Saturday, January 21, 2012

Maintaining home court supremacy, UNLV blows out New Mexico 80-63

What a nice win against a legit conference opponent tonight! Coach Rice had said the hungrier team would win the basketball game, and it was the Rebels job to be hungrier than a Lobos team that just gave away a game @ The Pit. Nobody said this would be a cake walk, but the 6 point favorite Rebels were not figured to be blowing out New Mexico, so respect for that (and hopefully in the new rankings Monday).

The game started out slowly for UNLV, and it was obvious that New Mexico had psyched themselves up for this game at least a little bit more than the Rebels. New Mexico hit three pointers early and easily sliced their way to our basket – a sign of lack of defensive intensity for the Rebels, and we had some bad luck with shooting early. That said, it was no where as gloomy as it sounds. The Rebels were neck-and-neck with the Lobos until about 3 minutes remained in the half – that’s when UNLV went on a really nice run to break things open.

Even before the run, there was really good balance among UNLV scorers. At least 6 Rebels were on the board points-wise. The run was inspired by a three pointer by Oscar Bellfield and then a fast break dunk and foul by Carlos Lopez. The Rebels gave back a few points, but left at the break with a four point lead, 39-35.

In the second half, our “second half team” came alive and put the Lobos on their heels throughout most of the half, with the exception of a few minutes. Everyone was involved in this one, and there were plenty of feel good moments. In what must not have felt too good, Brice Massamba, who suffered a concussion several games back, was again elbowed in the head while guarding on the perimeter. He would leave the game briefly, allowing Kendall Wallace to come in and easily drop two free throws. In good news, Brice would return and was effective later in the game. Obviously, we won the game in convincing fashion, 80-63.

As a team, a lot went well but some didn’t

The good:
Balanced scoring – although no one player topped 20 points, many players had in the 13-14 point range. Assists – the team notched 17 assists, unselfish basketball is still happening on the regular.
Steals – 11 team steals is as many as I can remember against a good team, the Rebels were forcing a lot of turnovers and it led to a lot of great fast break opportunities.
Points off turnovers – 32 of the 80 points came from turnovers, that’s fantastic capitalization that came from playing great defense.
Fast break points – 26 fast break points shows the Runnin’ game still has traction. The commentators during the game said that Steve Alford’s Lobos would look to slow things down – I think they missed the mark big-time. Having watched some Lobos games, they clearly are an athletic team that likes to run.
Points in the paint – 38 points inside is a great figure to have against a lineup that includes Drew Gordon. Hats off to our bigs tonight.
The bench: Bench players were huge for the Rebels tonight, Carlos Lopez, and Justin Hawkins got valuable minutes and made the most of them, they were responsible for 24 of the 28 Rebels bench points. By comparison, New Mexico’s bench only provided 9 points.

The bad:
Rebounding – especially in the first half, the Lobos out rebounded and got tons of second chance opportunities. This was odd to see, given that it’s a rare occasion that the Rebels have been out rebounded. The final total was UNLV 33, New Mexico 38. Unlikely that this will be a trend but nonetheless alarming.
Turnovers – UNLV had 14, a little bit more than what may be considered acceptable. Making that figure not too much of a problem was that the Rebels forced the Lobos into 21 turnovers.

Everyone was fantastic in the game, but I have to give the Reign man award to several players:
Carlos Lopez – You impressed everyone including Reggie Miller. Our secret weapon, a 6’11” forward who can dribble and has excellent moves and footwork to boot. His 14 bench points  and 2 blocks were crucial, this type of performance will pay big dividends later on. He also seemed to assume kind of a captain role, corralling the troops after plays to get the next play worked out.
Anthony Marshall – He didn’t top his career high again, but he was still the most athletic person on the court and regularly wowed with his inside-outside game. He had 13 points, 9 assists and 4 steals – great job.
Mike Moser – Mr. Double-Double had another, 14 points and 10 rebounds, including an impressive put back on a Lopez miss. Fantastic work.
Chace Stanback – Stealth fighter. He does his work and nobody seems to notice, Chase established himself early, shot a high percentage, and made 13 points happen. Nicely done. 

Reggie Miller was very impressed, in fact he said "top ten teams, sit up and take notice - the mountain west is coming" Well said!

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