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March 6, 2013TOUGHNESS PERSONIFIED - It was the "it" topic heading into the season. Fans kept mentioning that last year's version of the Runnin' Rebels didn't have the toughness and will to win that UNLV needed to win at the highest level.
Head coach Dave Rice's goal was to do something about that. He brought in players like Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt, a pair of players from southern California that were not only skilled, but also despised the thought of losing.
Fast forward to Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center and everyone associated with the UNLV program can see exactly why Rice was so high on this pairing. Teaming those two up with senior Anthony Marshall has given the Rebels three players with the same mentality when the game gets late and the consequences are at their highest point.
It would've been easy for UNLV to just say, "it wasn't our night," when shots weren't falling and Boise State was making three-pointers look like the layup drill.
And it would've been even easier to pack it in after the Rebels finally made a hellacious run to finally take the lead, only to see it fade quicker than Jeff Elorriaga's release on all three of his back-to-back-to-back triples. Those three shots put the Broncos back up by six points and you had to wonder at that point if UNLV would have anything left in the tank to make another last ditch attempt at a comeback.
Apparently, the threesome of Marshall, Dejean-Jones and Reinhardt doesn't run out of gas. In fact, they continued to get stronger.
After struggling so mightily early on that he went to the bench with his head in his hands, Reinhardt was bound and determined to right what he thought was wrong. He hit a triple from the corner right in front of the UNLV bench to pull the Rebels back within one point with four minutes left.
But it was his final shot attempt that crushed the spirit of the Broncos and may have cost them an invitation to the NCAA Tournament in a few weeks. With 14 second remaining and the Rebels clinging to a 2-point advantage, Reinhardt found the ball in his hands with the shot clock running low and nothing left to do but fire it at the goal.
Reinhardt said in the press conference afterward that he, "knew that was going in." Did he know that it would take a very fortunate bounce off the rim and get the proverbial "shooter's touch"? Probably not.
What we've learned is that if the team needs a spark and nothing good is happening, Marshall has the poise and talent to take over for as long as he is needed to. If there is a big shot that needs to be hit in a crucial moment, Reinhardt won't be scared of that type of moment. And if the team needs a big defensive stop, clutch rebound or a tough shot to be made, Dejean-Jones will be the one to take care of business.
MARSHALL'S PROGRESS - Anthony Marshall is officially a point guard.
It took awhile for Marshall to fully grasp what the team needed from him in this role, but you could see on Tuesday that he finally understands just what the position entails.
This was Marshall's best game of the season in his new position, if not his best game ever for the Rebels. He scored 16 points on 5-of-6 shooting, dished out seven assists, grabbed five boards and tallied one block and steal. Most importantly, he finished the night with zero turnovers.
After being inconsistent trying to find a balance of when to shoot and when to pass, Marshall put it all together against Boise State and played a nearly flawless game. He continually penetrated the defense and scored at the rim if the defense backed off and found open teammates for easy buckets if the defense rotated to stop his dribble drive.
This was the type of game that everyone envisioned Marshall being able to produce with his amazing ability to get into the lane and create havoc on opposing defenses.
The Broncos, who have a very talented backcourt of their own, simply had no answers for Marshall. He did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted to do it.
If Marshall can keep up this level of play in his final few weeks as a collegian, UNLV is in store for a fun ride in the month of March. That's how much of an asset he can be. The team will continue to go as far as he can lead them.