Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2011 | 12:30 a.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Taylor Bern and Case Keefer discuss the UNLV basketball team's victory against Louisiana Monroe. The No. 21 Rebels used 29 points from Chace Stanback is easily defeating the overmatched Warhawks.
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After that he was ready for the main course, a game-high 29 points in the 21st-ranked Rebels’ 81-63 victory against Louisiana-Monroe on Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
In Stanback’s previous two games he shot a combined 2-of-12 from the floor. He matched that in less than four minutes Monday, hitting two 3-pointers before any other Rebel put up a shot. Stanback, a senior guard/forward, finished 8-for-9 behind the 3-point line and 10-of-13 overall.
“The important thing is just to stay confident and remain focused on each game,” Stanback said, “because you always have another game. Until you get knocked out.”
Coach Dave Rice said effort wasn’t Stanback’s issue against Illinois and suggested that the difficult schedule during finals week may have played a role.
Whatever the case, the Rebels filled in for their leading scorer the last two games. And then he returned the favor.
UNLV (12-2) went into halftime with just a 37-27 lead as Louisiana-Monroe (1-11) used up a lot of the shot clock and slowed the game down. At that point, Stanback had more than half of the Rebels’ total made field goals and just less than half of their total points.
A borderline game quickly turned into a blowout because of an 11-point run highlighted by back-to-back alley-oops from Bellfield to Moser, who finished each with reverse slams. The crowd erupted and the Warhawks’ slim chances slipped out the door.
“It’s remarkable what a good second-half team we are,” Rice said.
UNLV played well in the first half. It shot 53 percent from the floor and turned over Louisiana-Monroe 10 times. But the Rebels weren’t getting enough shots because the Warhawks worked the shot clock and limited the number of possessions.
That run to start the second half was all it took to force Louisiana-Monroe out of its game plan and into the Rebels’ track meet. Why didn’t it happen earlier? Well, UNLV is still figuring that out.
“I definitely feel like the second half is where we really just come out with full energy,” Bellfield said, “like how we should at the beginning of the game, actually. But that’s just something we’ve got to work on.”
Before Moser’s slams, the biggest crowd reaction was for sophomore guard Reggie Smith.
Making his Rebel debut, Smith, who transferred from Marquette, checked in about midway through the first half.
He promptly committed a foul on the defensive end, then made up for it with a 3-pointer at the other end. Smith said he had multiple dreams about his first attempt. It went better in real life.
“My first shot I took in my dreams, I never made it,” Smith said.
He played just three minutes in the first half and nine for the game. Smith said he was winded after that first series of possessions, partly because he hasn’t played at game speed in about a year and also because he was overanxious for his first minutes on the court.
His performance wasn’t great. In fact, on one play Smith let an inbounds pass be played off his back, something teammates are sure to remind him of often.
“I’ve never had that happen to me,” Smith said. “But that’s out the window.”
The important thing is he got the first game out of the way, and the next few will be about getting him into game shape.
Four Louisiana-Monroe players finished with double-digit points, led by center Steven McClellan’s 16. Hugh Mingo (15), Trent Mackey (13) and Fred Brown (12) also got involved.
In the paint, UNLV sophomore center Carlos Lopez continued his stretch of solid games with 12 points and nine rebounds. However, junior center Quintrell Thomas didn’t get a chance to parlay his 13-point effort against Illinois because of an injury he suffered in the second half of that game.
Thomas injured a toe on his left foot, but finished out the game and practiced on Sunday. However, Thomas met with trainer Dave Tomchek and decided to rest because of the turf toe.
“They both decided it would be in our team and Quintrell’s best interest for him not to play tonight,” Rice said. “I know that Quintrell was frustrated, especially after how he played on Saturday at Illinois, but I felt it was very important for him to get well.”
The Rebels expect Thomas to be good for Friday’s home game at 2 p.m. against California (10-2).
Stanback may not have the same determination to get a bad taste out of his mouth in the beginning of that game. But if the Golden Bears slack off at all, he’ll dig in just the same.
“I’m not going to turn down an open jumper,” Stanback said.