Bennett, Rebels blast Northern Arizona in season opener

Five minutes into his first college game, Anthony Bennett had a dunk, two layups and a 3-pointer.

The UNLV freshman made a positive first impression, and he finished strong, too.

Bennett, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Findlay Prep, totaled 22 points and seven rebounds as the 18th-ranked Rebels opened the season by routing Northern Arizona 92-54 on Monday night.

"I got all the jitters out and just played well," said Bennett, who played only 20 minutes. "Once the fans got into it, we got into it."

His two-handed slam warmed up the 18,187 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Bennett, who played most of his high school games in front of hundreds of fans, said he was impressed by the biggest season-opening crowd in program history.

Bennett and UNLV’s other newcomers – sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones and freshmen Katin Reinhardt and Savon Goodman – combined for 62 points.

Senior guard Anthony Marshall had 14 points and six assists for the Rebels, who closed the first half on a 16-0 run and scored the first five points after halftime.

"We came out with a defensive mindset," Marshall said. "I feel like we play our best basketball when we’re defending like crazy."

The undersized Lumberjacks (0-2) were hanging within six points with five minutes remaining in the first half. But a layup by Marshall and a 3-pointer from Reinhardt triggered the run that produced a 45-23 halftime lead and turned the game into a blowout.

Marshall, who hit all six of his shots, connected on a 3-pointer to extend the margin to 60-28 with 15:58 remaining.

UNLV coach Dave Rice, unhappy with his team after a poor showing in an exhibition against Division II Dixie State last week, witnessed a dramatic change for the better.

"We had a different team. Our intensity was good," Rice said. "A 21-0 run has to start with defense."

Northern Arizona, led by Dewayne Russell with 16 points and Gabe Rogers with 13, shot just 15-for-60 (25 percent) from the field and failed to hit a 3-pointer in the second half.

Dejean-Jones, a transfer from Southern California who was playing in his first game since Jan. 15, 2011, made 3 of 4 3s en route to 15 points. His second 3-pointer put the Rebels ahead 21-7 midway through the half.

Reinhardt, who started in his college debut, scored 14 points on 4-for-12 shooting.

Goodman came off the bench to score 11.

Bennett is the most heralded of the freshmen, ranked the No. 7 recruit in the nation by ESPN.com and Rivals.com. He’s also a former McDonald’s All-American.

"Anthony has a lot of pressure on him, just like our team does, in terms of expectations," Rice said. "I thought he got off to a good start. He was aggressive and he was confident."

Bennett shot 9-for-13 from the field and hit all three of his free throws. He even overshadowed junior forward Mike Moser, the team’s top returning scorer and rebounder.

Moser shot 1-for-6, missed four 3s and was held to two points. But he did grab a game-high 11 rebounds.

"I don’t think the spotlight is on me necessarily," Bennett said. "The spotlight is on everybody."

Rice started Bennett and Reinhardt with Marshall, Moser and senior guard Justin Hawkins, who had five points, six rebounds and five assists.

The game was part of the preliminary rounds of the eight-team Global Sports Classic, which continues Saturday when UNLV hosts Jacksonville State.

"Believe me, we’re not satisfied," Rice said. "We’ve got a long way to go, and it’s a group that has high expectations."

■ NOTES – Rice played sophomore guard Barry Cheaney for the final two minutes, but the other walk-on, freshman Charles Rushman, will redshirt. The Rebels also are redshirting freshmen Daquan Cook and Demetris Morant, and Connecticut transfer Roscoe Smith. "We may lead the country in redshirts this year," Rice said.

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.

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