UNLV basketball:

Chace Stanback thriving on the perimeter as UNLV hosts Central Arkansas

Team’s leading scorer set to surpass 1,000 points in his UNLV career

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Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Chace Stanback signals after hitting a 3-pointer in the first half of the Rebels’ game against California on Friday, Dec. 23, 2011.

Chace Stanback smiles when talking about one of his perks on the UNLV basketball team this season.

“Instead of setting screens for other people, I have screens set for me,” Stanback said.

There’s also the view.

Playing mostly along the perimeter as a small forward, Stanback can see the offense as it unfolds. As an interior forward, the job can feel more like factory work: Set a screen. Roll to the basket. Repeat.

But life outside is different. And it appears to be a natural fit for Stanback, who’s leading UNLV (13-2) with 14.5 points per game.

Tonight at 7 at home against Central Arkansas (5-6), Stanback needs just four points to become the 36th player in school history to score 1,000 points. Former teammate Tre’Von Willis joined the club early last season and ranks 16th overall with 1,316 points.

When UNLV coach Dave Rice took over in the off-season, he made the decision to swing Stanback out to the wing. The positive end result has masked some of the bumps along the way.

“It took him a little bit of time to adjust to what we consider to be his more-natural position at small forward,” Rice said. “But he’s experienced. He’s a fifth-year senior who’s made a lot of big plays in a lot of big games over the course of his career. He’s playing extremely well. … It makes a very big difference when he plays like that.”

Stanback, who started his career at UCLA and sat out a year due to transfer rules, has scored in single digits just three times this season and on Dec. 19 he posted a career-high 29 points against Louisiana-Monroe.

In that game he hit 8-of-9 behind the three-point line. And those shots are the most noticeable difference in Stanback’s game versus his previous two seasons at UNLV.

So far this year, exactly half (71 out of 142) of his shots are 3-point attempts. Last year that was at about 38 percent.

Stanback already has just two fewer made 3-pointers in 39 fewer attempts than his sophomore year. And he’s shooting almost nine percent better behind the line than his junior year.

“I have a lot of freedom on the wing this year,” Stanback said. “My coaches put me into that rotation of being a wing player rather than a four-man and it’s actually been pretty beneficial for me.”

UNLV Head Coach Dave Rice watches play during the first half of UNLV's game against California at the Thomas and Mack Center Friday, December 23, 2011. STEVE MARCUS

UNLV Head Coach Dave Rice watches play during the first half of UNLV's game against California at the Thomas and Mack Center Friday, December 23, 2011. STEVE MARCUS

And beneficial for the team. Two of his four highest-scoring games were close victories against North Carolina (28 points) and UC Santa Barbara (19).

The Rebels won’t likely need that kind of output to get past the Bears tonight. It’s a big opportunity for another transfer, though.

Sophomore guard Reggie Smith has played just 10 total minutes in two games since becoming eligible. In UNLV’s 85-68 victory against California last Friday, he didn’t get in until the final minute.

But Rice said afterward that the decision had to do with the opponent, not Smith. Central Arkansas should be more at his current speed.

“The plan is to try to get Reggie ready for conference play,” Rice said. “It’s always difficult to add a guy in the middle of the year. I think it’s especially difficult to add a point guard, and to add him to a team that already has two point guards and has had quite a bit of success.”

UNLV plays three games against overmatched opponents before opening conference play on Jan. 14 at San Diego State. That’s not much time, but enough for Smith to get at least somewhat integrated into the offense.

It’s also just enough time to try to encapsulate the team’s fire in the first half last Friday.

“It starts with our practice the days leading up to the game. And it continues with our focus in our shoot around the day of the game,” Rice said. “We want to build on that, and bring that same sort of focus and same sort of energy to start basketball games like we did against Cal.”

Stanback opened that game with a made jumper just 13 seconds in. That freedom is just another one of the perks.

“Whatever shot I have,” Stanback said, “that’s what I take.”

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

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