Ups and Downs: Weekend edition

Who came up big for the Rebels over the weekend?

It was an up-and-down kind of weekend for UNLV, so what better way to look back at the Rebels’ performance than with an “Ups and Downs” column?

The Rebs played their two toughest opponents to date, and both games were tight, physical contests that came down to the final minutes. While some weaknesses were exposed, there were also plenty of bright spots for UNLV. Let’s get into it.


Anthony Bennett
Bennett was the Rebels’ most consistent player against Oregon and Iowa State, just as he has been all season. He scored 22 points in each game (making that three out of four games in which he’s tallied 22), and he got his offense in a variety of ways. He hit a couple 3-pointers, he showed good low-post moves, and he earned 19 free throw attempts by banging in the post. Bennett shot 50 percent from the floor, brought down 8.5 rebounds per game and blocked four shots (all against Iowa State). He did have one freshman moment, showing too much frustration when he didn’t get the ball delivered in the right spot early against Iowa State, but he worked things out quickly with his teammates.

Mike Moser
Here are Moser’s shot attempts, game-by-game: 6, 12, 6, 12. Notice a trend? Moser faded into the background in the loss to Oregon, but he came back strong against Iowa State, looking for his shot early and dictating to the defense. His 12 shot attempts tied Bennett for the team high, and the Rebels offense looked to be at its best when they were focused on working the ball inside. This group of players is still unsure of how to play together, but it seems clear that Moser should be heavily involved in any game plan.

Justin Hawkins
Hawkins once again showed how big an impact he can have in his sixth-man role. He kept UNLV in the game against Oregon by scoring 12 points, and he played 24 minutes of solid defense against Iowa State. He’s also one of the Rebels’ most patient players, and that rubs off on the rest of the lineup when he’s on the floor. He rarely falls into the trap of taking the first available shot. Hawkins is instant stability off the bench when things start to get just a bit too chaotic.

Offensive structure
This could have very easily been in the “Down” column after the Oregon loss, as the Rebels were too quick to abandon their game plan in that contest. They stopped running the offense and displayed poor shot selection, something that Dave Rice and the players acknowledged in the post-game. But I was encouraged by the way they bounced back against Iowa State. The ball movement was much better, they fully utilized their big men around the basket, and they cut down on quick 3-point attempts. Moser said “Oregon punched us in the face,” and that the loss was a “wake-up call,” and everyone seemed to be on the same page against Iowa State. Now let’s see if they can continue developing the offense for Wednesday’s game against Hawaii.

Katin Reinhardt’s offensive potential
Despite scoring two points against Iowa State, this was a big weekend for Reinhardt. He busted out against Oregon, scoring 18 second-half points to give the Rebels a chance, and the buckets came in a variety of ways. It’s easy to envision him becoming one of the most potent scorers in the Mountain West, maybe even as soon as later this season. He’s playing a ton of minutes because the coaches need his skillset on the floor, and even though his shot has been hot and cold (35 percent overall), he’s still a threat that the defense has to respect on the perimeter.


Transition offense
The Rebels were unable to get anything going in the open court in either game, for different reasons. Against Oregon, several fast break opportunites went by the wayside because of poor spacing and bad decision-making (18 turnovers). Against Iowa State, the Rebels simply couldn’t control defensive rebounds consistently (24 offensive rebounds allowed) and thus never got a chance to run the other way. They scored just eight fast-break points in each game, and that number has to come up.

Defensive rebounding
As mentioned above, the Rebels got killed on the boards by Iowa State. Moser and Bennett did their part, pulling down 12 and seven rebounds, respectively, but it has to be a team effort. Bryce Dejean-Jones did a nice job defensively on Iowa State guard Will Clyburn, but Clyburn (a 6-foot-7 guard) was still able to hurt the Rebels by crashing the boards, grabbing eight offensive rebounds and scoring 21 points. Center Khem Birch will help in this area when he becomes eligible Dec. 17, but the rest of the team still needs to be more committed to boxing out and securing defensive rebounds.

Katin Reinhardt’s defense
As much as Reinhardt’s shooting kept the Rebels in the game against Oregon, it’s hard to hide the fact that the Ducks exploited him on defense down the stretch. Oregon freshman Damyean Dotson isolated Reinhardt on three consecutive possessions in the final minutes and got three easy baskets. Ducks coach Dana Altman’s strategy was to go right at Reinhardt until the Rebels stopped them, and they never did. Reinhardt is a willing defender, but he’s still a freshman and will need help in certain situations. Help was slow to come against Oregon, and it may have cost UNLV a win.

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We saw a different UNLV team on display Saturday. Less than 24 hours after a disappointing loss to Oregon, the Rebels looked more disciplined in grinding out a 82-70 victory over Iowa State. There was less freewheeling on offense, as the Rebels attempted just 10 3-pointers (after launching 30 against Oregon). They also made a more concerted effort to work the ball down low, and both Mike Moser and Anthony Bennett were able to thrive. The fact that the Rebels were still able to crack 80 points with a more grounded attack is a good sign.