Matt Youmans covers UNLV men’s basketball for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and he answered five questions I had for him on Saturday’s game wt Wyoming.
Is the return of Heath Schroyer to Laramie a big deal down there with him or the team, or is it more for us in the media to bring up? Has Schroyer talked much about coming back? It’s not a big deal. Of the three assistants hired by Dave Rice, Schroyer was sort of the afterthought to most UNLV fans. Justin Hutson brought the reputation as an excellent recruiter and defensive coach from San Diego State. Stacey Augmon obviously is one of the Rebels’ five all-time greatest players, and he has the experience as an NBA assistant coach. Schroyer’s teams at Wyoming never really earned the respect of UNLV fans. But Jerry Tarkanian praised the hire of Schroyer from the start, and I will say Schroyer has been a very good addition to the staff. He’s a high-energy guy who gets involved in practices and on the sideline in games. Schroyer has not talked much about the Cowboys, but he did say recently he’s not that surprised by their success because he recruited several of those players and felt he was always short-handed there because of injuries. The Rebels’ coaches will downplay the Schroyer theme heading into this game. But if they win, you can bet on some players saying something like, “We really wanted to win this one for Coach Schroyer.”
How good is forward Mike Moser and has he lived up or even exceeded expectations this season? Moser has a definite future in the NBA, but he needs another year in college to fine-tune some aspects of his offensive arsenal. For example, the windup and release on his 3-point shot is too slow. But he’s a smart and tough defender, and he’s got a motor that never stops on both ends of the floor. I knew he had an NBA skill set just from watching practices last season, when he was often the best player on the floor as a redshirt. But he has exceeded everyone’s expectations because of his rebounding. He ranked third in the nation at 11.7 per game prior to Wednesday’s game against Colorado State. He’s a great leader and rebounder, and the team desperately needed a boost in both areas.
Seems like it’s been a pretty smooth transition going from former coach Lon Kruger to new coach Dave Rice. Has it been that smooth, or if there have been a few bumps in what areas have they occurred? There’s no way the transition could have gone better. Any team with three losses in early February has had a smooth ride. UNLV is much more efficient and explosive offensively, due to Rice’s philosophy, and the players got excited about the coaching change soon after the initial shock of Kruger leaving. But the Rebels have some flaws. For one, they still lack intensity on the road, also a frequent problem with Kruger’s teams. Also, they have taken a step back on defensive end and don’t guard the 3-point line as well. The Rebels barely avoided two bumps in the road last week at Boise State and Air Force, so that raised a couple red flags.
Do you think Wyoming’s deliberate style of play will be an issue for UNLV, and what matchups do you see in Saturday’s game being key for both teams? I do expect slow-down games to continue to be a sticky issue for the Rebels. It was evident against USC, Wisconsin and Air Force that opponents can have success forcing UNLV to play in the half court. Leonard Washington will give the Rebels some trouble because they get hurt by physical post players. Washington needs to push Moser away from the basket and make him shoot from the perimeter. If Moser beats you from long range, you can live with that as an opposing coach. Chace Stanback runs hot and cold as a shooter on the road. Anthony Marshall is great in spurts but still searching for consistency. Look for Luke Martinez and Francisco Cruz to determine whether this is a close game. Martinez and Cruz will get open looks because UNLV has defensive lapses, and if those guys get hot it will get interesting.
Who wins Saturday and why? I expected the Cowboys to upset either New Mexico or San Diego State in Laramie. It didn’t happen, so I don’t think it will happen this time, either. The Rebels got a rude wake-up call at Air Force in what was almost a very embarrassing loss. They will get more focused on the road, realizing a lot is at stake in terms of NCAA Tournament seeding. But Larry Shyatt will make certain this one gets ugly. His players are working their asses off, and we’re all impressed by Wyoming’s blue-collar attitude. The talent advantage should put the Rebels over the top in a tight spot. UNLV, 62-57.