UNLV basketball:

Blog: Bennett gets 20 points and 12 rebounds in impressive UNLV victory

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett cheers after a basket against UNI during their game Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack.

Updated Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 | 8:59 p.m.

UNLV vs. UNI

UNLV fans cheer after an Anthony Bennet dunk against UNI during their game Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack. Launch slideshow »

UNLV 73, UNI 59

Game over

Anthony Bennett finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, fellow Canadian Khem Birch finished one rebound shy of a double-double and No. 21 UNLV maintained its halftime lead and took a 73-59 victory to move to 10-1.

Bennett was great from the start of the game against a man-to-man defense that struggled to come up with double team schemes or transition defense to stop him. He got dunks, 3s and everything in between while improving his passing out of the post as the game wore on.

Birch's performance was equally impressive as the Rebels continue to work him into the rotation. At the point, Anthony Marshall scored nine and played a solid game.

UNI got run over at the start of the game and despite their best attempts in the second half the Panthers never really got the game close. They missed the front end of 1-and-1 free throws twice in a row, missed opportunities that could have helped get the game within single digits. Instead UNLV kept its distance and made some impressive plays down the stretch to keep UNI at bay.

The Rebels return to the court Saturday to play Canisius on Saturday at home. Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from tonight's game.

UNLV 62, UNI 45

7:47 remaining in the second half

UNI's offensive desperation of throwing up 3-pointers has worked well enough to pull the Panthers within 15, but UNLV's counter pushed the margin back up and it looks like it will take a lot more 3s to even get within a dozen.

This is important for UNLV. It doesn't have to move this lead to 30 but keeping it at 20 would be a big step after it blew a 15-point lead in Monday's 2-point win at UTEP.

So for UNLV, just close out on shooters and take away 3s. At this point the Rebels should be content trading baskets, they just don't want the Panthers to gain any ground beyond the arc.

UNLV 56, UNI 32

13:24 remaining in the second half

The second half so far is more of the same for UNLV, and that means a healthy dose of Anthony Bennett and fast breaks. UNI has hit a few 3-pointers to at least keep pace, but the Panthers aren't getting back well enough in transition and UNLV is doing whatever it wants.

So long as UNI doesn't pull a miracle comeback, the importance in the rest of this game for UNLV other than maintaining its lead is to get Khem Birch some quality minutes and also get freshmen Savon Goodman and Daquan Cook out on the court. Those two play very inconsistent minutes and this is a chance to get them playing time against what is usually a quality defense.

For UNI, it's offense now must basically consist of 3s, 3s and more 3s.

UNLV 43, UNI 22

Halftime

Anthony Bennett was a beast in the final minutes of the first half, taking over the game and leading UNLV into halftime with 14 points and eight rebounds. Katin Reinhardt has seven points, including one of the Rebels' six made 3-pointers.

UNLV has kept UNI off the offensive glass, it's dominating them in the paint and the Rebels are getting out in transition, leading 10-0 in fast-break points. Everything is going right for UNLV, and now the challenge is to keep that up and prevent UNI from getting this deficit within single digits.

In order to pull it close, the Panthers are going to have to shoot a lot better than 27 percent behind the three-point line. They also need to grab some rebounds and not commit so many turnovers.

As for shutting down Bennett? At this point it looks like the only chance of doing that is a zone, something UNI coach Ben Jacobson said the Panthers rarely run. Antying short of that and Bennett will likely keep cutting up this defense, whether it's with his scoring or passing.

Tonight the only guys who could really stop Bennett are on NBA rosters.

UNLV 25, UNI 13

7:38 remaining in the first half

They're running well, they're shooting well and they're rebounding well. Right now UNLV is playing a great game, in this final stretch of the first half the Rebels have a great chance to balloon this lead up to about 20.

UNLV is getting its points in a variety of ways while UNI is struggling to get much of anything going. Marc Sonnen has more than half their points with seven.

The Rebels aren't playing particularly great first-shot defense, but they are doing a tremendous job of grabbing defensive rebounds and keeping UNI from getting any second-chance looks. And those rebounds and UNI's five turnovers are turning into great scoring chances at the other end.

If UNI keeps the margin at 12 at halftime that's a small victory for the Panthers, because UNLV might go on a big run here.

UNLV 10, UNI 4

15:45 remaining in the first half

Anthony Marshall and Katin Reinhardt both hit 3-pointers in the first couple of possessions and UNLV is pushing the pace with a 10-4 lead.

Anthony Bennett missed a 3-pointer, but he's also been able to get position down in the paint, which is more important for the Rebels' long-term success tonight. Quintrell Thomas also had a really nice post possession against one-on-one defense from UNI's Seth Tuttle, who already has a foul and a couple of missed shots.

Khem Birch has entered the game for his first minutes at home and it will be interesting to see if he plays much more than the 14 minutes he had in his debut Monday.

The good news for No. 21 UNLV going into tonight’s game at 7 against Northern Iowa is that the Panthers rarely play a zone defense. The bad news is that UNI’s primary goal is to survive the first 10 seconds of the shot clock on defense, forcing the Rebels to play more half-court sets and thus shortening the game.

Whether the Panthers (6-4) will be successful in that mission is an obvious question mark, because it’s not like they’re the first team that’s tried to slow down the Rebels (9-1). In fact, that’s exactly what coach Dave Rice’s team faced in Monday’s 62-60 victory at UTEP.

“(Monday) night was definitely good preparation for (UNI) in terms of style of play and having to guard late into a shot clock,” Rice said.

It wasn’t a pretty win, but UNLV held on at the end. Playing at the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time in nearly three weeks could give the Rebels enough of a boost that they don’t have to deal with another close finish.

Another thing that could help with that is a big night from leading scorer Anthony Bennett, who struggled against the double- and triple-teams UTEP used against him. Without a zone or junk defenses, UNI’s most likely route will be double teams in the post, because Panthers coach Ben Jacobson said Tuesday he knows playing one-on-one the whole game won’t cut it.

UTEP’s double teams worked well because they were immediate and forceful, but also because the rest of the defense was strategically spaced out to cover the other four men. Against a double team from a man-to-man defense, which UNI figures to play most if not the entire game, there’s more of an opportunity for a quick pass to the open man, who could then knock down a shot or drive to the basket.

If that’s the type of offense UNLV is able to execute in the half court then it shouldn’t matter how much time is on the shot clock when the Rebels shoot it. They’ll win.

The possible problems come into play if Bennett and the center trio of Quintrell Thomas, Khem Birch and Carlos Lopez-Sosa can’t get the ball in a position to succeed in the post and the Rebels’ guards/wings get frustrated and take contested shots.

Composure is a key for the Rebels in every game, but especially in matchups where the opponent’s pace is likely going to frustrate them. That’s the case tonight, though UNLV definitely has the talent and athleticism to overcome that and maybe even cruise to a double-digit victory.

THE OTHER SIDE

UNI projected lineup

G — Anthony James, 6-0, Sr, 9.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 38 fg%

G — Deon Mitchell, 6-1, So, 13.7 ppg, 3.8 apg, 56 fg%

F — Marc Sonnen, 6-3, Sr, 9.4 ppg, 2.4 A-TO ratio, 41.7 3fg%

F — Jake Koch, 6-9, Sr, 9.7 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg

F — Seth Tuttle, 6-8, So, 10.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 54 fg%

Sixth man — Matt Bohannon, 6-4, Fr, 6.3 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 40.5 3fg%

Best name: Chip Rank, 6-6, Jr, F

Extra storyline: UNI is on a six-game winning streak in Las Vegas, a stretch that started in 2004. The Panthers’ last loss in Vegas came in 1989 to third-ranked Georgetown.

Useless Wikipedia factoid: UNI was originally known as the Iowa State Normal School.

Kenpom line: UNLV -10

Vegas line: UNLV -10

Bern’s take: With a hot start and the crowd roaring, this one could be over quickly, but if the Panthers make it a boring game it could get interesting. My guess is it will finish somewhere in between. UNLV 76, UNI 67

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

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  1. Great job Rebels! Now let's see if you can keep the lead....close out this game big!