In what has been a remarkable 17-game run to start the 2010-11 season, so much has happened that it would be tough to remember much from UNLV’s 71-67 victory over rival Nevada-Reno back on Nov. 14.
Anthony Marshall remembers plenty. Despite scoring seven points and finishing with seven assists and eight rebounds, his 0-for-7 showing from the floor stayed on his mind.
“I think about that a lot,” Marshall said. “I was taking a lot of shots falling back or off the dribble. Now, you watch the games, you see me taking my time, getting my feet set.”
Offense has rarely been a problem this season for the 17th-ranked Rebels (15-2). But with Marshall’s recent resurgence into the player many anticipated to see on the offensive end right from go this season, it’s made UNLV that much more dangerous.
As UNLV travels to face Cal State Bakersfield (7-8) in a 7 p.m. contest Thursday night in the team’s non-conference finale, Marshall hopes to keep his recent offensive roll going.
“I really didn’t get off to the start this season that I wanted to,” Marshall added. “I just had to stay patient, wait for my time to come. I got my teammates involved early, so right around this time, I’m feeling like I should be more aggressive, but still doing the things I was doing at the beginning.”
What’s happened for Marshall is that he’s finally found the proper balance in his new role within first-year coach Dave Rice’s system as a true combo guard, splitting point guard duties with senior Oscar Bellfield.
To start the season, focusing on getting others involved threw Marshall out of whack some as a scorer. Along the way, though, he was in touch with former Rebel standout and longtime NBA vet Marcus Banks — a fellow Las Vegas native who Marshall spent the bulk of the summer working out with both at home and in Los Angeles.
“As a point guard, you have to pick and choose when to score, but at the same time, you always have to be a threat, and you just can’t be on the court as a liability,” Marshall said, recalling his advice. “He’s like a big brother to me. As a mentor and as a friend. We put in a lot of work this summer, and for me to display what I was at the beginning of the season, it wasn’t really how I wanted to play. It felt like all of that hard work was going down the drain with me playing like that. I had to just turn it around.”
Aside from simply consulting with Banks, who was in attendance for a handful of UNLV’s early season games at the Thomas & Mack Center, Marshall not only took extra time shooting after practice, but he consulted in the film room on several occasions with the staff in an effort to right his personal ship.
Marshall was finding ways to score points even with his struggles, and was consistent with racking up assists, avoiding turnovers in bunches and his defense.
But he knew all along that once he worked his developing jump shot into the mix as a legitimate weapon, he’d truly find his groove.
It’s happened in UNLV’s last three games.
In an 85-68 blowout of Cal on Dec. 23, he scored a season-high 22 points off of 9-of-16 shooting, including two huge second-half 3-pointers. By forcing Cal to play him closer after hitting jumpers, he buried a dagger in their hopes of a late comeback by throwing down a huge dunk in traffic after splitting two defenders on the perimeter.
That was followed up with a 10-point, 10-assist effort in a 124-75 blowout of Central Arkansas on Dec. 28.
In last Saturday’s 74-69 victory at Hawaii, though, Marshall came up bigger than ever on the offensive end. Despite turning the ball over a season-high seven times, he was turned to to be scorer in the second half after the Hawaii defense adjusted to eliminate open looks for Chace Stanback and Oscar Bellfield on the perimeter.
He responded by scoring 14 of his 19 points after the break in a variety of ways, providing answers for every shot Hawaii took at overcoming its first half deficit.
“We want Anthony to shoot the ball when he’s open, and Saturday was an example of how good he can be offensively,” Rice said. “We’d set a high ball screen for Anthony so he had space to play, and if they were going to continue to hug the other guys, it was going to give Anthony a chance to do what he does best, which is create for himself or his teammates, and he did a terrific job.”
When Rice first got the UNLV job back in April, he noted that his confidence in Marshall’s ability to thrive within his uptempo offensive system stemmed from his success against Rice’s BYU teams over the last two seasons.
Now, during UNLV’s current 6-game win streak, Marshall is averaging an impressive 13.3 points, six rebounds and 3.7 assists per game while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor.
Now, making this type of play the norm is the next challenge.
“The pressure wasn’t really an issue to me, I just kind of tried to force some things early on instead of letting things come to me,” he said. “Now, my confidence is up, and my teammates are behind me.”
Notes heading into CSU Bakersfield
Senior center Brice Massamba is labeled as ’50-50′ to play by Rice. Massamba took an elbow to the face against Hawaii and is suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Sophomore Carlos Lopez will start in his place … The Roadrunners are a Division-I independent … Their leading scorer is 5-foot-11 junior guard Issiah Grayson, who played his final season of high school ball at Findlay Prep. The VCU and College of Southern Idaho transfer is scoring 11.5 points per game and shooting 48.3 percent from the floor … As a team, the Roadrunners are shooting 41 percent from 3-point range … After Thursday’s game, UNLV will take eight days off before its Mountain West opener next Saturday at No. 24 San Diego State.