Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 | 2:05 a.m.
- UNLV crushes Cal State Bakersfield with its depth in 89-57 victory
- Karam Mashour’s dunk gives UNLV a highlight to cherish all season
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 89, Cal State Bakersfield 57
- ESPN writer tabs Rebels as the best team in the western part of the country
- Brice Massamba suffering from concussion-like symptoms
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
The next few days will feel like spring break for the No. 17 UNLV basketball team.
The Rebels (16-2) have worked hard all season, only twice having at least a four-day stretch between games. Nose to the grindstone and all that.
Now, they have eight days between games.
You remember planning for spring break, right? Trying to figure out what to do with all that time.
Some people traveled to an exotic locale full of umbrella drinks. Then, there were the students who stayed on campus and used the time to catch up on their work. It’s not a glamorous choice, but it often pays off more than the instant gratification.
At least that’s what the Rebels are hoping.
“We won’t be laying up,” sophomore forward Mike Moser said. “We’ll be getting after each other for eight full days.”
The Rebels open conference play on Jan. 14 at San Diego State, which is probably one of the three toughest places to play in the conference, including the Pit at New Mexico and the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Aztecs also are one of three teams in the conference with a 13-2 record (New Mexico and Wyoming), and the Mountain West is one of three conferences in the country with every team above .500.
The expectations for UNLV have only climbed during the season, but it will have to make good use of this break to avoid starting 0-1.
“I think it’s really important for us to stay sharp and to do some competitive things,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “You can never simulate a game if you don’t have a game, but we do the best we can to simulate game-like conditions.”
The team practices today but is off Sunday. Rice said that on either Tuesday or Wednesday, five to six days after their 89-57 victory at Cal State Bakersfield, the Rebels will play a full five-on-five scrimmage.
Considering the seven-game winning streak they’re on and the stakes they will soon be playing for, one may think that the Rebels would prefer to keep playing regularly.
Not quite. Even the kids who stay on campus for spring break would rather do that than have regular classes.
“Time off is always good,” senior guard Oscar Bellfield said. “Touch up things, get a little rest, but also get in the gym and keep shooting.”
UNLV was the preseason pick to finish second in the Mountain West. Most people now have the Rebels as the favorite, a distinction that Rice called “a good problem to have.”
While outside expectations mount, Rice is working on basics like figuring out his rotation — Is Reggie Smith ready for big minutes in important games? — and getting his team to play as well in the first half as it does in the second half. He also wants to add wrinkles that will keep conference opponents guessing.
The Rebels have a long to-do list. They also finally have the time to start checking it off.
“As a coaching staff there’s no doubt we need to manage these days,” Rice said. “It’s a great opportunity to get healthy and it’s a great opportunity to get some extra practice time to put in some new things.”
Sounds like a productive break.