unlv basketball:

Rebels reclaim their swagger in a dominating 75-58 victory against Boise State

UNLV basketball plays its best defense in several weeks and Chace Stanback leads the offense with 19 points

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Quintrell Thomas has words with Boise State forward Ryan Watkins after a play during their game Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 75-58.

UNLV vs. Boise State

UNLV forward Quintrell Thomas throws down a put back dunk against Boise State during their game Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 75-58. Launch slideshow »

Rebel dunk makes SportsCenter top plays

Quintrell Thomas' dunk against Boise State was featured as SportsCenter's No. 2 top play for Feb. 22, 2012.

UNLV vs. Boise State

KSNV coverage of UNLV Rebels taking on Boise State, Feb. 22, 2012.

The Rebel Room

Boise State provides no challenge for UNLV

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Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Taylor Bern and Case Keefer discuss UNLV's 75-58 victory over Boise State. They touch on what stood out in the win, as well as what the Rebels still need to improve.

The number of college basketball players who have claimed to get their swagger back against Boise State could populate a small town. That is to say the Rebels’ feelings after Wednesday’s 75-58 victory aren’t exactly unique.

But they were no less needed.

Coming off its first two-game losing streak of the season, No. 21 UNLV (23-6, 7-4) came home and throttled the last-place Broncos (13-13, 3-8), moving within one game of New Mexico in the Mountain West standings.

To the outsider, there’s not much to take from this game.

If you thought the Rebels’ 1-3 mark coming into the game signaled a freefall, a rout against the bottom of the barrel wasn’t going to convince you otherwise. And if you thought that UNLV’s problems were only confined to the road, well that didn’t change either.

Inside that locker room, though, the Rebels needed to prove to themselves that they could still play with passion and dominate a game.

Swagger takes a lot of forms. For UNLV, it can be found in trapping ball screens and shot-clock violations. Turnovers and run outs.

“It started with our defense, as it usually does,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said.

The Rebels came out with a defensive fire rarely seen in the past few weeks. They forced three turnovers in the first four minutes.

Boise State opened the game 4-for-6 behind the three-point line and finished 7-of-30. No Broncos scored in double digits.

“It’s defending crazy and dictating what you want their offense to do,” junior guard Anthony Marshall said.

Marshall finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth double-double this season and second in a row.

Senior small forward Chace Stanback found his shot, hitting four 3-pointers en route to a game-high 19 points, and senior center Brice Massamba was a consistent presence in the paint, scoring 14 points. Massamba also flashed some offensive swagger with a 17-foot jumper that swished through the net.

Junior guard Justin Hawkins connected on four 3-pointers, including a pair back to back in the second half that pushed the lead from 12 to 18 and effectively ended any lingering suspense.

Hawkins said he wanted to be ready to attack on Wednesday. Stanback said he wanted to live up to his teammates’, and his own, expectations.

They both accomplished their goals, yet that doesn’t really change anything about the status of this team. Had the Rebels struggled, it could have raised some significant red flags. As it is, Wednesday night went tip, swag, on to the next one.

The biggest positive for the Rebels came nearly 24 hours earlier when New Mexico lost at Colorado State, keeping the Mountain West race alive for a bit longer.

The Rebels are generally aware of what’s happening around the Mountain West, but they don’t want to focus on it too much.

“You can’t worry about what’s going on in the league, because once you start doing that you get away from the things that you want to do as a group,” said Marshall, who watched New Mexico’s loss Tuesday night.

The Lobos (22-5, 8-3) next play on Saturday at TCU, the site of UNLV’s colossal collapse last week. A similar fate isn’t likely for New Mexico, but the Rebels could help put some pressure on the Lobos by taking care of business earlier in the day at home against Air Force.

“Our focus is on us and what we have to do as a team,” Stanback said.

That will be another game that doesn’t offer much of a chance for UNLV to prove anything. The Falcons (13-12, 3-8) pulled off an upset against a depleted San Diego State squad last Wednesday, then turned around and dropped a home game to TCU.

UNLV will be expected to control the game and that’s probably what will happen. An easy victory won’t get the Rebels much credit, and any struggles will bring out the naysayers.

Of course, the Rebels don’t care about any of that. After the game, Rice said he challenged his players to continue to stay together as they had on the court Wednesday. To continue to improve and play defense with passion.

He challenged them to keep the swagger that they just took back.

“We were all disappointed last week, I know the town was disappointed, but there is so much still to play for,” Rice said. “It is all right there for us.”

Taylor Bern can be reached at 948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Taylor on Twitter at twitter.com/taylorbern.

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  1. For the first time in years, all UNLV FANS are sitting back and relaxing for the NCAA tourney. No bubble, not this year...a major sigh of relief. All we have to do now is just fix the problematic areas and improve on perimeter defense and in game intensity. Let's keep some consistency going, have a strong outing in the MWC tourney and avenge our miserable, first round loss last year. Getem boys!

  2. True that it is much nicer to wonder what seed you will be instead of thinking we have to win at least one game in the MWC tourney to get in. Nice to see the Rebs come out and push Boise around. Still some areas of concern but the fact that they pressed and pushed with consistency is a positive. All players gave great effort. Mistakes made because players are trying hard we can live with. Good to see the Runnin Rebels again.

  3. @Heretic it was a midweek late night game, 14,400 was way more than we've had in years past.

    I agree that our guards need to look more like ball handlers, and stop trying to be so damn fancy. Smith is a turnover machine, and makes me nervous every time he touches the ball. He can't seem to find the balance between playing quickly and under control.

    Glad to see Stanback back in the thick of it. The announcers said it best during the UNC game. Stanback is a really good gauge for this team. When he's shooting well, they're tough to beat.

  4. @Heretic
    14,400 is a fickle attendence? That's the highest attendence on the entire west coast. Better than UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, Cal, USC, San Diego State, & New Mexico.

    And show me one team that capitalizes on ALL their plays. If you watched the game, yes the team got their "swag" back. UNLV showed up to play. Unlike SDSU who had to go into overtime to get their win last night.

    Geesh, everyone these days thinks their an expert just because they can post a comment. @Heretic do you honestly think you have a higher basketball IQ than Taylor Bern?

  5. Swagger back? We played Boise State at home and won, not impressively though. Boise State???? Not all is well with this team.

  6. UNLV beat Boise State. A team that won three straight games against AFA, CSU, and TCU. All those teams just came off wins against SDSU, UNM, and UNLV.

    UNLV is one game back from 1st place. And has more momentum than UNM after their lost to CSU.

    UNLV has over achieved preseason expectations. This is Dave Rice's first year. Give the team a little love.

  7. Swagger? A little bit of self-respect and confidence maybe but not swagger.

    It was Boise State, for gawds sake. In basketball (last place MWC, 2-9 on the road). At Home. It's like paying that neighborhood kid who mows your lawn on your own driveway--you're supposed to win. You don't get swagger by not-so-impressively beating the neighborhood kid.

    The Rebs still weren't really good last night. They were better but not great by any means. It was good to see some fast breaks for a change. It was good to see Brice do a few things that we'd hoped he could do all along. 19 assists was good.

    The 'D' intensity was decent although there were quite a few wide open outside jumpers that went totally uncontested which a good 3-point shooting team would have hit. A team like Colorado State.

    Unfortunately, the Rebels had 14 turnovers and allowed BSU to grab 12 offensive rebounds. Those aren't swagger-inducing numbers.

    Win out, which means beating CSU at Mobey, and we can talk swagger.

    For now, the Rebs not having to sleep in the dog house is about all they achieved by beating BSU.

  8. Nicely done fellas...keep putting games in the win column.

  9. I don't think the Rebels will ever play sharp for a full 40 minutes, but it's because they are a college basketball team, and not NBA players. I'm surprised that so many "fans" still come here to nitpick minor details in a 17 point win (especially coming off of back to back losses). I realize that some people are never satisfied, but I hope the negativity doesn't get back to the players, as they are just college students working hard every day to get better at a game.

    Now it's my turn to nitpick, but I'm going to question coach Dave Rice a bit, not the players. I would rather see the bench players play the last few minutes than watch the starters lazily turn the ball over, and I can't understand Rice's rational behind keeping Reggie Smith (who actually needs the playing experience, but maybe had an injury?) and Karam Mashour (who brings instant energy and the fans like him) on the bench when the team is up by 20. Maybe it's a minor thing, but if you're going to finish a game poorly, don't do it with the starters.

    One other note, The Rebels have no offense coming off the bench, other than the streaky Justin Hawkins. Dave Rice is forced to leave most of his starters in when the game is close because, otherwise there is a potential for huge scoring droughts. I think this led to serious fatigue in both the TCU and UNM games. The only suggestion I can really make regarding this, is to slow the game down at points and get the ball inside to Massamba or Lopez.

    Go Rebs!

  10. Good win rebels! 17 point win is always nice to see. We could definitely use some confidence boosters and that game is a good start.

  11. Hahaha Daniel and his pessimism and rants. He's probably unemployed and living in a dungeon because unlv doesn't embrace him at games.

    Has nothing to do with swag..we will be getting a five seed at the tourney which is a great seed because we face a 12 and 4 in the first two rounds. It's all about bettering right now for the NCAA's. Just wish Reggie would step up.

  12. Wow SDSU, before you start in on the "big dance" talk maybe the team & fans should focus on the regular season first. Slow down a little. This team still has a LOT of work.

  13. A lot of work? By that u mean what? The team is dancing and it's just a perimeter defense away from making a deep run. Hush up. Cuse is overrated and will lose in the 16.

  14. Yes 'Cuse is so over rated with one of the best defensive's in college basketball, a 10 man deep bench, a #2 RPI, only 1 loss (that loss was well deserved they played horrible) a Big East regular season championship (tied for at the moment). Yes we are so over rated.

    Where as UNLV has struggled in the past 5 games, congrats again for blowing out the last place team in a Mid-Major conference. You're right SDSU UNLV is on par for a National Championship, No need to work on any part of your game.

  15. hey gobruins, not sure why you're even on this site. isn't there a syracuse comment thread somewhere? just have a burning desire to converse with rebel fans about a team you don't even like? it's not like there's a reason for you to be here (the orange and rebels not having played each other in like 15 years) so i'm just curious.

    seriously, it's not like we come to your corner and kick the d*cks out of YOUR mouth.