Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Friday, Jan. 27, 2012 | 3 p.m.
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- UNLV notes: Carlos Lopez will be reevaluated for a sprained ankle
- BOX SCORE: UNLV 77, Boise State 72
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- Rebels climb two spots to No. 12 in AP rankings, No. 15 in coaches’ poll
- Anthony Marshall’s stellar performances rewarded with league Player of the Week award
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
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DENVER — With a starting lineup featuring four players who can shoot from the perimeter, it's understandable why the UNLV basketball team occasionally ignores the interior. Yet that’s exactly what gets the Rebels into trouble on the road.
In Wednesday’s 77-72 overtime victory at Boise State, No. 12 UNLV (19-3, 3-1) fell in love with the deep shot, attempting a season-high 34 3-pointers while shooting a season-low 34.8 percent from the field.
Coach Dave Rice said he doesn’t care so much about the total number of treys his team attempts in a game, as long as they’re shots that take advantage of the defense. But Wednesday’s total was far too high given the circumstances, and Saturday’s 6 p.m. game at Air Force (11-7, 1-3) will be similar.
That’s why Rice said it would be a big opportunity for the offense to run through senior center Brice Massamba.
“It’s very important for us to do that on the road, to have a guy like Brice that we can trust,” Rice said.
At Boise State, the Rebels made their first three attempts behind the three-point line. That start triggered an onslaught of jumpers that disrupted the offense and, as soon as they stopped falling, allowed the Broncos to rally and take the lead in the second half.
“I hit my first 3 and was feeling it a little bit and took some forced shots after that,” junior guard Anthony Marshall said. "To eliminate that, we’ve got to get some things going to the rim early. We settled for a lot of long shots.”
Sophomore forward Carlos Lopez sprained his ankle midway through the second half against the Broncos and he’s questionable this weekend. That would mean more time for Massamba and junior forward Quintrell Thomas.
Both players have the ability to score in the double digits, but neither needs to make shots in order to be effective offensive weapons.
On UNLV’s final possesion in regulation at Boise State, the play started with an entry pass to Massamba, who then kicked it back to senior small forward Chace Stanback for the potential go-ahead shot with about 40 seconds left.
Stanback missed, but it was a good, open look at the basket that was set up by playing inside out. That’s the type of play that Rice would like to see executed more often in the first halves of games.
“We did a pretty good job in the second half against San Diego State and the second half at Boise of throwing the ball inside to our post players,” Rice said, “and we’ve made more of a concerted effort with that.”
Like Boise State, Air Force’s perimeter shooting is a focus for UNLV’s defense. Unlike the Broncos, who just joined the Mountain West, the Falcons are a familiar foe. That takes away the surprise, but it doesn’t make the task any easier.
“We know to expect the back doors, the flares and the 3-point shooting,” Marshall said. “In order to get a win against Air Force, it takes a disciplined team. They spend like 30 seconds running their offense and then if they miss, they could spend another 30 seconds running their offense, so you could spend almost a minute playing defense.”
And much like several of UNLV’s non-conference opponents, the Falcons want to slow down the game and limit possessions.
“Their style of play is unique for our league,” Rice said.
Marshall said the Rebels would have to find more conservative ways to initiate the offense, because the Falcons’ back-door cuts make opponents pay for gambling on steals.
That may mean relying on more half-court sets instead of their preferred fast breaks. In that case, Rice is confident that Massamba and the other bigs are up to the task.