Rushed Reactions: #22 UNLV 76, California 75Posted by rtmsf on December 9th, 2012
Here are some quick thoughts from today’s California-UNLV match-up in Berkeley, won by the Runnin’ Rebels in the final seconds.
Three Key Takeaways.
- The National Debut of Anthony Bennett. A nationally-televised Sunday afternoon game allowed college basketball fans who may not have seen the freshman play before an opportunity to do so. They were not disappointed. Bennett showed a complete offensive game, going for a career-high 25/13 on 9-17 shooting and exhibiting an overall skill set that is reminiscent of a quicker-footed DeJuan Blair. Built at a legitimate 240 pounds if not quite standing 6’8″, Bennett has tremendous lift off the floor for a man his size and a very nice touch around the rim with his short jumpers and putbacks. His ball-fake leading to a baseline jam with a minute left was SportsCenter top 10-worthy, but we were equally impressed by his cool down the stretch in nailing two free throws to tie the game before that play, and a sweet pivot-and-shoot 12-footer to give his team a one-point lead heading into Cal’s final possession. Bennett is already playing like an All-American — get a look at him now, because it’s unlikely he’ll be around again next year.
- Offensive Rebounding Killed Cal. It was a problem for Cal all night long, and it ultimately did in the Golden Bears as Anthony Marshall’s airball with a couple of ticks remaining landed softly in the hands of Quintrell Thomas underneath, allowing him to calmly rise back up and drop in a layup to give UNLV the win. The Runnin’ Rebels finished the game with a monstrous 13 offensive boards, leading to numerous chances and an additional nine points. Mike Montgomery’s club has been a solid team on the glass this season, but the Rebels’ athleticism at every position seemed to surprise the Bears and helps to explain how a team that was shooting 65% at the half found itself behind by seven points (45-38) on its home floor.
- Mike Moser’s Dislocated Elbow. Only five minutes into the game, UNLV’s Mike Moser dove for a loose ball and remained on the floor in considerable pain. Later news reported that he dislocated his right elbow in the scrum and he could be out of the Rebels’ lineup for the next month. Dave Rice confirmed as much in his postgame interview and it was clear that he wasn’t sure how long this would hold Moser out for. The good news for UNLV is that Khem Birch is due to enter the lineup in a little over a week at the semester break, so even though he plays a different position, as Bennett put it, they’re similar in that they’re both “inside dominant players.” In a silver-lining sort of way, this could end up making Dave Rice’s team stronger in the long run, assuming Moser is able to get back to 100% by January.
Star of the Game. Anthony Bennett, UNLV. The precocious freshman with equally light feet to match his brawny frame not only went for a career-high 25 points and 13 rebounds in front of a hostile road crowd, but he also was responsible for a couple of clutch plays down the stretch — a ridiculously athletic baseline jam followed by a 12-footer from the opposite baseline — that allowed UNLV to stay close enough to win the game in the final minute. Here’s our interview with Bennett after the game:
- UNLV head coach Dave Rice: “It’s not good. […] But I suspect we’ll be playing without him for some time,” referring to Mike Moser’s elbow injury.
- California head coach Mike Montgomery: “Defensively, we got what we wanted. We got an airball as a matter of fact,” referring to the final defensive play that led to the game-winning layup for UNLV.
Sights and Sounds. There’s nothing in American sports quite like the cacophony of an entire arena joining in a chorus of boos. This incident was the result of Allen Crabbe’s questionable flagrant one foul in the first half, where he swung his elbow through to clear space and a UNLV player sold the contact convincingly.
What’s Next. Cal will have the week off before welcoming Creighton and Doug McDermott to Berkeley next Saturday night. UNLV has a throwaway home game against D-III La Verne on Thursday night before finishing off the first semester with UTEP at the Thomas & Mack Center. Incoming transfer Khem Birch is expected to be eligible after that point, especially important now that Moser’s status appears to be that he will not return to the floor for several weeks.