UNLV basketball:

Long on talent, Rebels get after each other in Scarlet/Gray scrimmage

Several thousand fans filled the Mack to celebrate UNLV’s legacy and take a look at the loaded roster Dave Rice has put together this year

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett celebrates a dunk during the team’s First Look scrimmage Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack.

UNLV First Look Dunk Contest

UNLV forward Khem Birch soars to the hoop during the dunk contest at the team's First Look scrimmage Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »

UNLV Runnin' Rebels 2012 First Look

UNLV forward Anthony Bennett dunks during the team's First Look scrimmage Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012 at the Thomas & Mack. Launch slideshow »

When UNLV split into two teams for its scrimmage, the marquee event of Thursday night’s Scarlet/Gray Showcase at the Thomas & Mack Center, it was easy to believe these could be two separate nuclei of two different programs.

Katin Reinhardt led Scarlet with Khem Birch on the inside, Carlos Lopez-Sosa gathering the team at every break and Savon Goodman doing everything but successfully dunk on Mike Moser. The freshman took it at Moser twice, first drawing a foul and then getting blocked, but if there had been time Goodman would have taken it to the rim again.

Neither side was backing down, though Anthony Bennett’s game-leading 15 points proved too much for Scarlet to overcome in Gray’s 39-37 victory. The outcome hardly matters, of course, because UNLV coach Dave Rice doesn’t have to pick between them. He gets all those players, plus senior Anthony Marshall, who sat out with a minor wrist injury, and junior Bryce Dejean-Jones, who’s expected back around the start of the season.

It’s been noted many times before, but seeing all that talent running around the Mack was further proof to the fans who filled most of the lower bowl that the expectations of this team are warranted.

“There’s no doubt we have a good basketball team,” Rice said. “We’re trying to be a great basketball team.”

Thursday was mostly about celebrating. Celebrating last year’s success and this year’s roster full of potential. Celebrating the past with the legends game featuring J.R. Rider and a standing ovation for former coach Jerry Tarkanian, who was seated in his usual spot behind the basket in a black argyle sweater. These events are always good for the fan base because in October the team is undefeated and everything, especially this year, feels possible.

But there was also work to be done. The whole event came to sort of a screeching halt midway through the first of two 10-minute halves in the Scarlet vs. Gray scrimmage. The tempo and execution at that point was neither fast nor crisp and Rice called a timeout, bringing both teams together in a huddle to get them to refocus. The fact this doesn’t go in a record book didn’t matter, it was still a game in front of fans on the Rebels’ home court and Rice didn’t want to waste the opportunity.

From there the pace picked up and highlights included Justin Hawkins crashing into the scorer’s table to save a ball and Goodman diving after a loose ball in the corner. There was offense, too — Bennett hit two 3-pointers plus a nice dunk while Scarlet’s Lopez-Sosa and Quintrell Thomas combined for 21 points — but it’s more notable that guys are throwing their bodies around to win an exhibition game in the middle of October.

UNLV basketball team enters season with high expectations

KSNV reports that the No. 19 ranked UNLV basketball team play an exhibition Scarlet and Red scrimmage, Oct. 18.

How Rice puts together these stellar pieces into a rotation is going to dominate the early-season storylines. Before Birch becomes eligible in December it will be a battle down low between Lopez-Sosa and Thomas, with only one of them likely to get many minutes by January. And while Goodman showed he can try take over on offense, he said he knows that working his way onto the court is going to be more about those hustle plays he was so good at in Canada and on Thursday.

“If I can be the star player for defense that helps everybody,” Goodman said.

When you remember that Goodman was essentially the cherry on top of an already stellar recruiting class it puts UNLV’s excess of riches into perspective. He’s arguably good enough to start at all but one other Mountain West roster and he could end up being a huge piece to the Rebels’ puzzle. Or, Rice may need him only in spot duty this year. The range of possibilities for a guy like him is as wide as possible, yet for now at least everyone is getting along and sharing the ball.

They all want to be on the court and they all want to win. The Showcase scrimmage showed just how hard it’s going to be for Rice to whittle this roster down to the guys most capable of achieving that goal.

“Everybody can play,” Bennett said.

An understatement, to say the least.

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

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  1. Loads of Talent now put the talent to work as a Team Rebel's

    Pay attention foot ball team

  2. I was at the scrimmage last night and it was great to feel that energy in the T&M again. The lower bowl was mostly full and there was a lot to get excited about. Especially when you hear the big name talent coming on the floor and they are freshman.

    A couple notes:

    Biggest impact player: Anthony Bennett. Period. If you haven't seen this guy yet, he is big, powerful and talented. I expect him to be the biggest impact player UNLV has had in years. He can shoot the three and dominate the basket. There was no surprise he won the dunk contest and that he has the most natural talent on the floor. Look for this guy to be huge this year.

    Biggest ?:Savon Goodman. Although Moser denied him at the basket twice he was aggressive and definitely not afraid to take it to the hole. He was a little sloppy but he has some moxie.

    The Dark horses:Katin Reinhardt. Looked comfortable handling the ball and of course was a great assist man and occasional 3 point shooter. He'll be a fitting replacement in a role similar to Bellfield. He had a lot of energy.

    The Veterans: They were all business. As the freshman came out of the tunnel dancing and bustin' a move or two, the seniors came out stone-faced, with a mission and fire in their eyes. The leadership is there which is important considering the new talent were nipping at their heals. It was an interesting dynamic with the old and new class. I'm hoping the experience of the seniors will help promote a chemistry between them, but the talent of the new class is hard to ignore.

    Who's that guy?: Charles Rushman. This guy makes up for his lack of expression with some talent. Though he may not see much playing time this year, he was a sneaky, illusive player who made some great passes and ninja like backdoor layups. Don't know how much he'll play, but he caught my attention non the less.

    The Rest: Quintrell has a nice, improved mid-range jumper, but still needs to work on his free throws. Lopez-Sosa looked solid down low and will be a even greater with more rotation to keep his legs fresher. Birch looked good but still needs a little refinement.

    It was two 10 minute running halves so you can only see so much, and with Marshall and Bryce Dejean-Jones out it was missing that little something, considering Marshall is probably the most popular player on the team. But it was fun(and free)and the players and coaches were very nice in staying on the court so long afterwards to give autographs and pictures. I expect the upper deck to be open next year.

    Good luck Rebs! Run as One!

  3. Good event last and good attendance. I was interested to hear some of the interviews the players have given last night and from other previous events. Hearing a goal that they want to win a National Championship is a great one. However in my personal opinion I would love for them to start with winning the regular season title, then the conference tournament title and finally some NCAA tournament wins before mentioning a NCAA Championship. But on the other hand I would be more than ecstatic if they didn't win a conference tournament or regular season title and did win a National Championship. I just don't want exceptions for a team like this get out of hand. Go, Fight Win!