Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sloppy grinder – Rebels come away from the islands with a 74-69 victory

The Rainbow Warriors only shot at winning would be to ugly things up, throw junk and gimmick defenses at the Rebels, and to make the game sloppy. Hawaii’s coach admitted as much in an interview at halftime. Luckily Anthony Marshall and Mike Moser bullied their way to victory, with a lot of help from their friends.

The game was the antithesis of the Central Arkansas game, where 124 points looked easy. The Rebels only had 2 points in the first four minutes, by way of the free throw line. UNLV looked like the energy was there, but the shots just weren’t falling and a lot of fundamental flaws kept occurring that lead to turnovers. Hawaii was not playing stellar basketball either, and both teams shot the ball poorly in the first half.  Although shooting improved in the second half, not by a whole lot.

Once UNLV overcame the small lead Hawaii had in the first half,  the Rebels never lost it again. That does not go to say that the Rainbow Warriors were pushovers, quite the contrary. Although the run they so desired never materialized in a way that tied up the score, Hawaii came within 2-3 points of UNLV several times throughout the game and kept their fans engaged and rooting on the home team.

Despite the poor shooting, the Rebels had quite a bit of luck on the offensive glass with 18 offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, the Rebels could not keep Hawaii off the glass, as they notched 19 of their own. Part of the reason there was so many offensive rebounds to be had by either team relates to the poor shooting, and multiple attempts on many plays to make a basket.

Shooting wise, this was a game powered in large part by Anthony Marshall and Mike Moser, those two willed their way to victory with a lot of help from the rest of the team. Marshall had 19 points and 13 rebounds – likely his first double-double of the year. Moser had 15 points, 12 rebounds, for another in a long line of double-doubles. Mike Moser seemed to be Mr. Consistency, he hid big shots when the Rebels needed him to, and did so throughout the whole game. Anthony Marshall was an animal when it came to driving the lane. In a bit of a heat check on one of those drives, he picked up an offensive foul – but if he was in any way tentative in this game, we’d likely have lost it.

The Rainbow Warriors were a ‘for real’ home team. They came with a lot of effort and energy, and made up for the lack of pedigree. This is, after all, the same team that less than a week ago beat #14 Xavier in the Diamondhead Classic (although Xavier was shorthanded and in a funk since their fisticuffs). The Rebels struggled to contain Joston Thomas, who finished with 16 points, but more so with Vander Joaquim – the Rainbow Warrior’s big man who physically and figuratively took his toll on the Rebels, especially Brice Massamba. Brice was the recipient of a missed foul call forearm to the head that left Brice being helped off the court. Intentional or not, the punishment was returned in a way, when Reggie Smith drove on Zane Johnson, pulling his neck out of wack and still earning Johnson a blocking foul and shots for Reggie.

Regarding Joaquim, the Rebels need to figure out how to contain a guy like this, because he erupted and became Hawaii’s emotional core. In one sequence, he had a block on a Mike Moser dunk and then dunked the ball on the other end. He finished with 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 blocks.

Other complementary acts by other players included Quintell Thomas being classic Q. He had a really nice blocked shot on the aforementioned Joaquim to stop one of his dunks. Quintell finished with 5 points and 4 rebounds.

Reggie Smith had 5 points and a steal in 9 minutes. He looked the most confident he has yet, his passes were crisp and accurate, he appeared to know the plays the Rebels were running, and his drive on Johnson was great. Especially good, was he hit his free throws for the most part (3-4).

Chase Stanback was nearly perfect from the field and had a quiet 14 points. The funny thing about Chase, is that you really don’t notice him playing and having a really good game, unless he’s dropping 9 threes, or is sitting at 2 points – some guys are just that way. Needless to say, the Rebels really needed his accuracy and production on a night when the team as a whole shot 44% from the field, improving a great deal in the second half.

Carlos Lopez provided reliable minutes, especially in light of the injury to Massamba. He finished with 5 points, 1 block, and 1 rebound.

Justin Hawkins was also a really important presence for the Rebels, his seven points all came at critical points in the game when the Rebels needed some stability. Justin Hawkins is in the running with Brice Massamba for most improved player this year.

The overall effort for the Rebels was very good, and beating a decently good team on their home floor is still a difficult feat. From what I’ve seen, odds makers usually swing the line 7-10 points to the home team because of home court advantage. Also, Hawaii has some factors that can throw an opponent off of their game besides the basketball they play – it’s a pretty long flight there from Vegas (5 hours), late time zone, tropical destination, lei ceremony at the beginning of the game, and following tradition the coaching staff wear casual clothing rather than their normal suit attire. While most expected a win against Hawaii, it was a tough win, and another quality road win. Listening to the announcing crew of Hawaii throughout the game, the Rainbow Warriors are poised to be one of the favorites in the WAC, beating them in their house is valuable, especially if they make some noise and win their tourney.

It was nice being able to watch the previously non-televised game in high definition in the comfortate of my home, even though a road trip to Hawaii would also have been very nice. Onward to Bakersfield, this year’s Runnin’ Rebels had a fantastic finish to the year, and an extremely bright outlook for 2012.

 Rebel Reign MVPS - Mike Moser and Anthony Marshall

Runnin' into the New Year!

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