UNLV senior guard Anthony Marshall made the ultimate sacrifice for a perimeter player. He moved from a shooting guard to a point guard to give the Runnin’ Rebels the experience they needed on the perimeter with such a young 2012-13 squad. With that, he has taken off as the Rebs are eighth in the nation with 17.8 apg. with Marshall leading the way with 71 assists against only 34 turnovers through their first 14 games and a 12-2 start.
Saturday’s winnable 79-73 loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill was a learning experience for Dave Rice’s youthful squad. It was also a learning experience for the Rebels as they learned that Marshall’s game and his experience will be a key cog in holding this team together as it enters Mountain West play at New Mexico on January 9.
UNLV coach Dave Rice knows he has a clutch performer in senior guard Anthony Marshall. Credit: UNLV Athletics
Trailing 21-8 midway through the first half, the Runnin’ Rebels were literally on their heels. Marshall picked them up and gave them momentum with a pair of quick jumpers and then Vegas was able to get back in the game by halftime as Bryce Dejean-Jones and Mike Moser hit a pair of threes to cut it to 39-30 at the break.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” said Rice, in the waning moments of what he called a “disappointing loss,” to the Tar Heels, “Anthony Marshall has played in a lot of big games. He got us easy baskets as we got going and attacked the basket and he did a good job assisting. He is very important to what we try to do in a game and today, he did that.”
Marshall staked Vegas to a 14-7 run over the first 4:03 of the second half, making a layup in the lane while converting an ‘and-one’ and setting up freshman shooter Katin Reinhardt for one of his four threes as UNLV fought it’s way back into the game and cut what was a 15-point deficit to 46-44.
“In the first half, well, we have a really young team and guys were really didn’t know what to expect,” noted Marshall, “It was a hostile environment. After we got a little flow, guys got off their heels and started attacking.”
Marshall noted how Dejean-Jones started to attack the basket as well on offense. At 6-5, 200-bs., Dejean-Jones gives Marshall an added edge in shooting as well as applying his ball-handling skills. With three of four on the road to begin MWC play, how well this backcourt meshes will define the beginning of the season in an even tougher MWC. Marshall learned from this loss about how he can set the tone and motivate the Runnin’ Rebels as the season goes forward.
“The first few minutes, we didn’t play Runnin’ Rebel defense – deny, get in the passing lane, block shots, and stuff like that. They were going to boards hard. We dug ourselves a hole pretty deep.”
The Mountain West Conference has turned into a mine field, night-in, night-out, with the re-emergence of UNLV and then national stalwarts in San Diego State and New Mexico. Colorado State made it to the NCAAs a year ago and the Rams are off to a great start under new coach Larry Eustachy. Add to that, Wyoming currently at 12-0 and 9-2 Boise State and this league will be as deep and dramatic as any.
Marshall and Rice like the fact, though, that the Runnin’ Rebels were able to reinvent themselves on Saturday after the tumultuous first 10 minutes, but playing from the opening gun is a must, given the geography of the MWC.
“I think it is all part of the process of going on the road and playing a team in the Top 25 with such great players,” Rice analyzed, “I would have been disappointed if the last 30 minutes had been different. There are no moral victories and we are way passed that. We can’t change what’s happened. We can’t change the first 10 minutes, but we did play really well the last 30.”
- Ken Cross
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