Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011 | 11:30 p.m.
- Rebels showered with media attention as they prepare for UC Santa Barbara (11-29-2011)
- Rebels ranked 18th in Associated Press poll; forward Moser honored again by league (11-27-2011)
- Rebels party like it’s 1990, knock off top-ranked North Carolina (11-27-2011)
- Trying to figure out where the UNLV win against North Carolina ranks all-time (11-27-2011)
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
While last week’s upset win over North Carolina was the UNLV basketball team’s signature victory under first-year coach Dave Rice, Wednesday night’s win at UC Santa Barbara could help define the Rebels the rest of the season.
UNLV showed great resiliency in its 94-88 victory in double overtime, using a 3-pointer from Chace Stanback with 1.5 seconds remaining in the first overtime to even the score at 84-all, and spark the Rebels to a character-building win in their first road contest of the season.
It’s a game they should have arguably lost.
Mike Moser had a career-high 34 points for UNLV, catching fire in the second-half to score 23 points and help the Rebels build an eight-point lead with less than a minute to play.
He connected on 6-of-8 of his 3-pointers, with the final long-range shot extending the Rebels lead to eight points. The vocal home fans at Santa Barbara’s Thunderdome were finally silenced, sending several to the exits for an early departure.
But UNLV couldn’t hold the lead, allowing Santa Barbara to force overtime at 81-all when center Greg Somogyi grabbed an offensive rebound and made a short layup at the regulation buzzer.
Santa Barbara led 84-81 with about 10 seconds to play in the first overtime when James Nunnally hit three fouls shots after being fouled by Stanback on a 3-point attempt.
The Rebels’ Anthony Marshall heaved the first attempt at tying 3-pointer, which was rebounded by Stanback. He stepped behind the 3-point line and buried an off-balance shot to force a second overtime.
“Man, it was beauty. I was praying it would go in,” Moser said. “I almost cried right there. It was a great shot. Couldn’t have been shot by a better guy.”
Stanback, who missed all six of his first-half shots, was clutch in one of the defining moments of the season. Sure, the victory against North Carolina is still a top moment, but not folding in a hostile road environment will give the Rebels plenty of momentum for the rest of the season.
“We were all just desperate and trying to do everything we could,” said Stanback, who finished with 19 points, all in the second half and overtime. “I was able to get the ball on the rebound. God put that shot in.”
The Rebels wouldn’t be denied in the second overtime, using a 3-point play from Stanback to increase their advantage to 88-84 with about three minutes to play and never relinquishing the lead. For as bad as Stanback played early, he more than atoned for the effort down the stretch.
As his potential tying 3-pointer floated through the air, Santa Barbara students were inches from the floor, ready to storm the court in celebration. It would have been the same thrill of victory UNLV fans experienced after the North Carolina victory, a win that vaulted the Rebels to a No. 18 ranking.
But, thanks to Stanback, the fans retreated back to the bleachers. It was definitely a defining moment for UNLV, which won for the eighth straight time to open the season.
“We talked in a couple of different timeouts about how teams trying to be champions have to overcome tough shooting nights and adversity, and different places to play. We knew being ranked this week for the first time and coming off a huge win, that this would be a big event and we certainly would have a bullseye on our back.
“We talked about being ranked and the only thing it guarantees is the effort you get from the other team will be greater,” Rice continued.
UNLV trailed 27-20 with about three minutes remaining in the first half, but cut its deficit to one point by halftime on a 3-pointer from Kendall Wallace and two buckets from Oscar Bellfield. The triple from Wallace snapped a streak of 11 straight 3-point misses.
Moser made sure that streak didn’t continue in the second half. He scored UNLV’s initial 11 points of the second half, making 5-of-6 on his 3-pointers in the half to keep UNLV out front in a back-and-forth contest.
Santa Barbara is the Big West Conference’s best team and entered with a four-game winning streak against UNLV, including a 68-62 win last year at the Thomas & Mack Center. And, the Gauchos’ Orlando Johnson, is a sure-thing NBA prospect, scoring a game-high 36 points and presenting matchup problems all night.
That makes a come-from-behind victory against Santa Barbara every bit as significant as beating North Carolina.
While Stanback’s 3-pointer was the big shot of the game, it might not have been his most important play. Stanback and Bellfield each drew defensive charges late in the game — Bellfield with seconds remaining in regulation, and Stanback in overtime — to help the Rebels stop Santa Barbara scoring runs.
“I was a little stunned. I think we all got a little frustrated at that,” Moser said of blowing the lead. “That took us away from the task at hand.”
Losing a late lead will definitely be a learning experience moving forward. Fortunately for the Rebels, it’s a learning experience that didn’t include a loss.
“The biggest thing is I’m really, really proud of our guys,” Rice said. “We know we have to get better — you know I say that after every game. But this is a great win for us tonight to find a way to come in here to win.”