Saturday, March 3, 2012

Home sweet home: 74-63 victory over Wyoming

Several storylines:
Rebels look to avenge in game against Wyoming
Graduating  4 seniors cap off impressive run with final home game
Rebels look to stay perfect at home, go for 17 straight home wins
Rebels seek to end season on high note with a win
Another chance for Moser to get back to being Moser

The one that meant the most was that the Runnin’ Rebels had more heart tonight than the Wyoming Cowboys, and gritted out a physical win.

The Rebels had great energy from the start, and outscored the Cowboys by double digits. The impetus for the early lead can be attributed to a nice early jumper by Kendall Wallace, a pair of shots by Mike Moser, and a bunch from Oscar Bellfield, and Justin Hawkins.

The team that most had called a ‘second half’ team for the majority of the season – had become a first half team in recent memory. With the Rebels blazing hot start, the true test of their mettle would be to see if they could weather a few Wyoming runs and maintain the lead – the Rebels prevailed in that aspect.
Only once did the game come dangerously close, and that was about 1 minute to go in the first half when the score was 33-32 Rebels on top. Some how some way the Rebels are a much better team in Las Vegas, and several key players need to be singled out for their accomplishments tonight.

Mike Moser – He was big early, and big late. Not so much in the middle, but nonetheless being big at any time during the game is a dramatic change for Mike given recent history, and getting hot again in a game near the end is a major accomplishment. For Moser’s part, he got back to his double-double ways, scoring 17 points and 12 rebounds. The key to Rebels victories this season can be attributed to Chace Stanback or Mike Moser getting hot. On the rare day they are both firing on all cylinders, we blow out opponents. Mike Moser had a lot of help from his friends, but it was his emotional drive that made this game our own. Some notable plays included a quick drive to the hoop where he was fouled, and not too long after a sweet reverse jam. He was actually perfect from the field (5-5) and 5-7 from the free throw line. Glad to see Mike Moser getting back in the swing of things just in the nick of time.

Kendall Wallace – Welcome back old man, as far as capitalizing on senior night and the start, few players who have struggled so mightily have recovered in such fashion. Kendall was making remarkable shots all night, off balance and contested three pointers as well as big free throws, as he’s the Rebels best option on the line. In the largest point total I can recall from him since he shocked the Lobos two seasons back in New Mexico, Wallace had 14 points and 1 steal in 13 minutes of basketball – phenomenal numbers. Wallace’s confidence in his ability to make big time shots bodes quite well for us moving forward into post-season basketball, hopefully all of the falling down he happened into doesn’t cause his knee to swell too much between now and Thursday. New knickname for Wallace – Substance over Style.

Brice Massamba – The he was literally and figuratively huge for the Rebels tonight. It’s a good night when his layups are rolling, it’s a better night when his freethows are rolling, and it’s the best night of all when he can hit a jumper. Mr. Trifecta arrived tonight, and also capitalized on senior night in grand fashion. Massamba had 15 points, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. He also played a ton more than he has all season, 31 minutes. Part of  the reason why he had so much playing time was because Coach Rice decided to run Lopez in the power forward spot for a good part of the game. Emotionally, Brice was as important as anyone for the Rebels. The guy was 6 of 8 from the field and 3 of 4 from the free throw line, everyone give it up for Brice – he will be very much missed next year.

Oscar Bellfield – passed New Mexico’s Dariese Gary as the all time conference assists leader tonight. Big numbers from the senior helped as well, his offense came early but he helped in any way he could the rest of the game. 7 points, 9 assists, 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 blocks – he did everything. One of his blocks was a signature ‘oh I know you don’t think you’re going to dunk the ball in transition’ block – the type he’s been pulling off for years. While Oscar had an up and down first half of the season, he has really made it clear that he’s the #1 option for point guard, and likely the best PG in the MWC.

Other players had really good games as well, Anthony Marshall continued his quest to get to the foul line, and crippled Wyoming’s roster in doing so. His 12 points were largely from the freethrow line. Justin Hawkins was 3-6 from the field, and had a really nice steal. I for one would like to see Hawkins getting a lot more minutes – hopefully as a starter next season.

Side notes: Where was Chace Stanback? It was his senior night as well, and he accounted for virtually none of the Rebels production tonight. After 15 minutes of attempted shots and turnovers, he finished with 0 points and remained on the bench for the rest of the game. So much for his senior night being a statement game. Hopefully Chace can be the 3 point threat he’s clearly capable of being, especially at home, and in the tournament. Not to speculate, but I found it highly unusual that when Coach Rice was subbing guys in an out at the end of the game so the seniors could get their ovations, Stanback was not included in the mix – to me it seemed like bad game or not, Stanback at least deserved that kind of  recognition.

Reign Men – Mike Moser, Brice Massamba, Oscar Bellfield, and Kendall Wallace. Fitting that three of the four were seniors. 

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