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Take Five: Getting ready for UNLV’s Sunday game with Morgan State

Rebels look to remain undefeated, playing second of three games in six days


Sam Morris

UNLV’s Mike Moser, Carlos Lopez, Oscar Bellfield and Anthony Marshall huddle during a break in their game against Canisius on Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 95-70.

Everything went right for the UNLV basketball team Thursday against Canisius.

The Rebels, just like their “Let’s Run” marketing campaign promised, raced up and down the court for easy baskets to pick up their most impressive win of the young season in a 95-70 victory. They made 61 percent of their field goals, were 11-of-20 on 3-pointers and got significant contributions from every player in the regular rotation.

Regardless of the opponent or circumstances, it was a nice win. But, it was also a win they were supposed to get. Another winnable game is on the schedule today, when the Rebels (3-0) at 7 p.m. host Morgan State in their fourth straight home game to open the season. It is UNLV's first game in the eight-team Las Vegas Invitational, which concludes Friday and Saturday at the Orleans Arena.

Just don’t expect Morgan State to fold as quickly as travel-weary Canisius did. It’s going to be a step up in competition.

Here’s a look at the game, Take Five style:

Getting to know Morgan State: Morgan State, which is located in Baltimore, might be the Rebels’ toughest opponent to date. The Bears are a perennial power in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, winning the league crown in 2009 and ’10 to advance the NCAA Tournament. They return 11 players from last year’s team, including all five starters. Led by former California coach Todd Bozeman (102-67 in seven seasons), they are widely considered a favorite to capture another conference title. However, Morgan State (0-2) is still searching for its first win of the young season, picking up a respectable 74-63 loss at Xavier in the opener and also falling at Murray State, 80-69. Forwards DeWayne Jackson and Kevin Thompson each average about 15 points per game, and center Ian Chiles is a force on the interior with 3.5 blocks per game.

Players to watch for UNLV: Everybody. In the Thursday win against Canisius, all nine players in the Rebels’ regular rotation contributed to the lopsided victory. Five UNLV players scored in double figures and four — Justin Hawkins (17.6), Mike Moser(14.3), Oscar Bellfield (12.3) and Chace Stanback (11) — are averaging double figures for the season. The Rebels had 28 assists on 33 made field goals — a good indication the team has no superstar. The players have confidence in themselves and one another, something that must continue. Coach Dave Rice is still figuring out his playing rotation, but look for him to continue utilizing his bench. The more confident role players become early in the season, the better UNLV will be in the long run.

UNLV forward Mike Moser sails in for a dunk against Canisius during the second half of their game Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. Moser had 19 points and nine rebounds in UNLV's 95-70 win.

UNLV forward Mike Moser sails in for a dunk against Canisius during the second half of their game Thursday, Nov. 17, 2011. Moser had 19 points and nine rebounds in UNLV's 95-70 win.

The UNLV schedule: This is the sandwich game in the Rebels’ stretch of three games in six days, which is part of five home games in 12 days to open the season. On Tuesday, the Rebels host Cal Poly, which won an ugly affair Saturday with USC, 42-36, despite shooting just 26 percent. UNLV will get a crack at USC on Friday during the Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena. A victory would likely set up an ESPN2 televised game Saturday against top-ranked North Carolina. North Carolina plays South Carolina on Friday in the tournament.

Is it too early to talk rankings? Being nationally ranked in mid-November isn’t that big of a deal, but it sure makes for a good debate. UNLV is receiving votes in both the Associated Press and coaches' polls, but is still on the outside looking in at the top 25. With nine votes in the AP rankings, UNLV is the equivalent of No. 37. It has 21 votes in the coaches’ poll, which would be No. 33.

Brewer’s picks: It’s a no-brainer. Mike Moser, who is one of the nation’s leading rebounders at 13.3 rebounds per game, will continue his stellar start to the season. Opponents will have a tough time matching his athleticism — especially in transition. His second-half dunk on the fast break against Canisius was the Rebels’ best highlight-reel play this season. As for the game, it’s going to be a lot closer than people think — UNLV 71, Morgan State 62.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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  1. We have a handful of guys that can score on this team. Once they start to gel I think they'll be tough come March. I've been so impressed with Lopez, the length inside facilitates our running game. It would be nice to see QT get on track, but not sure uptempo really suits his game. I'm ready for us to break 100pts tonight. Bring on North Carolina!

  2. Does anyone have a link to watch/listen to the game?