Anthony Marshall flies. His 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame uncoils, soars and hangs. His YouTube results include emphatic dunks against UNC and San Diego State, a portfolio he diversified with two slams against Cal on Friday.
So why did Marshall settle for a soft lay-up on an easy first-half breakaway? The UNLV guard may have just been too tired.
The No. 21 Runnin’ Rebels ran out a 85-68 victory in Las Vegas, easily dispatching the visitors in the Bears’ final nonconference game.
And when Marshall jogged down the Thomas & Mack Center floor all alone, he simply didn’t have the legs left to showboat in the midst of a 21-4 run — a torrent that helped UNLV to a 46-26 halftime lead. The 46 points were the largest first-half total Cal (10-3) allowed this season.
The hometown kid led his team with 22 points, more than doubling his season average of 9.0 per game. He put away 13 before the break, and also added nine rebounds, three assists and three steals in 33 minutes of total playing time.
“They’re a fast-tempo team,” said Cal guard Jorge Gutierrez. “We were not used to that fast of a tempo. In the first half, shots were not going in. (Coach Mike Montgomery) was telling us to get the ball inside. We took the 15-footers. We should have gone inside more.”
With starting forward Richard Solomon sidelined by a stress fracture in his foot, Cal struggled to execute its half-court offense and couldn’t keep up with UNLV’s (13-2) breakneck pace.
Guard Justin Cobbs lead the Bears with 20 points, but received little help. Gutierrez went 1-of-7 in the first half, scoring half of his 12 points in the game from the free-throw line. Reigning Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Allen Crabbe, plagued by illness, scored only two points in the first half, finishing with 13.
Cal shot 32 percent in the first half to UNLV’s 54 percent. The Bears couldn’t score a field goal for over eight minutes and finished the game 23-of-61.
“We got off to a tough start,” Montgomery said. “We were not great defensively. Ball was going in for them and not for us. Marshall and (point guard Oscar) Bellfield were good off the pick-and-roll. Our guys were right there. We didn’t do little things. We didn’t block off missed free throws.”
Little changed after halftime. UNLV senior Chace Stanback and sophomore Mike Moser drained back-to-back 3-pointers to open the second half. The two former UCLA transfers combined for six of UNLV’s nine makes from beyond the arc against Cal and lead the team in scoring on the season. Stanback finished with 15 points, while Moser added 14 and eight boards.
Marshall got the crowd going less than two minutes later, flushing in an alley-oop off a feed from Bellfield. Bellfield, who dished out nine dimes in the first half, notched his second career double-double with 11 points and 11 assists.
Cal cobbled together an 13-0 run late in the second half, but UNLV responded with a 10-6 streak of its own the rest of the way.
With just over two minutes left in the game, Marshall split a double team on the perimeter and shot down the lane, finishing with his second dunk of the game. Crabbe and Cal forward David Kravish each had a slight chance to jump in his way, but both shied from a likely foul and embarrassing photo-op.
The Bears have yet to earn a marquee victory this season, falling one point short at San Diego State on Dec. 4. Cal has blown out inferior teams through most of the nonconference slate, and is 1-3 away from Haas Pavilion.
The loss also did nothing to distinguish the Pac-12 on the national stage; the conference does not have any ranked teams, and UCLA — the preseason champion pick — is in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament entirely. The Mountain West is 11-3 against the Pac-12 this season.
Cal will open conference play against USC at home on Dec. 29 .