RENO – It appears that UNLV’s maturing basketball team has finally found the secret to success on the road.
For the second straight game, the Runnin’ Rebels (22-7, 9-5 Mountain West) won decisively away from the friendly confines of the Thomas & Mack Center, cruising to a 80-63 victory over in-state rival Nevada (12-16, 3-11) here at the Lawlor Events Center on Saturday afternoon.
It was the fourth straight victory overall for Dave Rice’s squad and the fifth in the last six games. More importantly, the Rebels, who embarrassed Wyoming, 65-42, a week earlier in Laramie, made it back-to-back road wins by an average of 20 points – without future NBA lottery pick Anthony Bennett (one point, seven rebounds) playing a key role in either.
Junior forward Mike Moser, playing his best game since suffering a gruesome dislocated elbow injury in a Dec. 9 victory at Cal, led the way with 20 points, all in the first half when UNLV bolted to a 46-25 halftime lead. Sophomore guard Bruce Dejean-Jones finished with 17 points – including a highlight-reel one-hand follow jam — while Katin Reinhardt (14), Anthony Marshall (11) and Khem Birch (10) also finished in double figures. Birch added a career-best seven blocked shots.
The Rebels shot 48 percent from the floor, connected on 10-of-18 3-pointers (56 percent) and committed just nine turnovers while holding the Wolf Pack to just 39.7 percent shooting.
Moser hit three straight treys in the first 2 ½ minutes to get the Rebels off and running with a 13-4 lead. The preseason all-Mountain West first team pick finished 8-of-17 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range, and also grabbed a game-high eight rebounds.
Time for the Rebellion to unpack the famed Mozilla sign for Tuesday night’s game against Boise State at the T&M.
“It feels good to be back,” Moser, who started in place of Bennett (sore shoulder), said on the postgame radio show. “It felt good. It always feels good to come out and hit your first couple shots. That gets the monkey off your back right there and takes a lot of pressure away.”
Moser said he’s still not 100 percent recovered from the elbow injury.
“Percentage-wise I’d say I’m as close to 100 percent as I’ve been,” Moser said. “I mean, it’s still tough. The elbow is still sore. It’s real sensitive. Contact really gets me. But for the most part, I can do just about anything I could do before. I feel pretty good.
“The base of my game centers around hustle. Being hurt it’s kind of hard to do that. It’s kind of hard to put yourself in harms’ way … just kind have the balls to kind of throw your head in, throw your elbow in the tussle. … (But) I’m pretty much over that I’d say.”
“Mike’s leadership been fantastic,” Rice said. “When he went down Dec. 9 it was a huge injury for us. So happy the way he’s played the last couple of games. … The confidence he’s playing with is infectious with our team. And we needed that.”
The Wolf Pack made several runs in the second half but never got closer than 11 points, 65-54, on a 3-pointer by Malik Story (game-high 24 points) with 7:35 remaining. But Reinhardt quickly answered with a 3-pointer to ignite a 12-2 run that ended any thoughts of a dramatic Nevada comeback.
“Very pleased with how we started the game,” said Rice, whose team started quickly despite shunning a scheduled 7 a.m. shoot-around. “Very similar to how we started game at Wyoming. We played with a sense of urgency. … We’re starting to see a team forming.”
UNLV has now won eight straight games over the Wolf Pack.
— MyLVsports.com staff report