rebels basketball:

Break will allow UNLV basketball to prepare for long haul

Riding a seven-game winning streak, Rebels have longest layoff of season before Jan. 14 tilt at San Diego State

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Mike Moser talks to Quintrell Thomas after Thomas scored and drew a foul against Cal State-Bakersfield Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. UNLV won their final non-conference game 89-57.

UNLV vs. Cal State-Bakersfield

UNLV's Mike Moser, Carlos Lopez, Oscar Bellfield and Brice Massamba celebrate a Karam Mashour dunk against Cal State-Bakersfield during their game Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012 at Rabobank Arena in Bakersfield. UNLV won their final non-conference game 89-57. Launch slideshow »

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.

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

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  1. I am excited to see how we come out and play at SDSU. I think we have already seen the great character of this team, but how they come out and perform after an 8-day layoff will tell us a lot about what we can expect the rest of the season. Long layoffs are good for getting rest and addressing issues, but they can also kill any momentum a team has going for it before the break. So, it will be interesting to see how we respond.

    Great to see all of the MWC teams with an above .500 record. Of course the haters will say that doesn't matter at all, since many teams are beating up on inferior opponents (like Air Force taking out lowly Chicago State last night), but still, you have to play who is on your schedule, and I'd rather the teams in our conference to all have winning rather than losing records. It should be a fun conference season--let's keep playing like we have the first half of the year and take home that conference title!

  2. I think this is the benefactor in beating sdsu. We have 9 days to prepare for them (7 now)...and they will have only a few days to prepare for just a huge question mark of an offense we will put against them. Our defense too. I mean seriously, on paper and stats, sdsu has no shot. But because Viejas will be rocking, will be close. If they decide to run with us, the game is handedly ours; but if they choose to play half court offense...that's how they stay In the game.

  3. Wait, didn't Creighton best these guys at home? Seriously? Creighton? Not saying their bad but I saw them get torched by saint joes or someone. I mean if Creighton, who doesn't have our offense nor defense, can beat them...we surely can. Just saying. Plus with the past two years, our players are furious and ready to get after them. If unlv plays the way they did against unc and Illinois as far as the hungry meter goes, they can pound sdsu. Up to the boys. Aggressiveness and just pure focus is key.

  4. Seriously creighton? You mean the creighton team that beat wichita state on the road? Just in case you didn't know that wichita state team beat us by 20.... Someone needs to watch a little more basketball before they comment and sound dumb.

  5. Ha! I was waiting for an idiot to surface. A Creighton who got demo,used by saint joes and Missouri state...two teams that aren't good whatsoever. Good deed, they won on the road at Wichita...do you think Wichita cared more about that game or beating the undefeated rebels who just beat unc? Put it into perspective you fool because Wichita is actually not good at all and I'll be surprised if they make the tourney. So, we lost to them, then got pounded by Wisconsin...but since then, an Illinois and cal team later...doesn't look like the same rebel team. Wichita won because a player made 9 three's...Oregon beat us in the sweet 16 because their player made 9 threes also. Take a mediocre Wichita team with a not so hot player and we would crush them. Face the facts. Fool.

  6. SDSU is no joke this season or any other season. They are always an extremely athletic team, that rebounds exceptionally well. As for Creighton talk, they are legit this season. The great thing about college basketball is anything can happen and that's why it's so exciting.

  7. I'm sure that they cared more about the creighton game more since that is a rivalry game, they are in the same conference(just wanted to let you know). Stop reading the box score to me cause i watched the game...Pounded by wisconsin? So you didn't see brust go 7-7 from 3? Glad your on the band wagon this year, just make sure to stay on it! I have been going to games and been a fan forever. Have had season tickets since the days of sunshine smith, clayton johnson, and warren rosegreen. Those were the rough days! You prob didn't follow the team then. I'm sure you had your house payment on the rebels +2 and your trying to just justify your loss. Please stop bringing up the sweet 16 appearance 4 year ago. It was 4 years ago! It's the 2011-2012 season. Stop with your "on paper" we should dominate.

  8. in my opinion, this team is better than the Sweet 16 team. Prove me right Rebels!!

  9. Creighton is good behind a POY candidate but SDSU blew a 17 point lead to them.... They wont have the opportunity to do that to this Rebel team. Their weak schedule is going to come back and haunt them once conference play starts because it will be really tough night in and noght out and they havent been tested. Since they played Cal they havent beaten anyone and alot of the teams they played have losing records. Their month and a half vacation is coming to an end real soon.

  10. Your naming guys from decades before the sweet 16 appearance...yet you're telling me not to bring it up? Creighton got slapped around by saint joes and I watched that game...they looked like a 10 seed caliber team. SDSU during a two week span escaped a bunch of nail biters that could easily been won by the opposing team. Unlv has time, they have caliber, and a better defense; conclusion, unlv pounds sdsu.

  11. Named those guys off to show i didn't just jump on the band wagon like you did back in 07. I have been through the hard times. I'm a third generation las vegan and have grown up watching unlv basketball. I know what i'm talking about. Conclusion...sdsu makes it another nail bitter that can go either way because of the fact they are playing at home.

  12. Oscar, Chace, Marshall, Carlos, Bryce etc. have some scores to settle with SD. They will be determined and ready. Rebs win in a tough game, but one where UNLV clearly looks like the better team.

  13. Road games are a different kind of beast, and arenas such as Viejas arena aren't easy to win at. It'll be interesting to see who is favored and I expect a very close game.

  14. Agreed this will be a close one. Watch the turnover situation, Rebels need to value the basketball and turn over SDSU, where we can capitalize in transition. Bigs should have an easy time inside, Lopez, Massamba, and Thomas need to be active early on and throughout the game as we have a definite advantage there, and that shoukd open it up for Chace and Moser.

  15. If you have ever been to a UNLV SDSU game at Viejas you know this will most likely not be a blowout for the Rebels. This will be a tough game against a tough team with a good coach. I think the Rebels win because I think they are the clearly better team and as long as we show up and play well we will come out on top. As far as Creighton and WSU. Whoever is on here saying that they are not good teams is sadly misinformed. Creighton leads the country in FG% and assists/gm and they are 7th in pts/gm. They are better than us in all those categories. If you have watched them they are very good and very well coached.... and both WSU and Creighton have top 35 RPI's. Both those teams are better than Wisconsin which was by far our worst and ugliest game. Should be an exciting game. I say Rebels by 7.