UNLV basketball:

Lopez’s small efforts add up for UNLV

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Sam Morris

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez reacts after picking up his third foul during the first half of their game against the University of Texas El Paso Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV overcomes slow start to beat UTEP

University of Texas El Paso guard Michael Perez finds himself surrounded by UNLV players during the first half of their game Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

UNLV beats UTEP

KSNV coverage of the Runnin' Rebels taking on the University of Texas El Paso basketball team, Dec. 14, 2011.

The Rebel Room

Rebel Room postgame edition — Rebels struggle early, but down UTEP

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer break down the UNLV basketball team's 65-54 victory against UTEP. The Rebels started slow and struggled with their shooting all night, but were too much for an inexperienced UTEP squad down the stretch.

Carlos Lopez was hungry.

That statement could be taken metaphorically as it relates to his game, but this was 30 minutes before tip-off. The Rebel sophomore forward was just hungry.

So Lopez asked a UNLV media-relations member if he could get a brownie. Then, upon delivery, he took it out with one bite and washed it down with Gatorade.

After the performance he put on in the ensuing game, Lopez may have found a new pregame tradition.

In UNLV’s 65-54 victory against UTEP on Wednesday, Lopez entered the game with just more than 2 minutes gone by and scored on a swift post move on his first offensive possession.

Lopez finished with 11 points, tying his season high, and four rebounds with two blocks and an assist in 20 minutes.

“Carlos Lopez gave us a great low-post presence on the defensive and offensive ends,” Rebels coach Dave Rice said.

Lopez has played increasingly well in the last two weeks, and at practice this week Rice said he would find minutes for his hard-working energy man.

That decision is justified based on his output alone, but Lopez’s biggest contributions come when the action has stopped.

Consistently on Wednesday, it was Lopez running over to help a teammate off the floor or gathering the team for a brief huddle.

“I just want to help my team in any type of way,” Lopez said. “If it means by helping someone up, or by huddling the team, I’m just trying be the best teammate, the best player that I can. Little stuff like that is what makes good players into great players.”

Lopez is carving his role out of the little things. He has the offensive tools to get on the court for the Rebels, but with the sum total of all his small efforts, and the appropriate pregame sugar rush, he’s figuring out how to do even more.

“I really want to be one of the guys my teammates can see and be like, just keep up (with him). Have that energy, have that fear in your eyes like you really want to play and you really want to run the floor and dive for the ball,” Lopez said. “It’s a great feeling when someone sees you just hustling for every play.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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