UNLV secured its most impressive win of the season at Cal, but it came with a heavy price.
Mike Moser’s elbow injury puts a damper on the victory and makes it tough to celebrate too loudly. He’s one of the Rebels’ most important players, and they’ll need him at full strength in order to go as far as they want to in the postseason.
Still, there was plenty to like about the Rebels’ effort on Sunday. Let’s tackle the good and the bad in this edition of “Ups and Downs.”
As covered on RunRebs yesterday, Bennett’s performance against Cal may have thrust him into the race for National Player of the Year. He was absolutely dominant in every facet, scoring his career-high 25 points with jumpers, post-ups, dribble-drives and everything in between. He twice gave UNLV the lead in the final minute, first by driving baseline for a thunderous one-handed slam, and on the next possession by rising up for a soft mid-range jumper. He also pulled down 13 rebounds, another career best. With Bennett playing at this level, UNLV can beat anybody.
Maybe no Rebel has come under more fan and media scrutiny this year than Dejean-Jones. But to his credit, he never wavered and kept plugging away, and the result was a blistering performance against Cal. His shot finally started falling, and you saw the full BDJ arsenal as he dropped 22 points on 7-11 shooting in 25 minutes. Dejean-Jones said he’d been pressing too much during his shooting slump. “I didn’t rush it as much and kind of let the game come to me,” he said. “Things were going right and I just kept going with it.” He’s the most well-rounded perimeter scoring option UNLV has, and the
team needs that scoring punch even more now that Mike Moser is out for
an extended period.
It’s getting difficult to keep Thomas out of the “Ups” section these days. Obviously he gets the nod here based on his brilliant game-winning offensive rebound and layup, but that play was just a result of the hard work Thomas has been putting in since opening night. He’s been one of the most dependable Rebels all year, playing great post defense and rebounding at an elite rate, mostly because he flat-out outworks his opponents. He’s also filled in more than adequately in Moser’s absence, taking the starting center position and doing his job. Against Cal, he went about his business by grabbing six rebounds (three offensive) in 19 minutes.
This was bad enough to fill the entire “Downs” section. The Cal trip began with concern about Moser’s nagging hip injury, but when he went down with a dislocated elbow five minutes into the game, everything else took a backseat. The good news is that it could have been worse. A more severe dislocation could have ended his season, but Moser doesn’t need surgery and the timetable for his return is about a month, according to Dave Rice. The bad news is that it will be almost impossible to replace everything Moser does on the court. He’s the Rebels’ best high-post player, he scores from all areas, he runs the floor, he rebounds at a high rate and he defends multiple positions. Thomas can bring some of that production, and Khem Birch can bring some of it when he becomes eligible next week, but no single player can replace Moser. It will take a team effort to fill the hole.
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