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UNLV Notes: Big man trio continues to impress Rebels coach Dave Rice

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Brice Massamba reacts after a Quintrell Thomas dunk against Boise State 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.

In Dave Rice’s perfect world, his big men would steal the headlines and, specifically, senior center Brice Massamba would be a household name.

The reality is that UNLV’s guards and inside-out players dominate the storylines because none of the Rebels’ trio of centers — Massamba, junior Quintrell Thomas and sophomore Carlos Lopez — rank in the top five in scoring or top three in rebounding. It’s also because all three men combine to fill that vital position, and on any given night their minutes may change drastically based on matchups.

In Wednesday night’s 75-58 victory against Boise State, Rice played Lopez in the first half for two minutes so that he could play a little inside-out with dunk victim Drew Wiley. Then in the second half, Rice liked the challenges Thomas presented the Broncos’ defense.

Thomas played nine minutes, all in the second half. Lopez played two minutes, both in the first. Massamba made his first four shots and scored 14 points in 27 minutes, which is tied for the second-most time he has played in a game this season.

None of them know exactly what to expect as far as court time even minutes before a game. The situation is far too fluid for that kind of stability.

Yet after almost every game this season, Rice has praised at least one of the trio, if not all three, for their contributions in crucial situations.

They never know which one of them is going to make the big plays. But neither does their opponent.

“The development of our five men has been one of the reasons why we have 23 wins and why we’re top 20 in the country,” Rice said. “And the reason it works is, No. 1, those guys have gotten better, but No. 2, even though they would like to be playing more minutes they accept their roles and they’re just committed to winning. I think that’s the epitome of what we want our team to be about.”

Reggie in the rotation

Sophomore guard Reggie Smith played 11 minutes against Boise State, just his second double-digit time on the court in the last 11 games.

He scored five points on 2-for-2 shooting, but his game also included the errant passes that have marred several of his performances.

Despite the struggles, Rice said that he was very happy with the lift Smith brought the team off the bench. And for the rest of the year, Smith will probably be right around that 10-minute mark as UNLV works to find the most effective lineups as well as keep starting guards Anthony Marshall and Oscar Bellfield healthy for the postseason.

Rice said earlier this week that he wanted to play Smith more minutes against New Mexico, but he only stayed out there for seven minutes because of foul trouble.

As long as he isn’t a liability, Smith will get a chance to be a major contributor the rest of the way.

Nothing free about them

After an 11-for-22 performance at the free-throw line on Wednesday, UNLV is shooting 67.3 percent at the line for the season. That ranks dead last in the Mountain West and about 210th in the country.

The Rebels have shot 55 percent or worse at the line in three of their last four games.

If UNLV has any chance of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament that has to improve drastically. The Rebels wouldn’t be the first team to be derailed by their failure to make the easiest shot in the game (see: Memphis Tigers, 2008).

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

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  1. WHY should SMITH be a REGULAR contributor? Kid sems nice and all but He is clearly not ready , especially on the big stage. Id rather see KAram Mashour get a chance to see what he can do. The Rebels will need a spark come tourney time, someone off the bench....Give Karam a chance now, I say. Find out what you havem because we all know hes gunna be gone anyways. He is energetic and strong...let him run!

  2. i'd be more impressed with massamba if he'd be 6'10" and get more than one rebound.

  3. Looks like this year's Rebels are more worried about their twitter replies than boxing out or defending the perimeter or making FTs or getting to the line. Early exit coming up. Oh well maybe next year

  4. Rebeljedi, where you not watching the games early in the non-conference season? Mashour has had his shot against inferior opponents. He looked out of control on offense and lost on defense.

    We need Reggie to spell Oscar and Marshall because they looked tired and careless at times.

  5. I'm really impressed with the progression of the bigs this season. They seem to run the floor a lot better, and have some really good post moves that they didn't have in years past. Massamba for sure has gotten the most improved player so far this season in my eyes. Reggie gives some great energy to relieve Marshall and Bellfield for some time. I thought the rotation last night was spot on.

  6. Oscar is careless. Reggie saying he will start next year? Lmao! No shot. Easy Katin takes his spot.

  7. @Jerry---Im talking about an extended chance to play for Mashour....you cannot tell me he will not be more productive than the minutes that Wallace and Smith have been getting.......Walalce and Smith both hurt the team badly against New MExico last week....thats where lead slipped.....KATIN had better strat or its a crime next year--

  8. Mashour seems like a nice kid, but there's no way I'd be giving him extended minutes this late in the season with so much on the line.

    I honestly think TCU has a shot against New Mexico, as they are similar to UNLV in that they are a VERY different team at home. If (and that's a big if) the stars somehow align, I'd want to be in the best situation to win out. That situation does not include extended minutes for a guy who at one point refused to even go into a game when Rice called him into action.

    Reggie brings speed off the bench. When our guys are starting to slow down the game, Reggie gets us back up to tempo. I think he has been careless with the ball on more than one occasion, but has awesome potential to help run the point in the future.

    For those who think too much time is being spent on Twitter, give me a break. I don't think any of us have the right to question the majority of these player's dedication to the game. I'd be willing to bet no person here is even half as dedicated to their craft. They all know how much is at stake. With that said, they can't possibly practice every waking second, although I wish they would... especially on free throws.

    Go Rebels!