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December 10, 2012

Look back at Cal

BACK IN BLACK - UNLV fans that have watched the team practice and work for the past year and a half have been waiting patiently for this day to come. The day when Bryce Dejean-Jones would show an unwillingness to lose and a resolve to overcome the toughest of situations.

No, Dejean-Jones has not resembled that played in the slightest this season - until Sunday.

With Mike Moser suffering a devastating injury to his elbow (more on that in a bit), the Runnin' Rebels had their backs against the wall with a hot shooting home team and a raucous Cal crowd bearing down on them.

Whatever it was, Dejean-Jones appeared completely inspired by the scene. He drove, he hit mid-rangers, he got to the free throw line and he connected on deep treys. He showed off the entire repertoire against a player that is deemed one of the best in the country at his position, Allen Crabbe.

Dejean-Jones fouled out in only 25 minutes of action on the road, based mostly on how hard he was competing on both ends of the floor, but he was as productive as he could possibly be during his game action, notching 22 points on 11 shots, two rebounds and a steal.

With Moser likely to miss extended time due to his injury, the Rebels are going to have to see much more of this Dejean-Jones than the one they have seen since the season started. He will be counted on to produce points in bunches.

COMING OUT PARTY - If there was any chance that Anthony Bennett was going to stick around UNLV for more than this season, and there wasn't much of one, that all came to an end on Sunday.

Playing in front of a national audience on ESPNU, Bennett showcased himself in a way only the elite of the elite can. With the Golden Bear defense focused on his every move, Bennett had a career-best night, scoring 25 and grabbing 13 boards in 35 minutes, all career highs.

Not only did he put up outstanding numbers but he proved that when the game was on the line, he needed the ball in his hands. Trailing by two with over a minute left, Bennett got fouled going for a dunk. He made both free throws. Trailing by two at the one minute mark, Bennett pump-faked at the 3-point arc and drove in for a thunderous dunk on a Cal defender. Trailing by one with 24 seconds left, Bennett rose up and nailed a baseline jumper over an outstretched hand.

That would've been an impressive feat for a fifth-year senior, let alone a freshman playing in just his eighth game at the Division I level.

Bennett has quickly catapulted himself to potentially great to one of the best players in the country, regardless of class.

At Findlay Prep, Bennett was never needed to be a dominant force because there was so much talent around him at the high school level. Now, Bennett has to be "the guy" and he looks like he's accepted it with open arms.

TAKIN' THEIR BEST SHOT - This is what I wanted whenever UNLV went on the road. I wanted to see the Rebels go against a quality opponent and get their best shot from them. Tonight, UNLV got that against Cal.

The Bears shot the ball about as well as they could from the floor, connecting on 52% from the field. They hit wide open shots. They hit contested shots. Mike Montgomery had to feel pretty good about the offensive execution of his club.

Despite all that, the Rebels showed the grittiness that tough teams have. They showed a resiliency that they were going to escape the Haas Pavillion even under the most difficult of circumstances.

Since last year ended, people who follow UNLV closely wanted to see how the Rebels would respond when the going got tough. The result was pretty good on the road Sunday.



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