UNLV basketball:

Rebels fit into some different roles and fend off Air Force in overtime

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV assistant coach Heath Schroyer grabs guard Bryce Dejean-Jones by the head after he sunk the go ahead basket in overtime against Air Force Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV won in overtime, 76-71.

UNLV vs. Air Force: Jan. 12, 2013

UNLV forward Mike Moser dunks on Air Force during the first half of their game Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. Launch slideshow »

First, Bryce Dejean-Jones was told he wouldn’t start for the first time this season. Then he was told he was the go-to option as No. 24 UNLV fended off Air Force 76-71 in overtime.

The change emphasized just how important it is to be ready at any given time, especially when the Rebels’ best player is battling an illness. Despite dealing with something that clearly slowed him down — UNLV coach Dave Rice said he wasn’t sure of the diagnosis — freshman Anthony Bennett finished with 22 points and 16 rebounds.

Bennett could only play in spurts, though, which was part of the reason the Falcons (9-5, 1-1) made this a battle in the second half. It’s also the reason Rice looked in his huddle and pointed to Dejean-Jones, who hit the game-tying free throws with 36 seconds left that forced overtime, as the guy the Rebels (14-3, 1-1) would rely on to make game-winning plays.

“Tonight he told me that’s what he needed me to do and I had to step up for him,” Dejean-Jones said.

Dejean-Jones dunked for the Rebels’ first points of overtime and then hit a jumper with 1:06 remaining to tie the game.

The Falcons made life difficult on UNLV for most of the game with 3-pointers, constant cuts to the basket and a matchup zone defense that occasionally confounded the Rebels, who went more than seven minutes in the second half without a made field goal. It was a simple Michael Lyons drive to the basket that gave Air Force its final lead, though, as Lyons drew a foul and hit his first free throw. He missed the second, and without calling a timeout the Rebels came down for their final full possession.

Bennett was on the court, and while he drew most of the attention, Anthony Marshall found Dejean-Jones along the right baseline. Dejean-Jones said he was surprised by how open he was on the shot, one he calmly hit from about 12 feet out for the go-ahead points with 12.8 seconds remaining.

“He easily could have been down because we replaced him in the starting lineup,” Rice said, “and then all he does is make huge shots down the stretch.”

Air Force’s ensuing possession ended with a difficult Lyons turnaround shot in the lane. Khem Birch grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws, then after the Falcons’ inbounds attempt sailed to the other baseline, Dejean-Jones drew a foul with 1.4 seconds left and hit another pair of free throws for the final margin.

Dejean-Jones shot 3-for-4 in overtime and finished with eight points. He went to the bench at the beginning because junior forward Mike Moser returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Dec. 9. While still showing some signs of rust, Moser played 40 minutes and recorded a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Rice said the lineup change, a decision that’s been looming for weeks, had to do mostly with positions. He didn’t want Katin Reinhardt and Justin Hawkins both waiting to come off the bench to the 2 spot, so Rice sat Dejean-Jones because he and Moser both play a lot at the 3.

The stat Rice most often quotes after games is the team’s number of assists to made baskets. The closer the numbers, the better the Rebels are generally playing. And looking only at that — 23 assists on 26 made shots — indicated an easy victory.

It wasn’t largely because of that stretch in the second half when the Rebels went cold. After a Bennett tip-in with 10:42 remaining, UNLV went 0-for-7 from the field, including 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, and 1-of-5 at the free-throw line until Justin Hawkins hit a game-tying 3-pointer with 3:37 to play.

The Falcons’ matchup zone defense didn’t seem to make any dramatic changes during that time to frustrate the Rebels. Part of it could even be attributed to the overall lack of energy Rice noted after the game.

“I think part of it was maybe residual affect from new guys and disappointment from the last game,” Rice said. “And we can say, “Well, you shouldn’t be that” and that’s all well and good, but we’re still dealing with 18- and 19-year-old guys who are in their first college experience. It’s the byproduct of huge expectations, which we understand, and guys on our team who feel like they have let people down.”

The Rebels needed more end-of-game experience after how the New Mexico game played out, though they were probably hoping it wouldn’t come so soon. They’ll certainly take this outcome over that one, though.

And while Dejean-Jones played the hero, Rice had just as much praise for a guy who only took, and missed, one shot.

“It has to start with Anthony Marshall,” Rice said.

Rice actually said it twice, an emphasis that suggests the coach wants to tell anyone who will listen that he’s happy with his point guard. Marshall finished with 12 assists and two turnovers, plus three rebounds and that one missed shot.

Marshall said he didn’t remember the last time he played a full half without taking a shot, and whether that’s something that will start a trend or an aberration remains to be seen.

What’s clear is that Marshall wants to and feels he’s ready to take on a little bit different role, that of the pass-first point guard.

“For us to be successful I don’t need to (shoot),” Marshall said. “I just need to put guys into position to be successful as a unit.”

Whether it’s Dejean-Jones or Marshall, roles may continue to shift and change as the Rebels try to survive the next month, the next week and even the next game in league play. If anything’s clear, it’s that nothing’s going to be easy for this team.

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

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  1. Bryce was so clutch tonight. Makes sense to have him backup Moser but I'd rather see Hawkins start over Katin in the 2 spot.

  2. Haven't had a clutch player since Wink Adams and Curtis Terry. Crazy. UNLV still leaves that perimeter UN guarded, though. And they fell apart (the norm) towards the end of regulation. But a win is a win in what I think is the best top to bottom conference in the country.

    What was wrong with Bennett? Disinterested? Gassed? Couldn't rebound towards the end, winded, out of breath. Idk what happened with him. Rice played him far too much rather than putting in my favorite Thomas. That was the only alarm about the rotation. But love the fact he played 5 of our starters for six minutes to start off the game, then subbed in Hawkins....later on, Jones. That's smart rotations but we never got ahead so we didn't see goodman or Thomas. Still it's inexcusable for players to be playing 40 minutes. There legs will be gone by the end of the season. Anyone see the way Moser was running? Peculiar?

  3. Reinhardt played like crap again. He should be benched until he figures out how he can contribute better. His shooting is horrible.

    We almost gave this game away at the end of regulation. Another strong start and weak finish....scrambling to protect a lead. This is what we do more often than not. Rice has got to do something different to get these kids motivated to play a full game. Perhaps one of the assistant coaches needs to be replaced....or hire a new strength trainer....or a nutritionist....something, anything.

  4. Its too late for these guys to play themselves into shape. Conditioning should have been accomplished in the off-season. Shooting 58% from the free throw line is a sign of lack of conditioning or lack of focus.

  5. I liked the way Bennett was positioned under the basket in the second half. He got a lot of put-backs and was fouled. He just needed to make the free-throws.

  6. The undisciplined style of basketball is a great recruiting tool to get a better pedigree of player. Unfortunately, the negatives of playing an undisciplined style of basketball is an equalizer to teams with inferior talent.

    My expectations of this team has changed (although they can change again after Wednesday).

    We do have one guy that has no outside shot and seems to really enjoy attacking the basket yet has logged ZERO minutes in the last two games - Savon Goodman. I guess airballs are a better alternative to him.

  7. I liked Bennett, but I think he was battling some flu bug or something. Also, I like Rice going with the hot hand. Dejean-Jones was great down the stretch. Does anyone know what happened to QT? He's disappeared. It was good to see Moser play well in the first half, but what's with the limping? Does he have another injury? Not full strength for the game. I hope we're a 100% for SDSU, I'm sure they are ready for us. That arena is brutal.

  8. @yoeleven - At BYU, they played up-tempo and were disciplined at the same time. That's what Dave Rice is going for. In his defense, it's hard to have a great offense when you don't have a true point guard. Also, players wouldn't come here if they didn't think they could get better and potentially make the NBA.

    I agree with you 100% that Savon Goodman should log some minutes. That can be done by start Bryce Dejean-Jones at shooting guard and sending Reinhardt to the bench. This would make Goodman the immediate backup to Moser.

  9. @BMP (Bruce Parsons) - Colorado State laid out the blueprint for how to beat them. Attack San Diego State inside. That's what Colorado State, and they almost stole the game on the road.

  10. @ Phillips

    You mention the PG guard position after our PG had 12 assists and 2 to's last night. Not too shabby. I hope and also assume that Dave Rice is going for that same style of play but let's remember Dave Rose was the HC and they never had elite talent there. It pains me to say this, but BYwho accomplished a lot with what they had. Overacheived in my mind. Good call with BDJ as shooting guard. I'm in.

  11. @yoeleven - Stats are sometimes overrated. Marshall may have had 12 assists, but I can't remember a single on of them. Against lesser teams he's fine, but when they play quality teams, his inability to run the team is costly. I'm not saying he's a terrible point guard, but they could do much better in the future. Also, he's definitely the only person who can play significant minutes there on the roster. Finally, he only took one shot last night. He was way too passive.

  12. Look here..it's deja vu....the other teams runs clear plays and gets OPEN shots....why do we have to rely on passing it around the perimeter until the shot clock winds down nod some has to shoot contested high degree of difficulty shots! Maddening. Been this way since bayno

  13. Katin Reinhardt brings something to the table no one else does...SOME. cREATIVITY! Pay attention to how many head passes he does each game......he just needs to get his feel for scoring...a little bit out of sync on when to pull the trigger...a couple of good obamas and he'll skyrocket ......I like jhawk...but reinvests ceiling is higher...I liked jones off the bench. I think it calmed hi down.

  14. Actually I'll correct last post....moser has really increased his creativity ...passing...touch passes...pulling a rebound and tossing it before he lands on the ground...he's a quick thinker. Marshall doesn't have that heady type creativity...Marshall is more bout overpowering the other player with strong moves....which is better against scrubs...not so against good competition....he is not CRAFTY at all....Marshall should watch hours of Steve Nash...that is crafty!

  15. Agree with having Marshall watch Nash videos, but KR seems to already have the touch. The ball leaves his hands at times and it magically appears in the possession of a big in exactly the right place. We're still feeling our way. Hope we'll have it together before the Tourney. Will be pleasantly surprised at this point if we win the conference.

    Q didn't even have his jersey on last night, but haven't heard a word about it. Haven't heard any comments on why Goodman hasn't played at all either. I know he had a slight injury a few weeks ago... maybe something to that.

    Bern... can you help us out here with any info?

  16. Does apple have Obama connection??? Gotta love the iPads autocorrect....in my pot above I tried to type " a couple of good games" and it corrected "games", to "obamas"... Dang.....

  17. RebelJedi, I was trying to figure out your "obama" slang! That's hilarious.

  18. phillips... "Marshall may have had 12 assists, but I can't remember a single one of them."

    Let me refresh your memory then:

    First basket of OT: Marshall drives and kicks it down low to Bryce for a dunk.

    Down one near the end of OT: Marshall drives toward the free throw line, pulling 3 defenders toward him. Kicks it out to a wide open Bryce, who hits what proved to be the game winning shot.

    Just a couple of those double-digit assists you seem to have missed. Guy had a 6:1 Assist to Turnover ratio Saturday night.

    He seems to have taken the way the UNM game ended personally, which is good because his poor decision at the end of regulation to drive into 3 players with no help was not good. We're starting to see flashes of Marshall "getting it" as far as how to run the point. Hopefully those flashes turn into the norm.

  19. @ Rebeljedi

    Funny. You found "obamas" in your iPad, and I found them in my wallet... took my change and ran my credit card up! Cool thing, though... they keep calling the ccard company for me and getting the limit raised! The party's never gonna end now! Yippie!!!

    @Mike Lang
    Thank you. So dang many AM haters. Aggravating! When will they compare all of his forgotten assists to everybody else's? He's leading the MWC... but let's forget that too.