Anthony Marshall had never hit a game-winning shot in his 127 previous college games. But with his team out of timeouts, the scored tied 59-59 and time winding down on Wednesday night, he knew what he had to do.
Marshall drove right off a ball screen from center Khem Birch at the top of the key and pulled up and hit a 16-footer with nine seconds remaining to help give the Rebels (20-7, 7-5) a 61-59 Mountain West victory over No. 22 Colorado State (21-5, 8-3) at the Thomas & Mack Center.
“As soon as it left my hands I knew it was good,” the 6-foot-3 senior from Mojave High School said.
Marshall was just 2-of-8 from the floor before his game-winner, including 1-of-7 from 3-point range. He had also gone 0-for-8 from the floor in UNLV’s previous game, a 72-70 win over San Diego State on Saturday night.
“I just tried to stick with it,” Marshall, who finished with 11 points and five rebounds, said. “It was a tough night on offense for me – careless turnovers and missing easy shots – but my coaching staff and teammates had all the faith in the world in me to keep shooting whenever I got a good look. And that’s what I did.
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“It felt pretty good. It’s the first time that I can remember that I hit a shot like that. It was an important game for us and we got a win. … I’m more proud of the fact that we got back and got a defensive stop.” (See video interview above)
After Marshall’s jumper, Colorado State coach Larry Eustachy distained using a timeout to set up a play and immediately went on the offensive. The strategy seemed to work as guard Wes Eikmeier found sophomore guard Daniel Bejarano wide open to the right of the key. But Bejarano’s potential game-winning 3-pointer hit the back of the rim and bounced out as the buzzer sounded.
Guards Bryce Dejean-Jones and Katin Reinhardt each scored 15 points and grabbed six rebounds to lead UNLV, which finished with a surprising 38-31 rebounding edge over the Rams. The Rebels, who also finished with a 14-5 advantage in points in the paint, became the first team this season to outrebound Colorado State this season.
Yep, the same UNLV team that was pushed around in the paint and outrebounded 35-24 at Air Force a week earlier got it done inside against the bigger and stronger Rams in a very physical contest. CSU came into the game ranked No. 1 in the nation in rebounding margin (plus-13.8), a position the Rams have held for most of the season.
Birch scored four points put made his presence felt on the defensive end with six blocks and six rebounds. Freshman forward Anthony Bennett was held to eight points but grabbed a team-high seven rebounds, blocked three shots and did a solid defensive job on CSU forward Pierce Hornung, who finished with just seven points and five steals.
The Rebels moved into a tie for third place with San Diego State (19-7, 7-5) in the Mountain West with their 13th straight victory at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Muscular 6-foot-10, 260-pound senior center Colton Iverson led Colorado State with 16 points and 10 rebounds, his 11th double-double of the season.
Colorado State fell a game behind Mountain West leader New Mexico (22-4, 9-2) with the loss but will get a chance to try and regain a share of first place on Saturday afternoon when it hosts the Lobos at Moby Arena. The Rams have won 27 consecutive home games, the third longest home court win streak in the nation, and CSU students stood out in the snow for three hours on Wednesday to snatch up 2,500 tickets to the contest.
“I was disappointed with our first half but I thought our guys showed what they’re made of with their second half play,” Eustachy said of the Rams, who trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half. “We missed some key plays late, but they’re a good team and we’ll learn from it.”