Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 | 5:45 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 | 9:30 p.m.
- Take 5: Keys to the Rebels bouncing back at home against Air Force
- UNLV Leftovers: Rebels’ loss at UNM may be disappointing, but it’s not surprising
- Tale of UNLV’s league-opening loss can’t be told by one number alone
- Moser set to return for Rebels’ conference opener at New Mexico
- Mountain Best: Counting down the league’s 10 best nonconference victories
- Rebels recruits enjoy varying levels of success in Findlay-Gorman matchup
- Rebels return to the national rankings at No. 24 in AP poll
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
UNLV 76, Air Force 71, OT
Bryce Dejean-Jones went to the baseline and hit a 12-foot jumper for the go-ahead points with 12.8 seconds left, leading UNLV (14-3) to a 76-71 victory in overtime against Air Force (9-6) on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Dejean-Jones finished with 18 points while Anthony Bennett, who appeared to be battling an illness, finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds. He had to miss some crucial time down the stretch, but guys like Khem Birch made up for it. Birch had three blocks, including a couple key ones late in the game.
UNLV had 23 assists on 26 made baskets, but the Rebels were woeful at the free-throw line in the second half and couldn't find as many holes in Air Force's zone defense as they did in the first half.
The Falcons' Mike Fitzgerald finished with 22 points while Michael Lyons had 19.
The Rebels hit the road again this Wednesday at San Diego State and then travel to Colorado State. This obviously doesn't make anyone feel all that confident about either trip, though the most important thing from the Rebels' perspective is that they were able to win.
Check lasvegassun.com later tonight for a full report from UNLV's victory.
UNLV 62, Air Force 62
It was UNLV, not Air Force, that had to hold on for overtime. The Falcons' Mike Fitzgerald missed a 3-pointer in the final seconds and Khem Birch grabbed the rebound.
The Rebels' poor free-throw shooting — 5-for-17 in the second half — is a big reason they didn't put this one away. That, plus UNLV went several minutes without a made field goal. They weren't attacking the zone defense with the same intensity and Air Force was ready with its same attack.
That's how we got here, now let's see how we finish.
UNLV 54, Air Force 52
7:24 remaining in the second half
The Rebels are shooting 25 percent behind the three-point line, and that plus a suddenly woeful percentage at the free-throw line hasn't helped UNLV stave off Air Force's upset bid.
The Falcons haven't really changed. They're playing more physical, but for the most part it's still 3-pointers and cuts to the basket. What's different is that UNLV isn't shooting nearly as well, something that has negated its big rebounding advantage.
UNLV often has trouble putting teams away, though you would like to think that after the New Mexico loss it would be inspired enough to take care of things at home.
UNLV 38, Air Force 30
Anthony Bennett and Mike Moser each have 12 points for No. 24 UNLV, which leads 38-30 at halftime against Air Force. Michael Lyons has 10 points for the Falcons, who have been almost entirely reliant on 3-pointers for their points.
More than half of Air Force's points have come from behind the three-point line while UNLV is doing its work from the free-throw line in. Bennett and Moser have made a living attacking that hole in the zone that's around 15 feet from the basket.
UNLV is leading rebounding 18-13 and the Rebels have 13 assists on 13 made baskets. Those are important numbers, as is UNLV's 9-for-10 shooting on free throws. That's already double the number of attempts it had in the loss at New Mexico.
Air Force is unlikely to keep shooting 3s at the same clip, so as long as the Rebels get out and contest those shots they should be able to create a little more breathing room. What they can't do is get lazy or close out on shooters with their hands down. That's the Falcons best chance of getting into the game.
UNLV 27, Air Force 21
7:21 remaining in the first half
Anthony Bennett hasn't been deterred by Air Force's extra attention thus far, scoring eight points in a variety of ways. Mike Moser also has 8 for the Rebels, who are shooting 64 percent from the field.
Other than 3-pointers the Falcons haven't found much that works on offense so far. They're 5-for-10 on 3s and 2-for-8 everywhere else. And in a stat that will make Rice very happy, UNLV has nine assists on nine made baskets. Things going well for UNLV thus far.
Air Force 9, UNLV 8
15:51 remaining in the first half
UNLV and Air Force have exchanged runs to start the game, with the Rebels going up 8-0 and then falling behind 9-8 thanks to three Falcons 3-pointers.
The big pregame news is that Mike Moser has returned to the starting lineup, sending Bryce Dejean-Jones to the bench for the first time this year. UNLV coach Dave Rice had said Friday he wasn't sure what he was going to do yet, but obviously he felt good enough with Moser to give him significant minutes today.
Tonight’s game against Air Force fits a lot of the characteristics of a typical look-ahead game: UNLV is playing at home against a bottom-half league team and has a road game Wednesday against the preseason favorites.
What makes this different is that the Rebels (13-3) are coming off a disheartening loss at New Mexico, which should help them focus on the task at hand when they tip against the Falcons (9-5) at 7 on Time Warner Cable SportsNet. UNLV can’t afford to look past the only game during this opening four-game stretch that it’s likely to be favored in.
The Falcons have a new coach, Dave Pilipovich, but a similar offensive system built on backdoor cuts to the basket and a lot of screens. Though he scored only three points in their previous game, Michael Lyons is as dangerous as ever, averaging 18.3 points per game with a low turnover rate.
Lyons only had three points in a 78-65 victory against UNR because forward Mike Fitzgerald scored 30 points on 9-for-10 shooting and 8-of-8 at the free-throw line while guard Todd Fletcher scored 18.
So clearly, the Falcons have more than one weapon, though that may not matter on defense, where Air Force allows one of the nation’s highest effective field goal percentages. Games against the Falcons aren’t usually easy, but if the Rebels come out focused, they should be able to handle their business with relative ease.
THE OTHER SIDE
Air Force projected lineup
G — Todd Fletcher, 6-2, Sr, 9.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 4.1 apg
G — Michael Lyons, 6-5, Sr, 18.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.5 apg
F — DeLovell Earls, 6-5, So, 3.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.2 apg
F — Mike Fitzgerald, 6-6, Sr, 8.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.5 apg
F — Taylor Broekhuis, 6-10, Sr, 10.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 apg
Sixth man — G, Kyle Green, 6-2, Sr, 6.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 1.1 apg
Best name: Marek Olesinski (MAHR-eck Oh-luh-SHIN-skee), F, 6-8, So
Extra storyline: Both teams have played schools that include a name that appears in the title of a TV show: La Verne (“Laverne & Shirley”) and Regis (“Live! with Regis and Kelly”)
Useless Wikipedia factoid: Air Force’s mascot, a person dressed up as a falcon, is named The Bird.
Kenpom line: UNLV -14
Vegas line: UNLV -13.5
Bern’s take: I think this one will get out of hand in the second half. The final score won’t reflect how close it was for most of the game. UNLV 85, Air Force 65