found Lopez in rhythm again for another throwdown.

In the second half, Marshall, for a while, found the balance he said he'd be seeking this season in terms of feeling out when he's needed to score and when it's time to set up others.

He said it stemmed from picking up three fouls in the first half and the Ichabods' defense collapsing on him every time he drove to the bucket.

"It allowed me to get Carlos some easy buckets, and he finished at the rim like he was supposed to," Marshall added. "I had to make an adjustment, because I couldn't be as aggressive as I wanted to be."

Also looking comfortable was Mike Moser, who played in his first game since late in the 2009-10 season, when he had gone from highly-touted recruit to little-used freshman reserve at UCLA.

He said that the 32 minutes of action he saw on Tuesday was the most he'd played in an organized game since the state championship game that ended his senior year of high school in Portland Ore.

Moser struggled from the floor, hitting just four of 13 shot attempts, but he was a force on the offensive glass, got to the free throw line and defended aggressively. He finished the night with 14 points and nine rebounds in what was a pretty strong UNLV debut.

"A lot of the guys who redshirted (following transfers) before were telling me it's that get-back year that's tough, so ease your way in," he said. "I'm not trying to take their advice. I'm trying to throw myself in.

"It felt good. A lot of butterflies at first. Once I got playing, it was just basketball. I've been doing it for a long time."

Moser said that if he could change anything from his offensive performance on Tuesday, he would have worked inside-out instead of starting his night off with several outside jumpers, which set a tough tone when they didn't fall.

Like Moser, several other Rebels will have ample opportunities over the next 10 days to correct what went wrong in their first structured team outing. Saturday afternoon, UNLV will host Loyola Marymount in a full 40-minute scrimmage that is closed to both the media and public, per NCAA rules. After that will come a full week of practices and next Friday night's season opener back at the Mack against Grand Canyon.

But it was a learning experience, too, as the Rebels realized quickly that many future opponents will also know that with their desire to run, there will be several game plans designed around trying to slow them down to a crawl.

"I think with the athletes we have and the way we're trying to push the tempo and play, I think there are a lot of teams that will try to take the air out of (the ball) a little bit," Rice said. "So that's something we'll have to learn to deal with.

Notes

• Several UNLV recruiting targets were on hand for the first game of the Dave Rice era. Among them were Bishop Gorman's senior swingman Shabazz Muhammad — the unanimous top overall prospect in the 2012 class— junior guard Rashad Muhammad, senior forward Ben Carter and freshman phenom Stephen Zimmerman. Carter, who will choose in the near future between UNLV, Oregon and Utah, arrived in the second half wearing a UNLV hooded sweatshirt, then hung around afterwards to visit some with Rice. Sitting a couple of sections over was Findlay Prep junior guard and former UNLV commit Nigel Williams-Goss.

• UNLV was just 15-of-48 from the floor and 2-of-18 from 3-point range … Carlos Lopez scored all 11 of his points in the second half … Justin Hawkins had five points, four steals and three rebounds playing in place of suspended senior Chace Stanback, who will return for the Nov. 14 home game against rival UNR.

• Washburn was led by by guard William McNeill, who scored a game-high 21 points. McNeill had to be helped off of the floor after the game, however, while wearing an oxygen mask, as he collided with a cameraman in the game's closing minutes. The pain brought him to tears and grabbing his chest as he was assisted on the Washburn bench for several minutes before exiting the floor.

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  1. They played solid as individuals, just have to figure it out as a team effort. Part of the transformation and come conference time this Unlv machine will fine tuned and oiled. It was exactly how unc was last year when they had to teach their new freshman the run and gun style.

  2. It felt like the first game from the movie "Hoosiers" with the team trying to implement a new system. Saw some good glimplses of what the Rebels can do.

  3. I was there and it was ugly. Hopefully that's the worst of it. I do have high hopes for Moser, he has potential written all over him.

    I would also like to see Lopez get more playng time.

  4. At times it felt like Kruger ball, but the game also felt A LOT more "fluid" despite the sloppiness, especially the substitution patterns.

    Also, when Thomas was first put in the game and 10 seconds later he picked up a foul I had PTSD with flashbacks of him getting pulled immediately, but he stayed in and didn't pick up another foul until the last few minutes of the game.

  5. The problem with last years team was consistency. They would have stretches where they played brilliant basketball and could have honestly played with anyone in the country and there were times that they looked like a team that belonged in Div II. That continues to look like it is the modus operandi of this team even after Lon's departure.

    I for one love the return of the "Runnin Rebels" but Let's Run with a purpose. It is an entertaining brand of basketball if you can get the shots to go down and you can work the ball to the open man. Grand Canyon University is next up and it should be a game that provides a tune up for the UNR game coming up. There is no doubt there are talented guys on the floor we need them to step up so UNLV can attract the talented guys in the stands.

  6. UNLV needs to be prepared for some "Princeton Offense" this season by teams because they'll know our style of running. Keep the tempo though fellas!

  7. Unfortunately I wasn't able to go to the game.. I can understand that switching to a new system is going to be tough. Especially considering 3 of the best players on the team (Smith, Jones, and Stanback) were unavailable to play. I hope they stick to it and don't lose faith because they could really excel in this system.

  8. I'm not sure gritty is the appropriate term to describe last night's win. Seeing the team rely on so many perimeter jumpers (and the lack of makes) and the big men receive so few low post touches (only 7 as of 7:00 minutes left in the 2nd half) had a very Krugeresqe appearance to it.

    Once the outside shots weren't falling there should have been a more concerted effort to pound the ball inside considering Washburn's lack of height. Hope that changes moving forward as this team does not have the same make-up as BYU (i.e. being able to rely on perimeter jump shots).

  9. Wow- here we all were saying the Stanback suspension was an easy way out because it was a meaningless game (true) against an inferior team (maybe not!) So once we get Stanback back and if he keeps treating his lady friends with non-felony respect, we probably don't need to worry that much.

    Also, maybe this is the year that Massamba finally reaches his "potential?" Or is it too late for that?

  10. Lopez should get the most Minutes at center.

  11. Let's hope the boys were just working the kinks out. In my opinion these early games lack the intensity so a close game was to be expected. Moser looks like he'll be a monster this year and Marshall can really fill up a box score, including turnovers. Let's start running!

    On a side note.... I see Boatright is awaiting word on eligibility @ Uconn (non-academic related) - interesting.

    Go Rebels

  12. LVEducator - Probably an unnecessary comment to make regarding Stanback and his status, especially since his situation has nothing to do with your comment or the former player who had an issue with that. Way to keep it classy.

    As far as the game goes, it was a bit disappointing to see the team struggle so much, but there were definitely glimpses of what this team will be capable of as they get more confident with the new system.

    We all expected that there would be some struggles early on adjusting to the new system and style of play against live competition. That's why you play Washburn, Loyola (Sat.-closed scrimmage), Grand Canyon and UNR. Work out some kinks. The key is not to be peaking in November like it appeared Kruger's teams often did, but to peak as conference play and the tournaments come up, which I think this team will.

    Individually, Moser played great and was a beast on the offensive boards (7, I think). Marshall put up a double-double in his first game at the point (14pts, 10 rebs). Thomas rebounded the ball well and Lopez well. There's definitely stuff to work on, but the shots were there, we just weren't hitting them and were missing some layups and put-backs. I think the team looked a bit tight and tentative with the ball, but that will ease with time.

  13. Nice debut for the " Running" Rebels. In a dogfight at home vs Washburn lol. 58 pts vs Washburn, that get's a Cris Carter " Come on Man!" You can change the coach and run all these commercials and ads talking about running this year, but at the end of the day it's still the same mediocre players. Until Coach Rice gets all his players in, and is done with the Kruger leftovers its going to be the same mediocrity this year all over again. This couldn't have been a good impression on potential future recruits watching courtside the " Running" Rebels score 58 pts vs Washburn. " Come on Man!"

  14. I don't agree with Canes comment on the Kruger players, but as far as the impression on recruits in attendance, he's spot on.

  15. It's nice to see Canes is back to troll another season of Rebel's bball articles. Always a fun read.

    Just a quick question for someone at the game. Were any of the missed layups on drives or were they transition misses? Just kinda curious if they are playing the same pass around the perimeter style offense or if someone is actually driving to the hole.

  16. It isnt realistic to just show up & go "Lets Run" and expect it to be effective. We have to rebound better, we have to have someone who can push AND make good decisions, and we have to have finishers. We were lacking in every category there vs Washburn. Marshall isnt a natural 1 so there's gonna be a brutal learning curve there. Oscar's first instinct is to NOT run off a miss (ala Kruger) and that was evident too. Smith will be HUGE if he can run the point, push tempo & distribute, and allow our best finishers (Marshall, Moser, Oscar, & Stanback) to get good looks. And like somebody else said above...why we still have a phobia against feeding the post/playing high low in the half court was disappointing. We have to open up floor & make the defense shift. We cant play people like Hawkins or Wallace on the perimeter & expect them to create their own shot or be effective shooting contested ones. We need to play smarter to get them quality looks where they can succeed. Thus...seems we still have some residual leftover habits from the previous regime. It will take time, for sure, but it was also evident Tues night was that we we still Defend like crazy (!) & hopefully that will buy us the time we need to iron this stuff out.

  17. Did anyone here note that Arizona lost to a division two school a week ago and remind me where Arizona ended up during the NCAA tournament last year?

  18. @Mark I was also gonna chime in on that too, but couldn't find what schools lost. These exhibition games we shouldn't put too much perspective into because they are just that, exhibitions. It's a warmup for the players to ease back into the game.

    Another losing team to an exhibition is Butler to Northern State 50-53.

    One more thing to add is that you might not want your players going 110% and get hurt.

  19. Yes, Arizona lost to a DII school and beat another by only 7pts last nite. But I would argue that there is more pressure on Rice & UNLV to excel because they have WAY more experienced talent coming back than AZ does. AZ lost Derrick Williams, their PG, their do everything 6th man, and their best defender...its a retooling & rebuild over there with frosh playing significant minutes. Whereas here...pretty much the nucleus is back, their upper classmen, & we all know how hyped this season was before it even began. Both schools have high expectations but the Rebels starting point is higher...as will be our expectations...right or wrong.

  20. @djonian81 Arizona is ranked 16th...no excuse to lose to a DII school if you are ranked. I wouldn't say UNLV's starting point is higher by any means.

  21. There is a real difference between our old running style and the one all teams use now. The new style teams use seems to be that the players wait for the break opportunity compared to making the break opportunity. Our teams in the late 80's and 90's had TWO player, (a wing and guard) ready to jump and run before the ball was even secured in the hands of the rebounder. This gave them an immediate chance at a break every turn. In Larry Johnsons own words, " jail break". Every possession. That's why scores from Unlv were like 115-140 points. The players just have to look up farther and faster every posseion and they can run like that too. No team today uses that and I garentee that if it was implemented again not many would know how to defend it. Just watch old rebel games, you'll see.

  22. @Sofa..Rankings mean & prove nothing except how clueless the media can be. Currently, Arizona isnt even a shell of what they were last year or even close. Not when 4 of their top 7 players are gone or hurt with frosh taking their place. The Rebels, meanwhile are also an NCAA tourney team that returns virtually intact sans Willis and added upgrades as well. So yeah, our starting pt & expectations SHOULD BE higher regardless what the media thinks. All I'm saying is we have a talented, deep, & experienced team & I'm not prepared to lower the bar or make excuses for Rice or anybody else. Get it Done!