Two of the best teams in the Mountain West squared off on Wednesday night in a crucial battle in the gambling capital of America. And with half of the country tucked away in their beds or fixated on mindless late night shows, far too many college basketball fans missed yet another iconic performance by Dave Rice's UNLV Runnin' Rebels.
Thankfully for you, we digested every last second of this one. Five glorious takeaways from the Rebels' 82-63 victory after the jump...
- UNLV's ball movement is exceptional. We know this breakneck style is going to allow for some high assist totals, but you can count on one hand the number of teams around the country that pass the ball better than UNLV. All eight of Dave Rice's players recorded an assist in the first half alone, which is an obvious testament to the collective unselfishness of this offense. Much of this can be directly attributed to the vast amount of freedom that Rice affords his players as shooters and creators. For the most part, everyone on this roster knows they will get their shots at some point due to the vast amount of possessions to go around, so there's rarely a need for anybody to try and take over the game.
- Dave Rice is the best kind of risk taker. Less than six minutes into the game, UNLV forward Mike Moser picked up his second foul and was immediately banished to the bench. Now, many coaches around the country would do everything possible to avoid watching their star pick up three fouls before the break in this situation. Rice, of course, riverboat gambler that he is, put Moser back on the floor with something like nine minutes left until half. The result? The sophomore chipped in eight points, two boards, an assist and ZERO fouls over that span, including a pair of momentum-building three-pointers located directly in front of Colorado State's bench. When Rice tossed Moser back into the game with those two fouls, the score was tied at 19-19. Nine minutes later it was a 13-point UNLV advantage. Decent gamble, eh?
- The Rams are still quite dangerous, and more resilient than most. Throughout the night, the Rebels continued to reel off runs that were so emphatic they made you think "okay, well here comes the route," on numerous occasions. But the Rams found a way to hang around long enough into the second half to keep the slim hopes alive, even if the game eventually got out of hand towards the end. Try to ignore the 82-63 final score for a moment. Not many MWC teams are capable of withstanding UNLV's punishment on their home court to begin with, and especially not on a night where the Rebels went 9-for-23 from behind the arc and posted a 2.7:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Colorado State just hasn't looked like the same team away from home this year, so this outcome, lopsided as it was, wasn't totally surprising when you take that into account.
- Mike Moser plays like a ten-year pro. It's hard to watch this kid impact the game in so many ways and still believe that he's only a sophomore. The 6'8" forward is so unbelievably polished for a "big man" that it's amazing NBA scouts aren't locking him down as a guaranteed lottery pick right now. He has an elite handle for his size, loves to set up teammates with the bounce pass on the break, is a willing three-point shooter, rebounds as well as anybody in the country, and oh yeah, scores about 15 per night. Throw in a high basketball IQ, a tireless work ethic, and a lanky frame and you've got the prototypical NBA combo forward right here. I see a lot of Lamar Odom and Kawhi Leonard coming through in this kid, and I fully expect him to make a significant leap up draft boards in March.
- Mountain West Network announcer Joe Cravens still has one heck of a mustache. It's a shame how little camera time this thing actually got, you know, compared to the massive cut-out mustaches peppered throughout the crowd and all. The former Utah and Weber State coach is simply a master of his trade. Here it is, in all its furry goodness: