Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011 | 11:40 p.m.
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 92, Morgan State 55 (11-20-2011)
- Take Five: Getting ready for UNLV’s Sunday game with Morgan State (11-20-2011)
- Rebels offense starting to take shape, produces 95 points in lopsided win against Canisius (11-17-2011)
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
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.