Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012 | 2:20 a.m.
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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.
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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).