UNLV basketball:

Blog: Rebels fail to capitalize on opportunities, open league play with 65-60 loss

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall knocks the ball out of the hands of New Mexico guard Hugh Greenwood during their game Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at The Pit in Albuquerque.

Updated Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 | 9:19 p.m.

UNLV vs. New Mexico: Jan. 9, 2013

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall knocks the ball out of the hands of New Mexico guard Hugh Greenwood during their game Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, at The Pit in Albuquerque. Launch slideshow »

New Mexico 65, UNLV 60

Game over

ALBUQUERQUE — UNLV opens Mountain West play 0-1 and falls to 13-3 overall after missing several chances down the stretch and losing 65-60 to New Mexico at The Pit.

The Lobos' Alex Kirk finished with a game-high 23 points and Kendall Williams hit several big shots down the stretch. However, UNLV had plenty of chances to get the lead, as UNM missed several free throws down the stretch and grabbed an offensive rebound after one of the misses.

UNLV's last two real offensive possessions both came with the score at 63-60. On the first one, Katin Reinhardt got a good look on a 3-pointer off a screen but missed. There was more than 20 seconds left and you could argue that was the time to drive in for a quick two. Instead, Hugh Greenwood missed two free throws and the Rebels came back down the court with the score still the same. Anthony Marshall drove straight into the lane, where three Lobos were waiting to steal the ball.

Tony Snell hit two late free throws to put the game away. Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch both finished with a team-high 12 points, while Marshall had seven points, seven rebounds, nine assists and five turnovers. The Rebels committed 17 turnovers, lost the rebounding battle 41-37 and shot 8-for-23 beyond the arc.

The Rebels also attempted only five free throws, while New Mexico was 15-for-29.

Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from this game.

New Mexico 52, UNLV 51

7:39 remaining in the second half

ALBUQUERQUE — When Anthony Bennett left with his fourth foul, UNLV led by four. New Mexico quickly took advantage of his absence and started attacking the front court of Carlos Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas, including Cameron Bairstow finishing a dunk that Lopez-Sosa mostly blocked.

This one is a great back-and-forth battle, and if UNLV is going to have enough counter punches it needs Bennett on the floor. And Khem Birch for that matter. Those two were playing really well, and while Bennett's absence was due to foul trouble I'm not sure why Birch has sat so much in the second half.

UNLV 45, New Mexico 39

15:12 remaining in the second half

ALBUQUERQUE — Anthony Bennett scored eight points in the first four minutes of the second half, putting the Rebels back on top while the Lobos have struggled against a zone defense.

Bennett also picked up his third foul, something UNLV will have to monitor the rest of the way, but if he produces like that the Rebels won't need a ton of minutes from him. Khem Birch also hit a nice jumper to grow UNLV's lead while they play solid defense at the other end.

UNM hasn't figured out what it wants to do yet in the second half, since UNLV is keying on Alex Kirk.

New Mexico 34, UNLV 30

Halftime

ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico's Alex Kirk scored the Lobos' final seven points of the first half, finishing with 16 points. Khem Birch is leading the Rebels with eight points while UNM's defense is doing a good job against Anthony Bennett, holding him to four points and two rebounds.

Of course, Bennett playing only 13 minutes because of a pair of fouls has also helped out the Lobos' cause. The teams have exchanged a lot of runs, with New Mexico coming out strong, UNLV countering to take the lead and then UNM going on that Kirk-fueled run to close the half.

UNM leads rebounding 23-15, including seven offensive rebounds that led to nine second-chance points. Neither team is very good behind the three-point line, combining to shoot 7-for-22.

With the exception of a run from about the 16-minute mark to the 8-minute mark, UNLV has looked out of sorts on offense. During that stretch they were making the extra pass and finding open shooters. After that, when UNM used an occasional zone and Bennett was on the bench, the Rebels couldn't get much going.

UNLV's second-half adjustments have to start with containing Kirk, both in the pain and on the perimeter. Bennett could help with that by avoiding another quick foul and attacking Kirk, who also has two fouls.

Beyond that, the Rebels need to get back into the rhythm they found for a spell in the first half. Pass it inside, and if the double team comes then kick it back out and find the open man. If no one helps, then beat them one-on-one or hit the hole in the zone around the free-throw line.

UNLV 22, New Mexico 17

7:55 remaining in the first half

ALBUQUERQUE — A snapshot: Anthony Marshall makes entry pass to Anthony Bennett, who's immediately double-teamed, so Bennett passes back to Marshall, who swings it to Bryce Dejean-Jones, who then finds a wide-open Justin Hawkins in the corner for a 3-pointer.

It was the Rebels' best offensive possession of the night, a microcosm of what could make them so good this season, and it's also the best example of why they have a lead. UNLV is finding open shooters on the second or third passes out of the post or around the perimeter. It's good stuff, and it doesn't hurt that the Rebels currently have seven assists to one turnover, either.

New Mexico 9, UNLV 6

14:48 remaining in the first half

ALBUQUERQUE — Dave Rice took a timeout about one minute into the game, which you don't need me to tell you is not a good thing. That plus a quick foul on Anthony Bennett are cause for concern, though the Rebels have calmed down a bit after a shaky start.

Khem Birch has four points and a block. One dunk came in transition and the other was on a nice post-up move against Alex Kirk. The Rebels are looking inside early and often, and that's exactly what Rice wants to see, especially on the road in a hostile environment like this.

New Mexico is getting some good looks on offense but they're mostly 3s, and most of them aren't falling. It will be interesting to see if UNLV keeps giving them those shots should the Lobos hit a couple in a row.

ALBUQUERQUE — Whether you love him or hate him, and most non-Lobos fans would fall in the latter category, you can’t deny Steve Alford is a really good coach. Probably the best in the Mountain West.

While UNLV and San Diego State have pulled in most of the national headlines the past year and a half, New Mexico just sits back and wins, including three regular season league titles in the past five years. Once then-freshman Hugh Greenwood got healthy midway through conference play last year, the Lobos were clearly the best team in the league, handling both UNLV and SDSU in the conference tournament.

This year the Lobos have two sort-of ugly defeats — a bad loss at home to South Dakota State and a blowout at a good St. Louis team — but they also have some of the league’s best victories. UNM defeated UConn on a neutral court and went to Cincinnati and won by one. The Lobos have three victories against top 50 RPI teams, which is as many as UNLV, SDSU, Colorado State and Wyoming have combined.

Click to enlarge photo

New Mexico head coach Steve Alford cuts down the net after the Lobos defeated San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference tournament championship game 68-59 Saturday, March 10, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

All of this is to say the Lobos are very good, but what it doesn’t say is how they’re going to stop UNLV’s Anthony Bennett. Like every team before them, that has to be at the top of the Lobos' list of priorities.

With the tag team of Alex Kirk (7 feet) and Cameron Bairstow (6-9), the Lobos have the size to hold their own in the paint. They’ve also had plenty of time to work up a game plan, since the Lobos last played in 2012 — Dec. 31, to be exact. That’s a lot of time for Alford and Co. to figure out what they want to do in the post.

What they couldn’t do with certainty before Tuesday, though, was prepare for UNLV’s Mike Moser. The junior forward sat out the last two games after playing 12 minutes at North Carolina. Now he says he’s at 100 percent, a statement you can judge for yourself when the game tips off at 7 p.m. Las Vegas time on CBS Sports Network.

UNLV coach Dave Rice said Tuesday he didn’t know how much Moser would play, just that he wouldn’t start. I expect his role to be at least slightly more regular than the spot minutes he played at UNC, but it’s unlikely he’ll jump right into his old role, either.

THE OTHER SIDE

New Mexico projected lineup

G — Kendall Williams, 6-4, Jr, 14.9 ppg, 4.7 apg, 3.6 rpg

G — Hugh Greenwood, 6-3, So, 7.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.3 apg

G — Tony Snell, 6-7, Jr, 11.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 3 apg

F — Chad Adams, 6-6, Sr, 6 ppg, 4 rpg, 88.9 ft%

F — Alex Kirk, 7-0, So, 11.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 50.4 fg%

Sixth man — F, Cameron Bairstow, 6-9, Jr, 7.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg,

Best name: Merv Lindsay, 6-7, So, F

Extra storyline: New Mexico reserve guard Demetrius Walker is the protagonist in George Dohrmann’s 2010 book, “Play Their Hearts Out,” which also featured UNLV’s Justin Hawkins. The two won a national championship as AAU teammates.

Useless Wikipedia factoid: New Mexico won the Division I Skiing national title in 2004.

Kenpom line: UNM -2

Vegas line: UNM -3.5

Bern’s prediction: Home teams are likely going to have an amazing record in the Mountain West this year. That will start tonight at The Pit. New Mexico 78, UNLV 72

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

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Previous Discussion: 38 comments so far…

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  1. UNM for the points...easily.

  2. Did you place that bet, Mr. Snipes?

  3. Interesting first half, let's see what Dave "Straight Jacket" Rice has planned for the second half. How many times will Mr. Rice unfold his arms in the second half? LOL

  4. Looking good! Who's Anthony Bennett?! UNLV getting out rebounded by hundreds of miles.

  5. Can we trade rice for Alford? Getting out coached again!

  6. No half court o, no effort on boards, bad shot selection, and we need Bennett on block

  7. Could be better, could be worse, UNLV down 1, 52-51.

  8. HAHAHAHAHA! I've never seen players implode like that before in my life. Tell me Marshall didn't make the most brainless drive in the history if the NCAA on that one? Katin just sucks....hahaha take that. Better hope they beat AF or season is OVER!!!!

  9. Nice game at one of the toughest places to play in the US. Peak in March, go Rebels!

  10. Just curious, moderators: is it okay for Mr Snipes to attack a young man in these comments by saying he "sucks"? Crude and inappropriate.

  11. Same old rebels, poor shot selection, poor rebounding effort, poor decisions. Talented players but no one to coach them. UNLV can beat up on Chicago State and Cal State Bakersfield, but play a good team, a different story.

  12. Choke job. This is what you get when an experienced coach goes up against and inexperienced coach. Rice is clueless.

  13. Oh, please. "Same old Rebels" lost by 20 at the Pit last year. These teams are ranked 24/25, and we played them at home. It was a good game at the start of conference play. So many amateur haters out there... Zzz

  14. Overrated. This team should not see the top 25 again until the prove they can beat a top 25 team. So much for the experience that Marshall and Moser brought to the game. Moser is going nowhere fast. I don't hear about his elbow injury either because even before the injury he wasn't playing great. Marshall probably had the worst game of his career. It's obvious this kid is not a point guard. His shot selection was horrible and his decision to take the ball to the hole at the end of the game with plenty of time left and when they had a chance to tie was inexcusable.

  15. Comment removed by moderator. Personal Attack

  16. Overrated? Twenty-four plays 25 at home, lead changes all game, loses by five. Overrated by one. Tonight. Maybe.

  17. once again, inconsistent play on offense w too many turnovers. Rice's BYU teams always valued the ball. Here not so much. Flashes of brilliance, however, especially when Bennett actually decides to play defense. A more mature group would have blown out these guys; New Mexico was asking to get beat. Disappointing. Our inability to sustain consistent effort is becoming a significant concern

  18. "Mj20" = can't use a real name, won't let facts get in the way of a rant.

  19. "New Mexico was asking to get beat. Disappointing. Our inability to sustain consistent effort is becoming a significant concern."

    Rational, useful comments. As the TV commentators said ... A lot of these guys are freshmen. Here's hoping they peak in March, and don't let close away-games against well-matched rivals impede progress.

  20. Can we please stop talking about final 4? How about will this team make the dance? That game was there for the taking and terrible execution killed us.

  21. Unless Anthony Marshall accepts his responsibility as a point guard fully and be more of a leader, this team with talented players will just be average. They need direction especially at the end of close games. How many times do we have to tell ourselves that they are still learning or they will peak in March or it's just one game etc. Right now, I just don't see them doing anything special in March with the way things are going. No significant improvement since November.

  22. Tough loss a lot of firsts: first time Bennett had to play with 4 fouls, first time in the Pit for a lot of guys.
    Frustrating to see us soft we get beat in the paint they're in the double bonus in both halves. Hoping we learn from this.
    Go rebs

  23. i have no problem with a loss on the road in a place like the pit in which shots simply don't fall or the other team just shoots well despite good defense, but the game is played with a modicum of intelligence without the players constantly beating themselves. however, when they lose due to dumb mistake after dumb mistake (particularly marshall's drive at the end when everybody in the gym and watching on tv knew he needed to find someone for a three), it's pretty hard to excuse. i mean wow, they just seriously gave that game away. liljoe is right; new mexico practically served that win up on a platter, and we killed ourselves over and over. this isn't to say they won't get better, learn from this, blah blah blah, but it's supremely frustrating to watch a team this talented play middling basketball.

  24. Don't disagree that a "true point guard" would help, but with two teams so closely matched, what else could be expected? A win would have been fantastic, but a loss was expected in the Pit by most objective observers. I'd guess the Rebels played UNM closer at home than any other MWC team will.

  25. I swear to goddddddddd ...the forcing of passes in the lane drives me nuts!!!!!!

  26. A lot of bounces went their way.....but the iq on this team is horrible........when it improves ..if it improves they can be top 5. ........stop trying to over complicate plays...

  27. Not having a true point will be the Rebels undoing in March. They're still a good team, but Anthony Marshall not being able to set up the offense is a major concern. I hope Daquan Cook can get some more playing time. He looked competent in the two minutes he played tonight.

  28. I agree philips, thank God we have at least 2 incoming PGs next year. The PG has to be the calming influence especially in close games. Not the one making turnovers or missing lay-ups. His numbers may have improved this season but like what Ed Graney said in his column in the RJ after the NC loss, the rebels don't have the needed PG play when it matters

  29. Same ol rebels: turnover, turnover, bad pass bad pass, debacle debacle, bad coaching, terrible drawn up play, ridiculously questionable drive by Anthony Marshall...well, brainless for that matter. Same ol trash bagging rebels. Out of the rankings, and now firmly on the bubble. UNLV HAS to win at least 1 of their next two road games or they will be sitting 6/7th in the MWC standings.

  30. On that subject, subbing KT for AM is not working. KT is a shooting guard who needs direction rather than provides it, and struggles on ball handling when pressured. I think AM can develop and hold the team together, but when he sits, UNLV suffers.

  31. Again, Mr Snipes, what did you expect, with #24 playing #25 at one of the toughest home courts in the nation? KT hits that screened three and the game goes the other way. Get over it.

  32. americaninthailand--dude, change the channel. you're not dropping any knowledge around here; nobody thinks your comments are worth a sh_t. " UNLV HAS to win at least 1 of their next two road games or they will be sitting 6/7th in the MWC..." duh. and there will be, oh, 12 more games after that. do you remember how new mexico started out last season? pretty much like that.

    the rebels surely have many flaws, but you being a punk about it doesn't make you cool.

  33. Can someone get through to this team to make the easy pass....for the love of James Naismith!!!

  34. Wow! What a game! Tough loss but love the effort and fire in this squad. Keep your chins up and keep working hard like you guys did tonight and you'll be alright. First trip to the pit for most of the guys and it came down the wire.

    I'm so happy that Marshall kept his composure and didn't go after that fan. He's the leader of this team and we go as far as he takes us. It's not like Bennett is going to run the point too.

    Anyone else notice the coaching staff's lack of confidence in drawing up the last set play that resulted in a missed 3 by Katin. I hope he wasn't the first option on that one or we have bigger problems than we know.

  35. No offense to Katin, the shot was clean but short. Keep shooting shooter.

  36. Like I said last week , let the butt whoopins begin. UNLV will not be standouts in conference play. No coaching for a group of talented players who need leadership to make it work. If you take that team and give it to Reggie Theus UNLV would be ranked in the top 5 right now, but thanks to the mormon connection system we get Dave Rice and a mediocre team.

  37. Enough of this Reggie Theus talk! He's such a great coach he didn't even last two seasons with the Sacramento Kings. It's so annoying how most people on here state stuff like it's fact. I highly doubt that UNLV would be in the top 5 with Reggie Theus.

  38. Isn't it funny how there's always more comments after a loss than a win?

    Also, it's hard to take some people seriously when they call for Dave Rice to be fired after games in which the Rebels win by 20. These people are Debbie Downers, and they always find faults.