Balanced Rebels romp over Chicago State, 74-52

It was more of the same from Anthony Bennett, who was dunking, dropping in 3-pointers and doing everything it took to help UNLV win a basketball game.

The 6-foot-8-inch freshman forward did not need a lot of help Thursday night, but he got it from several sources.

Bennett finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, and he was one of four Rebels to score in double figures in a 74-52 victory over Chicago State at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was eighth time in 14 games that Bennett scored 20 or more points.

"The thing about Anthony that makes him so good, and obviously he’s tremendously talented, is the only agenda he plays with is trying to help his team win," UNLV coach Dave Rice said. "You’re talking about a guy who cares deeply about his team. He’s so unselfish.

"Anthony is definitely having a lot of fun. What you see is what you get from him, for those who don’t know him. It’s great being able to coach him."

Bennett shot 7-for-11 from the field, connecting on both of his 3-point attempts, and made 6 of 8 free throws. He added three steals, two assists and a blocked shot in 32 minutes.

The Rebels, who dropped out of The Associated Press Top 25 after their nine-game winning streak was stopped Saturday at North Carolina, improved to 12-2 with conference play around the corner.

Popular R&B group Boyz II Men performed the national anthem for the crowd of 14,122, and once the game tipped, it was men against boys as UNLV led the entire way.

Bennett found support from sophomore center Khem Birch (13 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks), freshman guard Katin Reinhardt (12 points) and junior forward Carlos Lopez-Sosa, who pitched in with a season-high 11 points.

"We have to understand that this team is really talented," Lopez-Sosa said, "and whoever is coming off the bench is high caliber. We have to be ready when we’re called."

The Rebels rarely were challenged and went ahead 23-11 on Justin Hawkins’ 3-pointer with 8:24 left in the first half. Those were Hawkins’ only points, but the senior guard had six assists and no turnovers on a night his teammates handled the ball like it was a rattlesnake.

The poisonous statistic for UNLV was its season-high 21 turnovers.

"We’re probably going to have a few more turnovers than most teams because we’re trying to push the ball and attack, but 21 turnovers is way too many," Rice said.

Hawkins stressed the importance of the Rebels’ tightening their focus with the Mountain West schedule approaching. Three of the team’s first four MW games are on the road, including trips to New Mexico (Wednesday), San Diego State (Jan. 16) and Colorado State (Jan. 19).

"We’ve got to get better in a hurry," Hawkins said. "I feel we’re very close. Right now, it’s all about focus. I just feel like it starts with senior leadership."

UNLV played without junior forward Mike Moser, who is nearing full strength after suffering a dislocated right elbow Dec. 9. Moser might return for the final nonconference game Saturday against Cal State Bakersfield.

He was not needed against Chicago State. Bennett’s 11 points and seven rebounds helped the Rebels race to a 39-21 halftime lead.

The Cougars (4-13) made a brief charge in the second half, cutting their deficit to 53-42 on Matt Ross’ 3-pointer with 10:23 left. Twenty seconds later, Bennett answered with a 3 to put an end to any potential drama.

Jamere Dismukes scored 13 points to lead Chicago State, which was a 31-point underdog.

UNLV again failed to put together a complete game, shooting 58 percent from the field in the first half but only 31 percent after halftime.

"At times, we played extremely well," Rice said.

■ NOTE – Kendall Smith, a senior point guard at Deer Valley (Calif.) High School, made an official visit to UNLV and attended Thursday’s game. Smith, averaging 22.9 points and 6.3 assists this season, could announce his commitment this weekend. He also is considering UCLA and Connecticut.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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