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November 25, 2012The UNLV Runnin' Rebels went into the Global Sports Classic with the goal of ripping off a pair of victories and claiming the championship of the event being held on their homecourt at the Thomas & Mack Center.
It wasn't a crowning experience for the host Rebels but UNLV did end up learning an awful lot about itself after finishing up 1-1 with a 12 point, 82-70, victory over Iowa State on Saturday evening.
The Rebels came into this event at 2-0 and ranked No. 18 in the nation, but, for the most part, was an unknown commodity. They weren't tested in the first two contests against Northern Arizona and Jacksonville State. The pairing of Oregon and Iowa State were a much better barometer to see just where the Rebels excel and where improvement was needed.
On that note, let's take a look at what we learned from the Runnin' Rebels over the past two days:
CONTROL YOURSELF - Nobody was disguising the fact that UNLV's offense looked pretty dreadful during its loss to Oregon on Friday night. In fact, Mike Moser said after the Iowa State game that the team didn't even take a look at the tape against the Ducks, apparently the video was immediately tossed in the dumpster.
The 30 three-point attempts against Oregon were simply too many. And the worst part is that many of them seemed rushed and could've been had at any point during the possession.
Head coach Dave Rice obviously put an emphasis on the amount of treys put up because UNLV took a total of 10 against the Cyclones, making four of them.
This team is to athletic and talented to rely strictly on firing deep jumpers. UNLV took 48 shots inside the three-point line against ISU and made 21 of them, nearly 50%.
What was the most important statistic of the night was the fact that the Rebels went to the line 35 times compared to just nine for Iowa State. That's a recipe for success at any level.
SPEED BUMPS AWAIT - Rice went out and recruited a bunch of players that have been the "Man" on winning teams throughout their careers. It was no surprise that everyone of them wanted to take over when the going got rough, especially against Oregon.
This is going to be a work in progress. Rice will have to find a way to develop roles for the majority of his roster. Savon Goodman's strong effort with eight points against ISU is a solid sign because he is the epitome of a do-everything type at this point in his career.
Another positive the day after the Oregon loss was Moser getting more involved on the offensive end of the floor. After getting just six shots on Friday, UNLV's All-American candidate tied Anthony Bennett with a team-high 12 shots and scored 15 points while picking up nearly half of the team's defensive rebounds with 12.
This isn't going to be an overnight fix. There are going to be some rough spots ahead as the Rebels begin to develop. Remember, UNLV peaked in the month of December a year ago. The goal this season is to be playing its best ball in March this time around.
DEFENSIVE STOPPER - We've all heard about how good of an offensive player that redshirt sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones is going to be. Well, in the last two nights he's also shown a great propensity on the defensive side of the action.
On Friday, BDJ forced Oregon veteran sharpshooter, E.J. Spangler, into a pair of airballs with his pressure defense. Against Iowa State, Dejean-Jones took on the challenge of guarding Will Clyburn, who was tearing up the Rebels at the time, and did a terrific job of forcing Clyburn to take difficult shots.
Dejean-Jones has the athletic ability and determination to become the stopper that UNLV will need when it runs across big-time guards in the Mountain West Conference and post season later this year.
GRAB THE BALL - Maybe the most distressing area for the Rebels early in the season is the high amount of offensive boards they allowed, especially against a physical Cyclones team.
Iowa State actually had more offensive boards (24) than it did defensive (22). That led to 22 second chance points in a game that was close throughout until the final few minutes.
Moser was a beast as he gobbled up 12 boards but only he and Anthony Marshall (6) had more than three.
Whether this is a by-product of players wanting to leak out and get the fastbreak started quickly or not, it doesn't matter. Until Khem Birch arrives in mid-December, UNLV is going to have to rebound as a team and not rely on Moser and Bennett to clean up the glass.
This is definitely an area of concern and one to keep an eye on until Birch's arrival.