Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 | 9:45 p.m.
- UNLV vs. Colorado State live blog
- Eustachy the catalyst behind Colorado State’s rebounding dominance
- Annual conversation about Mountain West tournament at the Mack commences
- UNLV Extras: Saturday’s victory was basketball entertainment at its best
- Rebels fight for victory in latest chapter of great rivalry with SDSU
- Mountain West basketball tournament to stay in Las Vegas through 2016
- UNLV Extras: Examining the reasons for the team’s constant road struggle
- UNLV coach expects his program to ‘grow up’ after no-show at Air Force
- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
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.