Have you ever been caught in a traffic jam that was so backed up, so tangled, so snarled that it forced you to give up? Forced you to check out mentally and say, “Oh well, I can’t do anything about it, so I’ll just keep calm until I pass the accident/construction zone/lane closure and wait for the road to open up.”
If you have, congratulations, you’re a very evolved person. And you also kind of understand what it felt like to watch UNLV battle Wyoming’s particular brand of slow-ball in the first half of Thursday’s game, which the Rebels eventually won, 62-50.
The opening 20 minutes appeared to be played underwater, with Wyoming grinding out possessions and doing a good job of bringing the Rebels down to its pace. And UNLV did an equally good job of not getting frustrated. Instead, the Rebels got to halftime with a 29-25 lead, made some adjustments and pulled away in the second half by shooting 50 percent from the floor.
Anthony Bennett played a big role for the Rebels, bouncing back from a pair of substandard efforts to post a game-high 17 points along with five rebounds, and Anthony Marshall was his usual solid self with 12 points and nine assists.
“It was certainly not the start we wanted to get off to,” coach Dave Rice said, “but after that we buckled down and did a much better job defending them.”
Where did the Rebels win this game? Let’s take a closer look with a Fast Breakdown.
Bennett bounces back
After two subpar offensive efforts against San Diego State and Colorado State (nine points in each game), Anthony Bennett was back to normal Thursday against Wyoming. He looked—I don’t know—bouncier, springier, more energetic. However you want to say it, he was back. Bennett was aggressive around the basket, attacking with spin moves, reverse pivots and drop steps. And after looking downright tired at CSU, Bennett finished strong against Wyoming, scoring 10 of his 17 in the second half. After the game, Bennett avoided saying that he felt any differently—”I just go out there and play my game” seemed to be his mantra—but anyone watching could see that Bennett got his groove back.
Hawkins spurs defensive effort
At this point, Rebel fans might be tempted to take Justin Hawkins’ defense for granted. But he turned it up a notch against Wyoming, even for him. In Hawkins’ 30 minutes on the court, Wyoming scored just 32 points (for math-averse readers, that means Wyoming scored 18 points in the 10 minutes Hawkins wasn’t out there). For the game, Hawkins came up with two steals and registered a plus/minus of plus-five, and that’s including Wyoming’s 6-0 run to close the game in garbage time.
Offense runs behind Cook
Daquan Cook saw his most extensive playing time since the start of Mountain West play (nine minutes), and the freshman made some good things happen while he was out there. He didn’t score, but he recorded a pair of assists and didn’t turn the ball over, finishing with a plus/minus of plus-three. Interestingly, he shared the backcourt with Anthony Marshall for some of that time, with Marshall sliding over to shooting guard. That pairing bears monitoring going forward.
We knew Wyoming was thin coming into the game, and the Rebels took advantage of that weakness. The Cowboys played just four subs for a combined 21 minutes, and only one reserve scored: Nathan Sobey, who scored seven points mostly after the game was decided. UNLV countered with 13 points from Quintrell Thomas (in 22 minutes) and six points from Hawkins (in 30 minutes). Although they were the only two bench players to score for the Rebels, they outscored Wyoming’s reserves, 19-7. And what was the final margin? UNLV by 12. And we’ve come full circle.
Moser and Birch in the second half?
Neither Mike Moser nor Khem Birch saw much time in the second half: Moser got seven minutes (19 total) while Birch got just four (16 total). That continues a trend for Moser, who’s seen limited action down the stretch in the past three games, but Birch is usually one of the Rebels’ closers. After the game, Dave Rice said it was just a matter of riding the hot hand; in this case, it was Quintrell Thomas, who scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds in 22 minutes. “I just thought in the second half that the best person to play those minutes and to play Leonard Washington one-on-one was Quintrell Thomas,” Rice said. Birch finished with one point and five rebounds, while Moser scored five points and grabbed three boards.
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