Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012 | 2 a.m.
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- All UNLV men's basketball coverage
When a team wants a home game to break up its road trips but can’t play in its regular venue, when it needs to play late in the week because of the players’ final exams schedules but can’t find a Division I opponent because most schools are dealing with the same thing, this is what you get: No. 20 UNLV (7-1) vs. La Verne (1-4) at the Orleans Arena on VegasTV.
“Once we exhausted all the opportunities for Division I, we just needed to find a non-D I opponent so we had a game,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.
Enter La Verne, a Division III school from La Verne, Calif., which is about 30 minutes east of Los Angeles. The Leopards are already 0-3 in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, where they compete against teams like Caltech and Occidental.
Of all the possible lower division schools UNLV could have found to fill this spot, La Verne found its way onto the schedule because of relationships. Leopards coach Richard Reed played AAU basketball with Rice’s brother and Bishop Gorman coach Grant Rice. Reed also knows UNLV assistant coach Heath Schroyer.
For La Verne, this game is a great opportunity to have the experience of playing against a top-level team. For UNLV, the game offers little more than the chance to put on their uniforms instead of practice.
It doesn’t count toward the Rebels’ RPI, and anything less than an absolute blowout doesn’t look good enough. On the surface, there’s nothing to gain.
The counter to that has to do with UNLV’s personnel, due to circumstances both in and out of the team’s control. The most important is that this is the second game the team will play without junior forward Mike Moser but the first since he suffered a dislocated elbow. The Rebels will have to play without him for about a month. On Thursday, that means senior Quintrell Thomas will start, then on Monday, sophomore Khem Birch likely will take over the center spot.
There’s also the addition of freshman guard Daquan Cook to the lineup, whom Rice said would get “quality minutes” against La Verne. This seems like a good opportunity for him to get some time against an inferior opponent as the Rebels see what Cook can do as a backup point guard.
“Instead of taking a break, we put this game on our schedule to get better,” senior Anthony Marshall said. “It’s an opportunity for a lot of guys to step up.”