unlv basketball:

It wasn’t pretty early, but Rebels close strong in confidence-building victory against Cal Poly

UNLV outscored Cal Poly 46-30 in the second half, finally getting out in transition to blow the game open

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Sam Morris

UNLV forwards Mike Moser, left, and Brice Massamba celebrate as Cal Poly calls time out during the second half of their game Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011. UNLV won the game 75-52.

UNLV takes down Cal Poly, 75-52

UNLV forwards Mike Moser, left, and Brice Massamba celebrate as Cal Poly calls time out during the second half of their game Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2011. UNLV won the game 75-52. Launch slideshow »

UNLV basketball beats Cal Poly

KSNV coverage of UNLV basketball against Cal Poly, Nov. 22, 2011.

The UNLV basketball team couldn’t have asked for a better opponent this early in the season.

Cal Poly was everything as advertised Tuesday night, giving the Rebels that step up in competition they needed and refusing to fall into the trap of playing UNLV’s fast-paced style to keep the game competitive.

Well, at least for 30 minutes.

UNLV (5-0) wore down Cal Poly midway through the second half, finally breaking the game open with easy baskets in transition and closing strong in a 75-52 victory.

The Rebels scored more than 90 points in their two previous games, when Morgan State and Canisius attempted to play at their fast pace.

Cal Poly, however, executed its game plan of being patient offensively. The Mustangs were easily the best defensive team UNLV has faced this season. They took away the perimeter for most of the game, hardly wavered in their clock-draining philosophy on offense and were more physical than the Rebels’ previous four opponents.

“I’m really proud of the job our guys did really exceeding the energy of Cal Poly,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “Once again, it is great contributions from our bench...We just wore Cal Poly out. That is a very solid team.”

While UNLV led by seven points at halftime and increased its lead to double digits early in the second half, the Rebels could never pull away. One stat perfectly describes the flow of the game: UNLV had just two fast-break points in the first half, but finished with 17 points in transition.

UNLV led 50-38 with 10:27 remaining but scored the game’s next 14 points to take a convincing advantage. The final three baskets in the rally were all dunks in transition — two from Anthony Marshall and one from Mike Moser to bring the 12,061 fans at the Mack to their feet in what had been a game with few plays to cheer about.

“I feel like we are playing our game. That is to just play defense, get deflections and run out (in transition),” said Oscar Bellfield, the UNLV senior guard who finished with 12 points. “If we keep doing that, I don’t feel there is anyone that can stick with us.”

UNLV did significant damage at the free throw line in connecting on 25 of 31 attempts. And while the Rebels struggled from the perimeter — they made just four of 17 shots on 3-pointers after making 12 and 10 the last two games, respectively — an usual source shined on the inside.

Senior center Brice Massamba had one of the strongest games for UNLV, leading the Rebels with nine rebounds and scoring 10 points. He was the difference-maker Cal Poly wasn’t expecting, having arguably the best game in his four-year UNLV career. The offense at times went through Massamba in the post, especially with Cal Poly so focused on taking away the perimeter.

“Brice Massamba was terrific tonight,” Rice said.

UNLV will play another tough opponent at 5 p.m. Friday when it takes on USC at the Orleans Arena in the eight-team Las Vegas Invitational. The wins against Morgan State and Cal Poly were in the first two rounds of the event.

The Rebels expect another physical game against a USC team that will also try to slow the pace of the game. But thanks to their success late against Cal Poly, the players gained confidence moving forward.

Marshall felt Cal Poly’s physical play more than his teammates. In the first half, he was fouled hard while going to the basket, virtually being tackled into the photographers underneath the basket. A flagrant foul was called, and Marshall hit both technical free throws.

“By that play, we knew we had to match their intensity and how physical they were,” said Marshall, who finished with 13 points and seven assists. “They threw the first punch; we just happened to counter.”

Moser, who entered leading the nation in rebounds at 14.3 boards per game, only finished with eight boards. He was one of five Rebels in double figures in scoring a team-high 14 points. Chace Stanback added 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and had a game-high three blocks.

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  1. it's a shame UNLV doesn't have their own network so we in Las Vegas can watch these games.That being said I can't wait to see them play North Carolina.Am I thinking upset?Well,,,l'll say this,they'll give the Heels all they can handle .

  2. All the Kruger haters should be thanking their lucky stars for the job he did now, He left the team in great shape and his constant emphasis on defense first is paying great dividends now. Couple the new, more exciting style of play with the well ingrained understanding of defense that was drilled repeatedly into the returnees and this team can play against any style of offense. Dave Rose is doing a great job transitioning them into a new style of offense while they still play some great defense. Past teachings are paying off nicely and the offense continues to improve. This is going to be a very good team by the time they peak. At least the peak won't be in early December as it has been the last three years

  3. As long as we continually improve, the sky's the limit for this squad.

    I'm rooting for San Diego State tonight, but this weekend should show who really stands at the Top of the Conference.

  4. Agreed, Casper. The building blocks for a solid team are in place thanks to Kruger. Dave Rice is doing a good job in preparing the team each game. Go Rebels!

  5. I like Kruger and the job he did. He was the perfect coach to bring UNLV back to respectibility and he definitely deserves credit for the quality of players on this team.

    BUT, I believe if he was still coach the final score of las night's game would have been more like 55-47.

  6. Great to see the team playing really like a true team. Everyone is on the same page so far.

    @Tomas, I agree with the network thing, except it helps those of us NOT in Vegas that can watch the game. You can GO to the game!

  7. Great example of how off season conditioning pays off with easy wins like last night. By the middle of the second half, Cal Poly was gassed, and you could see it, while the Rebels appeared to be able to go an extra half if they needed. Great stuff. No doubt Kruger's stamp is still on this team, especially defensively. But the flow offensively reminds one, dare I say, of when a certain towel chewing coach roamed the bench. Coach Rice is doing a great job.

  8. btw, great photos from the game. I know this paper is a liberal rag, but I have to admit you guys do a great job covering my Rebs

  9. Worried about USC. I know they are not a good team right now but Kevin O'Neill's teams always seem to have our number. They are such a grinding physical team that every game is ugly. Besides that I am so excited to see us face UNC that an upset by the Trojans screws that all up. Here is hoping I am worrying all for nothing. Great opportunity on Saturday night if we take care of business. Runnin' Rebels!

  10. Did I miss the reason Lopez only played a handful of minutes? Let's not look past USC, I agree with GUMBY2323, USC plays us tough regardless of their record. Would be nice to see us in the top 25 come next Monday, I think we're that good.
    Go Rebs!

  11. Lopez only played a handful of minutes because his ankle is at 75% and Massamba was beasting underneath the basket.

  12. While I have no problem with playing a team which plays physical to me there were to many times when a UNLV player was deliberately run into when he was in position to have some serious harm done to him. In my mind that is not hard nosed bb it is just uncalled for and the refs should have called more deliberate fouls. To the Rebs great credit they did not put themselves into future jeopardy by reacting adversely to the situation.

  13. I completely agree, NoCalExPat. Cal Poly was absolutely hammering the Rebels in the first half, and there could have been a couple more intentional fouls. Really good discipline by the Rebels not to react more.

    Gumby, normally I would agree with you about struggling with USC, but not this year. The Rebels just played a team very similar to them in Cal Poly and was able to handle them relatively easily. USC just doesn't have enough offense to compete with the Rebels. The other USC, South Carolina, is really bad this year, so they are going to get destroyed by UNC. It will be the Tar Heels and Rebels on Saturday, and while I'm not going to go out on a limb and predict the upset, I do think the Rebels are going to give them all they can handle and very possibly could win the game. The Tar Heels are loaded, but they will lose some games this year, so why not the Rebels? The one thing I think really works to the Rebels advantage is that UNC is actually not a very deep team (from what I've read) and may get tired playing back-to-back nights. The thing going against the Rebels is that the players that do play the majority of the minutes for the Tar Heels are, as Dave Rice would say, "really, really good". It should be fun. I can't wait!

  14. OK, I'll be the first to bring out the madness:

    The UCSB, Wichita State and Hawaii games are not being televised on any level. The Wisconsin and Illinios games are on the big ten network only. Really? We can't do any better than this!!! WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S HOLY?!!!

  15. @Fast, Ah man! It is hard to believe that we cannot see all of our away games. We have one of the best bb programs on the West Coast for the last 35 years(mostly) and we still have TV coverage like the team was located in Elko(no offense Elko).

  16. Not predicting an upset but UNLV should be able to hang with UNC. Not worried about USC one bit the Rebels should go right through them. UNC will be fun, I certainly believe its a game UNLV can win. We'll see what happens.

  17. The fact that espn is not airing any of our away games is the reality of why we didn't take the contract in the first place. Just because you have the contract doesn't mean they are going to air you games. I don't think they are airing us against USC. But both unc game is scheduled to air. also, it's not fair to say that some team has our # because we have a new system and coach. They had our number because they could control our old style of play. Expect sdst to lose it's edge on us as well. On the flip side though we might not have New Mexico's number anymore because they had byu's number and we run a similar style.

  18. @ Dain, the USC matchup will be on ESPN3 according to their schedule, so you can watch it online.

    SDSU beat AZ last night too, and stopped their 22 game home win streak. They aren't gonna be pushovers this season either. The MWC is stronger than people had predicted earlier.