Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011 | 12:45 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Ray Brewer talk about the UNLV basketball team's offensive explosion in a 124-75 victory against Central Arkansas and look ahead to the New Year's Even game at Hawaii.
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There was a familiar feeling in the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday night.
The Rebels’ recent string of highlights paled in comparison to the sheer volume dunks, dishes and swishes in a 124-75 victory against Central Arkansas. It’s the most points UNLV has scored since a 126-83 victory at Utah State on Jan. 28, 1991.
That was coach Dave Rice’s senior season at UNLV. The year before, as a 21-year-old junior, he sat in the back of a convertible that paraded through the streets of Las Vegas celebrating a national championship.
That moment came to mind after Wednesday’s victory.
“I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is special. Because it’s not just about us, it’s about an entire community that believes in the Rebels,’ ” Rice said. “That’s what we want to be; we want to be the Las Vegas community’s team. We’re proud of that and we know we have a long way to go. … We’re trying to get back to great things.”
Greatness doesn’t seem too far away after posting a video-game-type statistic like 40 assists on 47 made baskets.
This was the Rebels’ first 100-point game of the season and the 211th in school history. UNLV (14-2) trailed after the first four minutes, but then a 21-2 run sparked the rout.
The good times they had on the court carried into the postgame press conference, where the pair cracked jokes and answered each other’s questions.
Does Stanback remember the last time he threw a lob pass, as he did to junior Anthony Marshall in the first half?
“No,” Moser said, laughing.
Indeed, Stanback showed the lob is not yet in his wheelhouse by tossing an errant one past the rim in the direction of Marshall. No matter. Marshall brought the ball around and gave it back to Stanback, who sank a 3-pointer that sent the crowd into hysterics for the team’s 100th point.
After the shot Stanback just smiled. With his recent tear behind the 3-point line — he’s 20-for-27 in the last three games — Stanback has about run out of different ways to celebrate.
“The basket is probably about four feet wide in his eyes right now,” Rice said.
It helps when those shots are coming within UNLV’s offense, and that’s exactly what Central Arkansas allowed the Rebels to do.
The Bears (5-7) wanted to run. They tried to run. They’re just not nearly as good at it as UNLV.
“Not surprised, but kind of thankful actually that they tried, just because it helped us out so much,” Moser said. “That’s how we want to play. If a team comes in and they start running, we look at each other and think, ‘Yes, here we go.’ ”
UNLV’s quick lead allowed it to do a lot of things that may help down the line.
Firstly, starting center Brice Massamba played just five minutes.
“He’s struggled all year long with sore knees, and we practice hard, run up and down the floor a lot, so anytime we have the opportunity to rest him (we do),” Rice said.
Also, sophomore transfer guard Reggie Smith played more than he had in his two previous games combined, registering 13 points and five assists in 11 minutes. The one drawback to Smith’s game is that he had to leave early because of a head injury after he was inadvertently struck by an opponents’ arm.
“He lost four or five minutes at the end of the game, but it was a positive to get him quality minutes,” Rice said. “Thought he did a good job.”
Smith was meeting with team doctors after the game, but as long as he doesn’t have to miss time then this was a big step forward for him and for the team in figuring out how he fits in.
Mashour equaled his season point total with eight, including a dunk, in seven minutes, and Norman, a Las Vegas native, hit a 3-pointer for the first points of his UNLV career.
That may have been Moser’s highlight of the game.
“That’s probably the most fun part about games like this,” Moser said. “Honestly, that’s something we almost look forward to, is let’s go in, try and blow a team out and get our guys in off the bench. That’s what we think about right before the game starts.”
Rice has been preaching unselfish play and the pay-it-forward mentality that follows and results in more unselfish play. It’s that kind of mentality that leads to 40 assists.
And it’s fair to say every Rebel on the court and in the stands was feeling that contagious spirit.
Just like the glory days.
“This is our team,” Rice said. “And when I say our team, it’s not my team or the players’ team, this is a team that represents the Las Vegas community.”