The good news started for UNLV about an hour before game time, when word started to leak out that Leonard Washington wouldn’t be playing in Saturday’s matinee at Wyoming. Without their leading scorer and rebounder, the Cowboys were no match for a focused UNLV team that finally hit on all cylinders on the road. The Rebels used a balanced scoring attack and suffocating defense to roll to a 65-42 victory.
The bad news for the Rebels was that they had to play most of the game without their leading scorer and rebounder as well, as freshman forward Anthony Bennett left with a shoulder injury after playing just four minutes. There was no immediate word on the seriousness of Bennett’s injury, but UNLV was still able to dominate without him.
Four Rebels scored in double figures, led by Khem Birch’s 12 points. Mike Moser (11), Bryce Dejean-Jones (11) and Katin Reinhardt (10) also picked up the scoring slack in Bennett’s absence, with Moser looking particularly good while playing extended minutes at Bennett’s power forward spot.
UNLV ran out to an early 19-10 lead after 10 minutes of play, and the Rebels really put the game away over the next nine minutes. They held Wyoming scoreless during that stretch while going on a 13-0 run, eventually taking a 32-12 lead into halftime.
Wyoming never got closer than 19 points in the second half, and the Rebels cruised to their second road win of the season.
Have the Rebels cured their problems on the road? It’s too early to say — Wyoming didn’t exactly provide a strong challenge today, but it’s a start. Let’s look at some of the key takeaway’s from the game with a Fast Breakdown.
Bennett goes down
When Bennett left the game early in the first half, initial word was that he would get his shoulder worked on at halftime, and a return wasn’t ruled out. (MEDICAL SPECULATION ALERT) That leads me to believe that the injury isn’t too serious and that he may have been held out as a precaution, since the Rebels were in no danger of losing the game. We’ll have to wait for official word from the team before we know for sure. The Rebels didn’t need Bennett today, but it’s hard to imagine them surviving long in the postseason without him.
Moser continues to improve
The guy who benefited the most from Bennett’s early exit was Mike Moser, who contributed 11 points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes. Moser has looked markedly better in the past three games, and he continues to make an impact as the leader of the second unit. Against Wyoming, we saw him fighting for offensive rebounds and playing with the energy that was his trademark last season. Unless the past week has been a mirage, it looks like Moser is getting healthy at just the right time for UNLV.
Dejean-Jones and Reinhardt hit double figures again
Consistency has been an issue for both of UNLV’s starting wing players, so it was encouraging to see Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt both reach double figures for the second straight game. Both players have struggled away from home this season, but some of that can probably be chalked up to inexperience. It’s not a coincidence that once Dejean-Jones (11 points, 5-of-9 FGs) and Reinhardt (10 points, 4-of-6 FGs) produced on the road, the Rebels won this game handily.
Birch breaks out
Khem Birch continues to evolve into a force on both ends of the floor. He scored a team-high 12 points (6-of-9 FGs) against Wyoming, with most of his buckets coming on dunks. The coaching staff has worked with Birch during practices to improve his finishing ability, and we’re starting to see him flush the ball with authority when he catches it around the basket. In a game like this, when the opponent has no viable matchup for him, Birch can be a big contributor on offense.
Goodman is work in progress
In his third game since being moved into the rotation, Savon Goodman once again made positive contributions for the Rebels, scoring eight points and grabbing two rebounds in 15 minutes. But we saw both sides of the Goodman coin — the aggressiveness that earned him a team-high five free throw attempts, and the rawness that caused him to turn the ball over three times. In the past two games, he has committed five turnovers in 31 minutes. Goodman is by no means a finished product, but right now the positives certainly outweigh the negatives.
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