By Steve Guiremand
Dave Rice is now officially 1-0 as head coach at UNLV following Friday night’s 83-66 victory over Grand Canyon at the Thomas & Mack Center. But there were plenty of other numbers that jumped off the box score afterward.
UCLA transfer Mike Moser finished with an impressive double-double debut of 16 points and 20 rebounds while junior guard Justin Hawkins added a career-high 25 points, including 4 of 6 3-pointers, as the Runnin’ Rebels, despite playing with just seven scholarship players due to suspensions and injuries, pulled away from the Antelopes in the second half.
“That was a terrific team win for us,” Rice said. “One thing that makes us good is our depth. On winning teams, guys step up and make plays when they are called upon. Justin made huge plays.”
Hawkins, whose previous career-high was 13 points and has been known more for his shutdown defense, scored 17 of his points in the second half including five in a row while pushing UNLV’s lead to 17 points, 70-53, with 8:03 remaining.
Moser, a quick-leaping 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, almost had a double-double by halftime (9 points, 10 rebounds) and had seven offensive rebounds. It was the best rebounding performance for a Rebel at the Thomas & Mack since Louis Amundson had 21 rebounds against Hawaii on Nov. 22, 2005.
“That’s an unbelievable night in terms of rebounding the basketball,” Rice said. “Mike has got an unbelievable motor. I think he’s just scratching the surface of his potential.”
Hawkins filled a big offensive void left by the one-game suspensions of all-Mountain West Conference forward Chace Stanback and starting point guard Anthony Marshall, both of whom will be back for Monday night’s in-state showdown with WAC favorite Nevada. The Rebels also were missing injured big man Carlos Lopez (sprained ankle).
“Once I saw how shot Justin was, I honestly was just trying to stay out of the way,”:Moser said.
Hawkins averaged just 5.0 points in 33 games off the bench last season when he had 41 steals compared to just 55 field goals. But he was 9 of 15 from the floor Friday night including four 3-pointers.
“I was having a good time out there,” Hawkins said. “My confidence was really high. I’m confident in myself to have that type of game, but honestly, I didn’t think it would go the way it did.”
“Justin is a high-character kid with a high basketball IQ,” Rice said. “He did what was necessary.”
That included getting a team-high seven deflections to go with a game-high three steals on defense.
Three other Rebels joined Hawkins and Moser in double-figures. Guard Oscar Bellfield, despite dealing with cramping in his legs, had 12 points and 6 assists, forward Quintrell Thomas had 12 points and 7 rebounds off the bench while center Brice Massamba finished with 10 points.