Published Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 | 4 p.m.
Updated Monday, Dec. 17, 2012 | 7:14 p.m.
- After a year off, Birch excited to make his UNLV debut against UTEP
- Addition of Birch this week adds instant intrigue to the Rebels
- Rebels satisfied with lopsided victory against La Verne
- Freshman guard will make UNLV debut Thursday night against La Verne
- UNLV-TV students will help broadcast La Verne game on VegasTV
- Moser expected to return from elbow injury in about a month
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
UNLV 62, UTEP 60
EL PASO, Texas — UTEP's Konner Tucker missed an open 3-pointer in the final seconds and No. 21 UNLV (9-1) held on for a 62-60 victory at the Don Haskins Center.
The Rebels led by as much as 15 points in the second half but the Miners got the came close in part on Tucker's 3-pointers. He hit a couple of off-balance, deep shots at key moments that helped energize UTEP and keep the game within single digits.
UNLV could have gone up by four in the 15 seconds but Bryce Dejean-Jones, who finished with a game-high 12 points, missed two free throws. Dejean-Jones then knocked the ball out of bounds on defense, setting up UTEP's inbounds play with four seconds left. It was a good play and Tucker got a good look at the basket, he just couldn't connect.
Anthony Marshall scored 11 while Katin Reinhardt, who led the team at halftime with 10 points, was held scoreless in the second half. Khem Birch finished with four points and three rebounds in 14 minutes in his UNLV debut.
The Rebels don't have any time to dwell on this narrow victory because on Wednesday they host Northern Iowa in UNLV's return to the Thomas & Mack Center. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's game.
UNLV 49, UTEP 43
7:53 remaining in the second half
EL PASO, Texas — UTEP's best offense is an off-balance, contested 3-pointer from Konner Tucker. And while that's not a great plan long-term, it's working so far to keep the Miners in this game.
Overall the game has really bogged down with a bunch of fouls and wasted possessions. And the trips to the free-throw line haven't been time well spent. Both teams have been awful at the line, combining to shoot better than 50 percent.
Right now the Miners have the momentum, having climbed back into the game a couple of times now. UNLV has a counter punch coming, but it would be wise to find that sooner than later or else UTEP might start playing with some real confidence.
UNLV 38, UTEP 26
15:20 remaining in the second half
EL PASO, Texas — UNLV isn't showing any of its usual early second half jitters. Instead, the Rebels have completely taking control of this game, ballooning their lead to 12.
UTEP looks completely lost on offense. Two of the Miners' recent possessions consisted of four guys standing around the perimeter and the point guard dribbling up top, waiting for someone to move.
Meanwhile, UNLV has gotten its points with run outs where the Rebels usually had a man advantage on the Miners. That's exactly how UNLV would like to play.
UNLV 31, UTEP 22
EL PASO, Texas — Katin Reinhardt has 10 points and Anthony Marshall has six points, four rebounds and two assists as the Rebels take a nine-point lead into halftime.
This has been a particularly ugly game, with UTEP committing nine turnovers. Chris Washburn has three of those, including a couple of passes that were looked more like they were intended for fans in the stands than teammates on the court.
UNLV is shooting 40.7 percent from the field and 50 percent behind the three-point line. UTEP is hitting 33.3 percent overall and just 20 percent behind the line. Neither team is any good at the free-throw line so far tonight.
Khem Birch doesn't have a block yet in his debut, but he does have two points and a couple of rebounds. He's looked solid if not spectacular in 10 minutes.
UTEP probably won't play as poorly in the second half as it did in the first, so UNLV still needs to work to improve in order to keep these margin. The Rebels haven't played great by any means although they are clearly in control. As always, These first few minutes of the second half are a constant problem for the Rebels, so we'll see how they do in that area tonight.
UNLV 19, UTEP 13
6:50 remaining in the first half
EL PASO, Texas — Freshman Daquan Cook got in the game early, getting minutes at the point with fellow freshman Katin Reinhardt at shooting guard, and the results were very mixed. Offensively, it was OK. Defensively, it was awful. Neither guy could guard his man and it allowed UTEP to make some easy baskets to get back in this game.
Khem Birch's debut was decidedly more positive. Birch was solid on defense and and scored on a really nice post move in a one-on-one situation. As long as he's OK running the floor he ought to get the anticipated 15-20 minutes tonight. Hopefully a lot of that is with Anthony Bennett on the court, because seeing how those two play together will be big going forward.
UTEP 7, UNLV 4
15:44 remaining in the first half
EL PASO, Texas — UTEP has started the game in a matchup zone defense and thus far it's getting the desired result. UNLV is taking outside shots, hitting one of its first three 3-point attempts.
The Rebels aren't ignoring the inside, though. Anthony Bennett has had several chances to make plays in the paint, he's just having trouble finishing. His first shot was well off, then he had a bad shot blocked before drawing a foul and making 1-of-2 free throws.
Carlos Lopez-Sosa is the first guy into the game for UNLV, which is a little surprising since Dave Rice said he expected Quintrell Thomas and Khem Birch to share the minutes at center. Lopez-Sosa figured to get some time, but entering this early could mean he's in for more than 10 minutes. We'll see.
EL PASO, Texas — UNLV's Khem Birch isn’t the only player making his debut tonight. In fact, UTEP (3-4) is welcoming back two guys who will give the Miners a lot of depth in the back court.
Senior Konner Tucker is playing in his first game of the season because of a broken hand and sophomore transfer McKenzie Moore, a 6-foot-6 guard, just became eligible, like Birch. Tucker, a 6-4 native of Fort Worth, sat out last year after transferring from Sam Houston State, where he averaged 12 points per game two years ago.
Add that to the Washburn brothers — Julian and Chris — in the front court, and the Miners present a possibly formidable lineup for the Rebels to deal with. There’s no recent tape for No. 21 UNLV (8-1) to scout on Tucker or Moore, which is just another thing the Rebels must overcome.
The biggest challenge UNLV faces, though, will likely be the pace of the game. Last year at the Thomas & Mack Center, the Rebels slogged out a 65-54 victory. The Miners wisely slowed the game down and frustrated UNLV.
UTEP coach Tim Floyd will likely employ a similar strategy tonight (the game is televised on CBS Sports Network) and the Rebels have a bunch of fresh faces who never dealt with it last year. This will be a common theme for UNLV this season: keeping its offensive composure in the face of a slowed-down attack.
The problem that most often arises for UNLV in these types of games is that the players get so frustrated by having to play defense for the entire shot clock that they speed things up too much on offense and make mistakes. That’s where composure comes into play, something UNLV may struggle with on the road with a core that includes several freshman and a transfer playing his first game in more than a year.
UTEP is by no means a great team, but it may take a great UNLV performance to win by double digits. Anything less and the Rebels could be fighting for their lives down the stretch against a team that’s getting a boost from its two new pieces.
THE OTHER SIDE
UTEP projected lineup
G — Jacques Streeter, 6-0, Sr, 7.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 5 apg
G — Jalen Ragland, 6-6, So, 6.7 ppg, 1 rpb, 0.6 apg
F — Julian Washburn, 6-7, So, 12 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.7 apg
F — Chris Washburn, 6-8, Fr, 7.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1 apg
F — Cedrick Lang, 6-9, So, 3.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 0.4 apg
Sixth man — John Bohannon, 6-10, Jr, 11.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1 apg
Best name: Hooper Vint, 6-10, Fr, C
Extra storyline: UTEP is having “Throwback Night” and the team will wear Texas Western uniforms honoring the 1966 national championship team.
Kenpom line: UNLV -9
Vegas line: UNLV -6.5
Bern’s take: Sure, UNLV picked up a nice road win at Cal last week, but I don’t entirely buy this team away from Las Vegas yet. The Rebels should win, though it’s really hard to say how much of an impact the three combined newcomers will have. UNLV 65, UTEP 60