HONOLULU — With determined drives to the rim and perimeter jumpers that were on target, Anthony Marshall sparked UNLV and surprised another opponent.
The ball and the game were put in Marshall’s hands Saturday, and the junior guard made Hawaii pay for daring him to deliver.
"I knew my time was coming," said Marshall, who scored 14 of his 19 points in the second half to help the 19th-ranked Rebels hold on for a 74-69 victory.
Sophomore forward Mike Moser finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, and senior Chace Stanback scored 11 of his 13 points before halftime for UNLV (15-2).
"Anthony was spectacular, getting every rebound and going coast to coast and splitting the big fellas," Moser said. "He was definitely our catalyst. He was our only action going to the basket, and that was really big for us."
The Warriors (8-6) rallied to get within four points before Stanback’s jumper from the right corner gave the Rebels a 70-64 lead with 2:20 remaining. One minute later, Marshall took off on a strong drive and rattled in a dunk to extend the margin to eight.
Marshall shot 8-for-15 from the field and 3-for-3 on free throws and pulled down a season-high 13 rebounds.
"We were having a hard time finishing plays. It was a physical game," coach Dave Rice said. "So we just wanted to ball screen and give Anthony some space to play, and he responded. Anthony has become a go-to guy for us. We were going to find the open man, and we felt like Anthony had an advantage in the second half."
It was Hawaii coach Gib Arnold’s plan to make Marshall the open man. Arnold said he talked to a coaching friend, Tim Floyd of Texas-El Paso, about how to defend the Rebels. Floyd had instructed his defenders to sag off Marshall when UTEP played UNLV on Dec. 14.
If the Warriors were going to lose, Arnold did not want it to be because Moser and Stanback shot them down.
"You want to get the ball out of those guys’ hands. I think you’ve got to play the odds on that, no pun intended with a Las Vegas team," Arnold said. "Marshall is the fourth option in their offense. It did give us a chance to win. We were in that game because we mucked it up."
Just as he did to UTEP — when he scored 10 of his 20 points in the final 5:08 of a UNLV 65-54 win — Marshall mucked Arnold’s strategy and beat the odds.
"We have the luxury of not having to bank on one guy to carry us through the whole game," Marshall said. "They were playing Chace kind of tight, and that allowed me to get into the lane and penetrate and make some things happen.
"It was very physical. It was pretty ugly. We knew coming in it was going to be a tough game. But a win is a win."
Down 35-28 at halftime, Hawaii closed the gap to 58-56 on Joston Thomas’ layup with eight minutes left, exciting a crowd of 6,726 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Quintrell Thomas and Moser each answered with a layup, and Marshall made a pair of perimeter jumpers to put UNLV up 68-59 with 4:37 to go. Thomas had five points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes filling in for senior center Brice Massamba, who took a hit to the head and left early in the second half with concussion-like symptoms.
Hawaii’s Thomas (16 points, 15 rebounds) and Vander Joaquim (15 points) did damage inside, but the Rebels mostly locked down perimeter shooters Zane Johnson and Hauns Brereton, who shot a combined 3-for-12 from behind the arc.
"We thought the biggest key in the game was to limit their 3-point shooting," Rice said.
Johnson, the Warriors’ leading scorer, finished with 12 points, but suffered bruised ribs on a fall under the basket with 9:20 to play and left the game. He returned four minutes later, but had difficulty breathing and went to the bench almost immediately.
Hawaii opened by shooting 4-for-26 before Johnson hit back-to-back jumpers. UNLV missed its first seven shots from the field before Stanback broke the ice with a 3-pointer at the 15:15 mark.
Marshall had seven of the Rebels’ 16 turnovers, but they survived a sloppy game and led for the final 34½ minutes.
"I think our schedule, which has been pretty tough, helped us in this game," Rice said. "It’s not the first time we’ve been in a hostile environment on the road."
The Rebels were set to board a flight departing around 11 p.m. Hawaii time, so Rice said, "We’re going to ring in the new year on the plane."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.UNLV – 74
HAWAII – 69
■ KEY: Anthony Marshall scored 14 of his 19 points after halftime and also led the Rebels with 13 rebounds.
■ NEXT: UNLV at Cal State Bakersfield, 7 p.m. Thursday, KWWN (1100 AM, 98.9 FM)