One of the more interesting individual matchups during UNLV’s clash with Cal will be at the point guard spot, though neither player would be described as a “natural” point guard.
For UNLV, much has been made of Anthony Marshall’s transition from shooting guard to the point this season. But Rebels fans might not be as familiar with Cal junior Justin Cobbs, who has made a similar move and become one of the Pac-12’s most dangerous offensive threats.
The 6-foot-2 playmaker has had to walk a fine line between creating for his teammates and looking for his own shot, and it wasn’t always a smooth transition for Cobbs, as noted in this San Jose Mercury News story.
Cobbs finished the regular season averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 rebounds per game, and he’s almost unstoppable off the dribble. But playing with another dominant scorer in guard Allen Crabbe (18.7 points per game) has sometimes made it difficult to find the balance between facilitating and looking to score.
In a Jan. 12 game against Washington State, Cobbs played all 40 minutes and attempted just two shots. Cal won the game, and Cobbs did pick up five assists, but that’s not the way Bears coach Mike Montgomery wants him to play.
Marshall had a similar game on the very same night, playing 43 minutes in an overtime win over Air Force and taking just one shot. Marshall handed out a season-high 12 assists in that contest.
Both players appear to have found their comfort zone late in the season, however. Marshall is averaging 11.5 points and 5.3 assists in the past six games, and UNLV has played some of its best basketball of the year during that stretch. Cobbs averaged 16.4 points and 7.0 assists during a late-season seven-game winning streak, and in the Bears’ last two games he’s put up 25.0 points and 5.5 assists.
Adding to the individual matchup, Marshall and Cobbs go way back and are friendly from their AAU days. Marshall got the better of Cobbs in the Dec. 9 meeting, posting 13 points and four assists in a 76-75 win for the Rebels. Marshall also got the better of Cobbs on the defensive end, holding him to 11 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
But that was early in the season, before either player had really settled in as their team’s “point guard.” Now that they’re both playing at a high level and running their teams effectively, making this one of the more critical matchups to watch on Thursday.
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