Instant Analysis: UNLV gets tough again in last-second win over Colorado State

Rebels pick up second major victory in a row at the Mack

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall reacts after sinking the game winning basket against Colorado State in their Mountain West Conference game Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV won 61-59.

UNLV vs. Colorado State: Feb. 20, 2013

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall takes his game winning shot over the top of Colorado State guard Dorian Green during their Mountain West Conference game Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 at the Thomas & Mack. UNLV won 61-59. Launch slideshow »

Here’s an idea for a new halftime competition: Pick a fan out of the crowd and see if they can make a layup, free throw and three-pointer in the time it takes a basketball coach to explain “toughness.”

The prize would need to be something like a $10 fast food voucher, because the contestant should win every time. Basketball coaches can talk about their favorite buzzword for long stretches without ever really saying anything.

Truth is, toughness in a basketball context is next to impossible to define. It’s far bigger than a few convenient bullet points. How a team responds in an overarching pressure situation is a better test.

Toughness is coming home and succeeding in two massive games that could make or break a season after an embarrassing 1-3 stretch with three road losses. UNLV inched one step closer to earning the seal Ford puts on all its trucks in a 61-59 victory over Colorado State Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

A swished jumper from Anthony Marshall — who should never be doubted in late-game situations again — in the final seconds gave the Rebels their all-important second straight victory and made sure the game didn’t go into overtime.

UNLV proved it could come back from a halftime deficit in a 72-70 victory over San Diego State on Saturday. It showed it could do the opposite, hold onto one, against Colorado State — albeit barely.

The Rebels blew an 11-point halftime lead, but they deserved to win this game if only for becoming the first team to out-rebound the Rams — 36 to 28 — all year. Their rebounding prowess helped them overcome a minus-7 turnover differential.

Six first-half three-pointers — but none in the second half — also helped, but that leads into the first of a few observations.

Bear with me as I’m filling in for our regular instant analysis columnist, Ray Brewer.

So now I get it — maybe Perhaps the two most maddening Rebels to watch this year, from my vantage point, are Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt. That’s not to say they aren’t talented or deserving of their minutes. It’s just that they appear to take as many bad shots as an action-movie villain’s henchmen. Wednesday’s game served as a nice counterpoint as to why it’s OK to put up with a few headaches in regards to the Rebels third and fourth leading scorers.

When they get going, UNLV is capable of greatness. Dejean-Jones and Reinhardt tied for the team-high with 15 points on a combined 11-for-22 from the field.

Dejean-Jones drilled two three-pointers in the opening minutes, one of which was probably ill-advised with a hand in his face. Reinhardt missed his first three shots — including a wide-open three and a layup — but proceeded to sink the next four. When UNLV first went up double digits in the first half, the two combined for 23 of its 25 points.

Khem Birch: MVP? Birch wasn’t the key of this game when only looking at the stats — four points, six rebounds and six blocks. But the way the Rebels crumbled when he was on the bench shows he was the most important piece.

Colorado State’s 15-4 run to tie the game at 40 midway through the second half came with Birch mostly on the bench in foul trouble. Birch, who contests almost everything in the paint, came back in and the Rebels defensive intensity was restored.

The unfortunate fall of Mike Moser Here’s a short list of things I would have found more believable than Moser’s stat line Wednesday at this time last year: the Mayan calendar being right, UNLV winning a bowl game in football and Ross Perot getting elected as the 45th president of the United States. Moser had two points, three fouls and one rebound in 12 minutes of action.

This isn’t to poke fun or call out a guy who was a darkhorse National Player of the Year candidate 14 months ago. Moser’s clearly not 100 percent right now. It’s just an observation, a jarring one at that. How this season has played out proves Moser’s flirtation with declaring for the NBA Draft last year wasn’t as far-fetched as everyone thought.

Like I said earlier, toughness is a complicated concept. The Rebels certainly haven't earned it yet with a 4-6 record away from home. If the same problems show up in the next two games at Wyoming and UNR, the high from this two-game win streak will become a distant memory.

And that would be a shame. Some would say it came way too late, but these two wins were significant steps in the right direction.

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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  1. Nice win for the Rebels! Good to see Coach Rice give Goodman some playing time. I think it would be nice to see him pull Bennett from the game because he is lazy on defense and on the boards. He just gets out muscled and it is clear that he is just used to being bigger and stronger than his competition. Also, setting up plays out of a time out for a 3 for J-Hawk is beyond questionable given his struggles, but I'm sure that it makes sense when you burn your last time out with 1:23 left in the game.

    All in all, nice finish for Marshall. BDJ and Reinhardt were just going off. Looking forward to seeing what this team can do in the MWC tournament. I'm sure the road games will be ugly, but maybe Coach Rice will simply let his bench play if the starters don't want to play tough/smart.

  2. We should get two wins tonight - we beat CST and the refs! They sucked!

  3. This was by far one of the worst officiatings I've ever seen at the Mack. I could not believe the inconsistency... Rebels played their hearts out, and the refs almost stole one from them.
    Also, when is Rice going to grow a pair, get tough, and get in the refs ears every time they are near him? It's ok to be the nice guy most of the time, but on nights like this, the coach should be reminding the refs of their inconsistencies every time they came near him.
    And btw, the true All American on this team is Birch. Solid games nights in and nights out. While the rest of the team has played a full season so far, Birch has established himself as the most vital part of the front line since mid December.

  4. Nice W. The Rebels played hard on both ends & got what they deserved.

    Yes, the officiating was horrendous. Cracks me up how Moser gets three fouls in 12 mins on ludicrous, minimal contact, off the ball calls that were totally unrelated to any change of possession and/or violation. And Iverson plays 37 mins, mugs everybody over the back, and only ends up with one more foul than Moser. It was a joke. As was the cheap gimme they gave Green late when Marshall bumped him on the high pick. You just dont make that call in a game as close & high quality as this one unless it results in a loose ball or violation....play on. Thankfully, their incompetence went our way when AB knocked that ball out of bounds & they gave it to us. Both teams & this game deserved better.

    Really like the Rebels effort. Especially on the glass. Would like to see the ball get into the post more though. We shot our way into and then out of the lead. Gotta get it down low more to generate easier looks when our big guns are in & we have a lead. We cant just run the high pick & roll every time down the floor. If you notice, we dont run it when DQ is in the game. Not saying scrap it....just run something else too with the starters on the floor. Diversify! Proud of the kids though, great W.

    Birch is definitely our MVP.