Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012 | 9:40 p.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer break down the UNLV basketball team's 101-78 victory against TCU and look ahead to the Rebels' big home game Saturday against New Mexico.
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 101, TCU 78
- BLOG: UNLV scores triple digits in 101-78 victory against TCU
- UNLV’s Anthony Marshall plans to turn negative comments into a win against TCU
- Pittsburgh transfer forward Khem Birch ready for a fresh start at UNLV
- About 3,000 tickets remain for Saturday’s home game against New Mexico
- UNLV’s Mike Moser named to The Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list
- UNLV falls two spots to No. 14 in Associated Press rankings
- UNLV’s poor shooting and lapse on defense combine for loss at San Diego State
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
I expected the UNLV basketball team to come out sluggish Wednesday against visiting TCU.
I was wrong — again. So much for that hangover.
Four days after losing in the final seconds at San Diego State, the Rebels opened the game against TCU on an 18-2 run by making 12 of their initial 14 shots in cruising to an easy 101-78 victory.
Mike Moser drained a shot seconds into the game, Chace Stanback followed with a pair of 3-pointers and Oscar Bellfield showed some confidence by drilling a 3-pointer on his first attempt. After all, against San Diego State, Bellfield had one of the worst games in his four-year UNLV career in only making one basket in 12 attempts.
In total, UNLV connected on 6-of-7 of its 3-pointers in the opening eight minutes. It was like throwing a beach ball into the Pacific Ocean — they shot 65 percent in the first half, including 9-of-15 on 3-pointers in leading 54-39 at the break.
While it was just one game, the loss at San Diego State was more than concerning because it was one of the few times this year when UNLV was completely taken out of its offensive game plan. The Rebels’ up-and-down style that has become so fun to watch was stuck in neutral against San Diego State with the Rebels recording a season-low nine assists and frequently relying on individual play.
That trend was quickly stopped. UNLV had 16 assists in the first half alone against TCU in getting back on track with a 101-point scoring output.
Sure, TCU put up a valiant fight in cutting its deficit to 12 points in the first half. But, when it was all said and done, the Rebels performed like the 14th-ranked team in the nation should: They could have named the final score against an overmatched opponent.
Here are some more observations from the game:
Flawless play at home must continue: UNLV is downright tough to beat at home, improving to 10-0 at the Thomas & Mack Center and 13-0 in games played locally. An attendance of 14,126, including three full sections of students, for a midweek game against one of the Mountain West Conference’s worst teams speak volumes about the interest the team has created. And the fans made a difference. The energy in the arena, especially during the scoring run to open the game, makes it nearly impossible for an opponent to find success. With the exception of a late-game rally by UNR early in the year, UNLV has won by double digits in every home game. That’s a must in the Mountain West Conference, where the league’s eight teams each have high winning percentages on their home courts.
Getting Chace Stanback involved early : As soon the ball left Stanback’s hands, I questioned his shot selection. An off-balance 3-pointer from the corner in transition seemed like a bad decision just seconds into the shot clock. But Stanback, who is UNLV’s leading scorer at 14 points per game, drained the shot in finishing with 21 points. That was two minutes into the game, giving the senior forward two early 3-pointers in helping him become comfortable early with the flow of the game. That’s a big deal with Stanback. When he can’t find his rhythm early — like his seven-point effort against San Diego State or sleep-walking through the win at Illinois — the Rebels are at a distinct disadvantage without a scoring option on the wing.
Anthony Marshall might be the Rebels’ most improved player: One of a team’s top players typically isn’t its most improved performer. But that’s the best way to describe Marshall. I knew Marshall would be improved in first-year coach Dave Rice’s up-tempo offense, but I never expected him to be this good. The way Rice utilizes his athleticism has transformed the local product into a dynamic all-around player. During his first two seasons, the junior Marshall at times lacked confidence on the offensive end and was a liability in shooting from the outside. That’s far from the case this winter. Marshall, who was the lone UNLV player to score in double figures with 26 points at San Diego State, had a career-high 27 points and nine assists against TCU. His ability to fearlessly take the ball to the basket is the difference maker because he’s able to get a high-percentage shot, get to the free throw line or find an open defender after being double-teamed.