If the blowout win over Northern Arizona on opening night was the “good Rebels,” and the exhibition scare against Dixie State was the “bad Rebels,” Saturday’s 77-58 victory over Jacksonville State was somewhere in the middle.
There was plenty to like (starting with Mike Moser) and plenty to worry about (turnovers). Which, of course, is perfect for “Ups and Downs.”
If there was one aspect of the NAU win that left Rebels fans scratching their heads, it was Moser’s two points. Well worry no more, because Moser came out ready to fire on Saturday, drilling a 3-pointer right off the opening tip en route to a team-high 19 points. After assuming more of a facilitator role in Game 1, Moser looked determined to light it up against Jacksonville State. He took 12 shots (most on the team) and hit six, and his aggressiveness earned him seven free throws (he hit six). That aggressiveness also resulted in five turnovers, but the positives of Moser’s scoring mentality far outweighed the negatives on Saturday (hence his inclusion in the “Up” section).
Hawkins was shifted to a reserve role for this game, and a lesser player could have let it affect him negatively. But Hawkins embraces the challenge of being a sixth man, which is bringing whatever the team happens to need at any particular moment. Against Jax State, the Rebels desperately needed offense, especially in the first half. And Hawkins come through to the tune of 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting. “Just doing whatever the team needs me to do,” said Hawkins. “Coming in off the bench, I can see whether we need energy or we need scoring … so just filling the void for whatever the starters aren’t doing.” Hawkins actually ended up playing more minutes than his replacement in the starting lineup, Bryce Dejean-Jones (27-25).
Coach Dave Rice said before the game that he wanted his team to own the glass, and his big men came through. Moser pulled down 10 boards and Anthony Bennett grabbed nine to help UNLV win the rebounding battle, 41-24. On a night when offense was hard to come by for both teams, the Rebels out-scored Jacksonville State 19-8 in second-chance points.
The Rebels did not take good care of the ball in this game, and afterward Rice attributed a lot of the sloppiness to the slow pace of play. Jacksonville State spent much of the game working the clock, and the Rebels were over-anxious once they got possession, forcing passes into tight windows and driving when there was no space available. Rice knows the slow-down tactic will be employed by many opponents this season, so UNLV has to improve their patience.
After attempting 59 3-pointers in their first two games (including exhibition), the Rebels actually cut it down to 19 attempts on Saturday. The problem was accuracy. UNLV hit just 5-of-19 (26.3 percent) from distance, and good teams are going to force them to make outside shots as the season goes on. Bryce Dejean-Jones (1-of-2 from long range) should help stretch the defense now that he’s in the starting lineup, and once Katin Reinhardt heats up (1-of-5 on Saturday), this problem could take care of itself.
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