The Anthony Bennett era is here, and no matter how long it lasts — the smart money is on one year — Rebels fans will remember his debut performance.
The freshman big man was electric in his first collegiate game. He started his personal assault with a vicious two-handed dunk (one of several on the night), then added in some outside shots as the night went on, finishing with a team-high 22 points on 9-13 shooting. He scored nine straight for the Rebels at one point, and he looked comfortable at the center position. Bennett also shined on the defensive end, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots. And he did it all in just 20 minutes.
Much of the post-game media attention focused on Bennett, and he better get used to the spotlight. With all the skills he demonstrated on opening night, this won’t be the last time he lights someone up.
There was a strong national media contingent keeping tabs on the Rebels, and most had glowing things to say about the team and Bennett in particular.
Sports Illustrated senior writer Luke Winn was at the Thomas & Mack Center to get a look at Bennett, and he came away impressed by the big man’s versatility. In his column for SI.com, he runs through all the ways Bennett was able to score.
- He finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in just 20 minutes of action. His was one of my favorite elite-frosh debuts, in part because he scored in so many different ways:
1. Dunking on a pass from Moser (twice, one of them featured as the Denny’s Dunk of the Game — part of a “redeem your ticket stub for a free stack of pancakes” promotion)
2. Running hard in transition, catching a pass on the run and spinning for a layup
3. Making a three-pointer (finally!) in the left corner
4. Posting up for a lefty baby-hook
5. Drawing a foul on a near-dunk in transition
6. Posting up for a righty baby-hook (twice, one with a foul and free throw)
7. Offensive rebound and dunk-back over two guys
8. Offensive rebound and gentle putback
Winn wants to see Bennett cut down a bit on his outside attempts because he can be so dominant around the basket. But either way, he was impressed enough to compare Bennett to two of the greatest freshmen forwards in NCAA history, one of whom led his team to a national title in his lone year.
- Bennett has the green light to fire from inside and outside — but hopefully, more inside than outside. He has that Carmelo Anthony/Michael Beasley ability to confound college defenses with his versatility, but his success is contingent on striking the right balance.
Cody Bashore of the Northern Arizona News praises UNLV’s ability to go on explosive runs, and also singles out Bennett for his dominant play.
- The second half consisted of pure dominance by the Rebels, who easily controlled the remainder of the game, highlighted by freshman forward Anthony Bennett. Bennett, a McDonalds All-American and top power forward of the 2012 recruiting class, opened his college career with 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting and seven rebounds in only 20 minutes of play.
On SB Nation, Brendan Porath focuses on the three freshmen (Katin Reinhardt scored 14 in his debut, and Savon Goodman added 11), with Bennett getting the love for his work in the paint.
- Bennett, who played at nearby Findlay Prep, was extremely impressive in his debut, owning the paint against a smaller Lumberjacks club that looked overwhelmed. In addition to the scoring, he also pulled down seven rebounds.
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