unlv basketball:

The Rebels rip through New Mexico 80-63 in front of a sell-out crowd

Mike Moser records his 10th double-double of the season as UNLV gets out and runs in the second half, wearing down the Lobos

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall drives to the basket against New Mexico during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 80-63.

UNLV tops New Mexico

KSNV coverage of the Runnin' Rebels' home win against Mountain West Conference rival New Mexico, Jan. 21, 2012

UNLV vs. New Mexico - Jan. 21, 2012

UNLV's Justin Hawkins celebrates a three-point shot against New Mexico during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

The UNLV basketball team’s speed is no secret.

There’s not an opponent on the schedule that doesn’t know about it and have a plan to stop it. But seeing it in person is another thing.

Saturday night in front of a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center crowd, New Mexico looked like a driver whose car stalled on railroad tracks with a train bearing down on him.

“I don’t think they were ready to run like that today,” UNLV sophomore forward Mike Moser said.

The Rebels (18-3, 2-1) ripped through the Lobos (15-4, 1-2) for an 80-63 victory, keeping them one game back of first-place San Diego State in the Mountain West Conference. Meanwhile, New Mexico, the preseason pick to win the conference, is two games back just three games into the conference season.

Before the game, coach Dave Rice had discussed matching the Lobos’ desperation and being the aggressors. It didn’t look like the message took at first, but about 12 minutes in, the Rebels flipped a switch on defense and turned up the pressure.

“We felt like the last five or six minutes of the first half, Mike Moser got a sense, a feel for how to guard and we did a much better job fronting the post,” Rice said.

Moser finished with his 10th double-double of the season (14 points and 10 rebounds) and also had two blocks and a steal in 38 minutes.

“We were overthinking things,” Moser said. “New Mexico, they run a lot of plays and we went over just about every one of them. Once we stopped thinking about what exactly they were doing and just kind of played basketball, it just felt more of a natural flow with our defense.”

Everything the Rebels are trying to accomplish on offense — getting out in transition and living up to their new Lob Vegas moniker — starts on defense. It’s hard to run without turnovers.

On Saturday, UNLV forced 21 turnovers and scored 26 fast-break points. New Mexico scored none.

“It started with Oscar (Bellfield's) defensive pressure,” Rice said. “Our ability to switch so many screens gives teams who run great sets, like New Mexico, a problem.”

Bellfield and Anthony Marshall guard the ball as well as any backcourt duo in the conference, and Marshall is still in a zone offensively.

He tallied 13 points, nine assists, six rebounds and four steals in 36 minutes. Marshall said the Rebels could sense the Lobos wearing down in the second half. UNLV’s plan is to impose its will on an opponent, and this game was a perfect example of that.

“Our guys have bought into the fact that we wear teams out because of our style of play, because of our conditioning, because of our bench,” Rice said.

Chace Stanback scored 13 points, including 3-of-6 shooting behind the 3-point line. Off the bench, Carlos Lopez scored 14 points, thanks largely to 14 free-throw attempts, and Justin Hawkins tallied 10 points.

Rice was especially pleased with Lopez and how well his three-man rotation at center works together on any given night.

“I told the guys after the game that it only works because of the character of Carlos Lopez, of Brice Massamba, of Quintrell Thomas and how committed they are to the team,” Rice said. “Because if they worried about their minutes, it would never work.”

Massamba had six points and five rebounds. He also had a scary moment less than four minutes into the second half.

He caught an elbow to the jaw from New Mexico’s Cameron Bairstow, drawing a flagrant foul from the refs. Massamba would eventually be OK and return to the game, but he couldn’t take the free throws. So Rice put in Kendall Wallace, who’s final stat line read 2-for-2 at the free-throw line in zero minutes.

Everything was clicking down the stretch and everyone contributed. The challenge now is taking the show back on the road and performing with the same intensity. That doesn’t come easy to this team, but Saturday’s victory gives the Rebels a good feeling to build from.

Their style makes it easy for games to get out of hand quickly. And if a team like the Lobos doesn’t come up with a counter-punch to get off the tracks, the result is the Rebels running right through you.

“It’s hard to guard when Anthony Marshall is coming at you 100 miles an hour,” Moser said.

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

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  1. Ran the Lobos straight back to Albuquerque. THAT'S the runnin' rebels tonight. It all started to click.

  2. WOW... great victory for the Runnin Rebels in front of a quite sell out crowd. Rebel fans in attendance in no way match the spirit displayed by SDSU or the fans at "The Pit" in Albuquerque, or other top ranked schools. The Rebels are ranked 14th in the nation, they are 18-3 and yet the "Rebel Fans" don't seem to catch that college spirit. Go Rebels Go...

  3. Don't see the Rebs losing anymore games the rest of the season.

  4. Jerry, go away, sports can be more than entertainment you know, nobody simply forgets what's wrong with Vegas. But to see something good come out of this place, to see OUR UNIVERSITY turning heads across the entire country is something to be proud of. You may not feel that way, but for the faithful like me, we love UNLV and revel with the rebels every chance we get. We don't usually have many chances, but Dave Rice is doing something right here, and damnit I'm going to have fun with it.

  5. Nice work, Rebels.

    Mr. Fink, if you wanna pee on my parade, you'll have to get a taller ladder.

  6. Great win Reb's! Keep it up one game at a time.

  7. I'm glad my life doesn't consist of me being miserable because other people are enjoying something.

  8. I have to disagree with you Hoosier boy... Rebels fans were not "quiet" by any means. I was at the game and watched the replay on television as well. Considering the noise is filtered before being broadcasted, I think we were VERY loud.

    The "Rebel" chant is much improved and is so unique in it's ability to be heard on television. Not many schools have a universal chant that is so easily recognizable.

    It was also easy to hear "Aaron's Better" on television as well... and I know some New Mexico fans who were embarassed to hear that one on CBS Sports.

    Rebels fans are some one of the loudest, most passionate fans around. And we are at the top in terms of attendance in the West. I honestly think the Rebels can finish out the conference season without losing again. They are THAT good.