unlv basketball:

Rebels find stroke from the outside to break zone defense, record another lopsided win

3-point shooting has gone from a weakness to a strength, helping Rebels bury overmatched Morgan State

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Steve Marcus

UNLV’s Mike Moser is fouled as he tries to take a shot during UNLV’s game against Morgan State at the Thomas & Mack Center Sunday, November 20, 2011.

Rebels hot shooting too much for Morgan State

Chace Stanback goes up for a shot during UNLV's game against Morgan State at the Thomas and Mack Center Sunday, November 20, 2011. Launch slideshow »

It’s pretty safe to assume the UNLV basketball team will be facing fewer teams willing to guard it with a zone defense in the upcoming games.

That’s because the Rebels have turned a perceived weakness of being a poor outside-shooting team into strength, connecting on 12-of-23 of their 3-pointers Sunday in blowing out visiting Morgan State, 92-55.

Morgan State was content to match up against UNLV in the zone defense for most of the game, but the hot-shooting Rebels put on a clinic from the outside in growing their lead from 15 points at halftime to more than a 40-point advantage.

Chace Stanback made 5 of 8 of his 3-pointers, including two within 30 seconds of each other in the first half in finishing with 20 points.

It was UNLV’s second lopsided victory in four days, coming on the heels of a 95-70 win against Canisius on Thursday when the Rebels connected on 11 of 20 of their 3-pointers.

That wasn’t the case last year. The Rebels frequently struggled from the perimeter in shooting just 33 percent on 3-pointers, often settling for an ill-advised long-range attempt in favor of working the offense.

“We have talked to our guys quite a bit that we are going to see a lot of zone this year for a variety of reasons,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “There is a reputation that we aren’t a very good outside-shooting team, and I think we are doing a very good job of proving that wrong. Our guys are playing with confidence, and we are being really selective with our 3-point shots.”

This year, with a majority of the offense based on excelling in transition, the UNLV players are able to set their feet and get a solid look at the basket, because their fast-paced style has the opposition scrambling back on defense. Breaking the zone has never been easier.

“I just think we have a better rhythm. Guys have their feet under them,” said junior guard Anthony Marshall, who finished with 13 points, eight assists, five steals and a one-handed dunk in transition on the fast break that was the highlight-reel play of the game.

“We are catching in rhythm. We spend a lot of time shooting, so it is starting to pay off,” he said. “You have guys in the gym before practice and after practice. Even on off days, you have guys working out. The extra work is showing.

The Rebels won their fourth straight game to open the season, but they realize the schedule will get tougher this week. On Tuesday, they host Cal Poly in the second game of the Las Vegas Invitational, which concludes Friday and Saturday with games at the Orleans Arena and a potential clash with top-ranked North Carolina.

Once game film is exchanged, the opponents will surely consider playing more man-to-man defense. That’s to be expected when the Rebels are making 40 percent (38-of-93) of their 3-pointers on the year.

What the tape will also show is another great defensive effort by UNLV, which hauled in 19 steals and forced Morgan State into 23 turnovers in holding them to 35-percent shooting. It’s the same drill defensively as the first three games, with the Rebels able to create opportunities in transition offensively because of its tough-as-nails effort on defense.

That holds especially true for sophomore forward Mike Moser, who had his third double-double of the season in posting game highs with 23 points and 17 rebounds. Moser, who has become the team’s most exciting player, also posted five steals and six assists in creating several scoring opportunities on the fast break.

Every game, the 6-foot-8 Moser seems to do something out of the ordinary with his long range and superior athleticism. On one play, he grabbed a rebound on his own missed shot and converted an uncontested dunk in the same leap. He also threw a perfect alley-oop pass to Marshall in transition, but Marshall’s dunk attempt rimmed out.

“It just flowed naturally once we really started pushing the ball — and the crowd started getting into it — and creating turnovers. It made it real easy to score,” Moser said.

Stanback said of Moser: “It is like playing with a big point guard. He is always pushing the ball up the court when he gets the rebound. He finds the open guy.”

Oscar Bellfield had 12 points on 3-of-5 shooting on 3-pointers, Marshall had three dunks in transition and gained more confidence in running the offense, and the Rebels out-rebounded a much taller Morgan State team, 47-33.

All in all, it was another step in the right direction.

“Our guys are excited about the fact we are making progress,” Rice said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. Making progress? Definitely. National ranking? Maybe. For the old time fans, of which former UNLV player does Moser most remind you? Go Rebels

  2. I see some Shawn Marion in him, but with a better outside shot. Really exciting having him on the team this year.

  3. Great win.

  4. Rebels looked great last night. Yes, the competition will get better but so will the team. I was really impressed with how well they continue to rebound and push the ball up the court. This style of play is going to get them many wins this season and in the years to come. Additionally, this style should be the determining factor for players like Shabazz to decide that being a Runnin' Rebel is the place to be. I am looking forward to this weekend and the possible opportunity to play the number one team in the nation.
    UNLV GO FIGHT WIN!! REBELS-REBELS-REBELS

  5. Great job Coach Rice! Got a long way to go but looks like the "Running'" is back in the Rebels. Hope coach Lonnie is have fun with the Okies on 3 year probation!

  6. Gonna be a great season if this keeps up. All the players are really clicking early. The USC game is still gonna be a tough game with the style of game they play, even though they lost Fontan. Can't look past Cal Poly though. Go Rebs!

  7. If the Rebs continue to play and get better I can't imagine them not being able to compete with UNC on Saturday....Let's pack the Orleans!!!!

  8. It's nice to see the Rebels beating up on bad teams.

    Moser looks to be a force and I can't wait for Reggie Smith to get into the game to add even more speed to the Rebels offense.

    I'm interested to see if their outside shooting can hold up against teams that have enough athletes to properly defend in a zone, as I think it really hurt them last season.

    Overall, I'm pretty excited that the pre-season is almost over and the Rebs get to play some better teams.

  9. Without question, the difference from last year to this is confidence as Coach Rice stated. I give complete credit to Rice's system which pretty much takes the thinking out of the equation. The shot is there, you take it. With all due respect to Lon Kruger, last year's half-court offense lacked purpose and flow and that caused the players to think too much. They almost threw it up there just hoping it would go in ... and most of the time it didn't. There will still be bumps in the road, but this is going to be a very enjoyable team to watch!!! Kudos to the entire coaching staff.