Anthony Marshall had 13 points and 12 rebounds as third-seeded UNLV advanced to the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament with a 73-61 win over No. 6 Utah at the Thomas & Mack Center in the final quarterfinal game of the day on Thursday night.
Tre’Von Willis also had 13 points for UNLV, which scored 18 points off of 15 Utah turnovers.
The Rebels also found a way to outrebound Utah, 36-27. The Utes dominated UNLV on the board in two victories during the regular season.
“Rebounding hurt us in the previous two games,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “Rebounding is always a little bit of a concern to us. I thought we concentrated a little bit on it tonight and got some of the 50/50 balls we don’t always get.”
Much of that can be credited to Marshall. The freshman guard used his athleticism to help pull down 10 of his 12 boards on the defensive end.
He said he wasn’t nervous about playing in his first postseason game.
“As a team, we looked at it as just another ballgame,” Marshall said. “Personally, I didn’t look at it as any pressure, I just looked at it as another game we had to win.”
Utah got within one point early in the second half after UNLV had built a 13-point advantage late in the first half.
The Rebels responded with a 10-0 run that gave them a comfortable margin the rest of the way.
Chace Stanback had two fast break baskets on the run as part of a 10-point, six rebound performance.
Carlon Brown had 12 points and Luka Drca added 11 to lead Utah. The Utes did most of their damage from the free-throw line.
Utah hit just 13 of 40 field goal attempts, but knocked down 31 of 36 free-throw attempts.
Brown and Drca combined to go 15-for-15 from the line.
The Marshall Plan
Anthony Marshall has made some of the most athletically-gifted plays of the season for UNLV.
He is still a freshman, however, and that shows up from time to time.
A 30-second stretch in Thursday night’s game pretty much defined who he is as a player at this point.
About seven minutes into the second half, Marshall drove by a defender jumped in the air and double-pumped through two more Utes near the basket for a layup.
It was an unreal play.
The next time down the floor, Marshall dribbled all the way himself and jumped into the air in the lane.
He had nowhere to go with the ball and ended up throwing it backward to Utah’s Luka Drca, who took it down court and was fouled on a breakaway.
Marshall has been making many more of the good plays than the bad down towards the end of the year. He has an unbelievable future ahead of him in the next three years at UNLV.
But that sequence served as a reminder that he is definitely still learning the college game.
The rest of the game, Marshall showed exactly why he’s a major part of the program’s plans for the furture.
The Las Vegan played a career high 34 minutes in one of the biggest games of the season and recorded a career-high 12 rebounds.
He also tied a career-best with five assists.
“He was great. I don’t think I can even put it into words how well he played,” Willis said of Marshall’s performance.
Utah coach Jim Boylen offered up some praise of the freshman, as well.
“Marshall hass improved,” he said of why UNLV is better now than earlier in the season. “That’s probably a dumb statement as you can see from the box score. I thought early in the year he was kind of feeling his way and deferring to the other players. I think he’s made terrific strides in learning to play with that group.”
Boylen also said Tre’Von Willis has gotten better at trusting his teammates to make plays, which he claims is a sign of a great player.
Day three is complete at the MWC Tournament, with all four favorites advancing to the semifinals on the men’s side.
The women’s side also features all of the top four seeds in the semis.
The women get things started tomorrow morning.
Top-seeded TCU will take on No. 4 Utah in the first semifinal at noon, followed by a meeting between second-seeded BYU and No. 3 San Diego State.
The night session consists of the two men’s semifinals, which features a pair of matchups between teams that split during the regular season.
Top-seeded New Mexico will play No. 4 San Diego State. The Lobos own a 15-game winning streak, but the Aztecs are one of the most athletic teams in the league.
No. 2 BYU and third-seeded UNLV renew their rivalry in the nightcap. The Cougars have had all kinds of trouble winning against the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack, but Jimmer Fredette is coming off an unreal 45-point effort in the quarterfinals for BYU.
“They’re fun to watch, not necessarily fun to play against,“ Kruger said of BYU. “Dave’s got them playing really well right now.”
Willis is excited for the matchup and says the rivalry extends beyond the basketball court.
“When you come here, you definitely learn that this is a rivalry game,“ he said. “Not only the players, but both universities enjoy the matchup.”
Cougars forward Jonathan Tavernari will be playing against the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center for the seventh time in his career.
The senior, who played his senior year of high school in Las Vegas, has never beaten UNLV in this building.