Analysis:

UNLV Leftovers: Attempting to put Moser’s injury in its proper context

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones looks up after being called for a foul during the second half of their game against Cal Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif. UNLV won 76-75.

UNLV vs. Cal 2012

Cal guard Justin Cobbs tries to grab a loose ball from UNLV guard Anthony Marshall during the first half of their game Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 at Haas Pavilion in Berkeley, Calif. UNLV won 76-75. Launch slideshow »

This is a regular feature full of news and notes leftover from the Rebels’ most recent game.

I didn’t see Mike Moser's injury when it happened and, if I can help it, I will never see the replay or up-close photos, either. Joint injuries don’t really make me sick to my stomach, but it’s an uncomfortable feeling I’d just as soon avoid. For instance, I still haven’t seen the apparently gruesome knee injury South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore suffered earlier this year.

More importantly, seeing the replay isn’t going to give me any better idea of when Moser may return. I can’t discern the seriousness of an injury based solely on the video or photos of it. That said, I am confident in the following statement:

It could have been worse

I mean that for Moser and for the team that now has to play without him for a while.

First, Moser. The X-Rays were negative, which means there’s no fracture. Rehab for this type of injury without surgery — and it appears he won’t need to be operated on — can be as short as three weeks.

That’s overly optimistic but at this point, it’s not out of the question. Then there’s this: Whenever Moser returns, if he can perform at a pre-injury level — about 12 points and nine rebounds per game — I think it could actually improve his NBA draft stock. First of all, there would be less tape to nitpick, and I could see a scenario where GMs would see the lack of a drop-off and envision greater improvements as he gets further from the injury and regains the arm mobility he lost Sunday.

As for the team, not only does it add center Khem Birch next week, but Bryce Dejean-Jones' game against Cal was a big step toward delivering on his potential at small forward, where Moser was going to play even more with Birch in the lineup.

“I knew it was going to come sometime soon,” freshman Anthony Bennett said of Dejean-Jones’ 22 points in 25 minutes.

Part of the reason people really liked this team in the preseason was its depth. While those guys (including Birch, Dejean-Jones and freshman Savon Goodman) aren’t nearly as experienced as Moser, at least UNLV has some talent to fall back on.

‘It’s definitely a good senior moment’

I saw a tweet that said Quintrell Thomas' game-winning offensive rebound and putback was the biggest shot he has made since high school. That’s likely true, and it’s possible it was the biggest shot he’ll make the rest of his life.

There’s a lot of season left and Thomas has played his way into some court time, especially considering Moser’s absence, but there are no guarantees. And unlike several of his teammates, professional basketball isn’t a certainty for Thomas. This may be as good as it gets, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

I was at Kansas when Thomas went there for his freshman season. He was told certain things that never came to be because the Morris twins — Marcus and Markieff, who now play for the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets, respectively — backed out of Memphis and also landed in Lawrence. That pushed Thomas out of the rotation.

The situation in Las Vegas hasn’t been ideal, but you never hear Thomas complain. He puts his head down and goes to work, including losing 15-20 pounds this offseason. I’m happy to see a guy like that have his day.

Odds and ends

• After setting new career highs in points (25) and rebounds (13), Bennett was named the Mountain West Player of the Week. He also had 18 and six against Portland.

Any fans holding out hope for a sophomore season, and there shouldn’t have been many of those left anyway, can all but give up hope on that. Barring a similar injury-related event as Moser, Bennett is looking more and more like a lottery pick.

“We know he’s going to have a long career at the next level,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “We’re just happy he’s here with us for as long as he’s here.”

• My game story addressed UNLV’s habit of overthinking situations on the court and how doing the opposite helped the team win. Rice said that could have been an issue on defense, too. He said once the coaching staff told the guys to trust their instincts within the game plan then Cal’s shooting percentage started falling.

And maybe that’s true. It probably had something to do with it at least. The counter is the Bears shot a very high percentage (65.4) in the first half and did so mostly with jump shots. It’s nearly impossible to maintain that clip on jumpers and, not surprisingly, a lot of those similar looking shots weren’t falling in the second half.

• The Cal band, which dresses like they work at Chotchskie’s in the movie “Office Space,” is great. That they played Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ “Thrift Shop” (lyrics NSFW) made my day, as did the clam chowder served in a bread bowl at the concession stand. Well done, Haas Pavilion*.

*Except for those three on-court hype men. Those guys have got to go.

• This was the second straight road game where the home team touted a trip to Las Vegas. At Portland, there was a contest to win a trip for the Big West Tournament and in Berkeley they had a video ad for the Pac-12 Tournament, proving everyone loves Las Vegas.

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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