Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2011 | 12:20 a.m.
- Live blog: UNLV finishes strong against Cal Poly, finally getting out in transition and winning 75-52 (11-22-2011)
- Rebels will face a new challenge against a patient Cal Poly squad (11-22-2011)
- Mike Moser named the Mountain West Conference player of the week (11-21-2011)
- Rebels find stroke from the outside to break zone defense, record another lopsided win (11-20-2011)
- 2011-12 UNLV Men's Basketball Schedule
- All UNLV Men's Basketball Coverage
The UNLV basketball team couldn’t have asked for a better opponent this early in the season.
Cal Poly was everything as advertised Tuesday night, giving the Rebels that step up in competition they needed and refusing to fall into the trap of playing UNLV’s fast-paced style to keep the game competitive.
Well, at least for 30 minutes.
UNLV (5-0) wore down Cal Poly midway through the second half, finally breaking the game open with easy baskets in transition and closing strong in a 75-52 victory.
The Rebels scored more than 90 points in their two previous games, when Morgan State and Canisius attempted to play at their fast pace.
Cal Poly, however, executed its game plan of being patient offensively. The Mustangs were easily the best defensive team UNLV has faced this season. They took away the perimeter for most of the game, hardly wavered in their clock-draining philosophy on offense and were more physical than the Rebels’ previous four opponents.
“I’m really proud of the job our guys did really exceeding the energy of Cal Poly,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. “Once again, it is great contributions from our bench...We just wore Cal Poly out. That is a very solid team.”
While UNLV led by seven points at halftime and increased its lead to double digits early in the second half, the Rebels could never pull away. One stat perfectly describes the flow of the game: UNLV had just two fast-break points in the first half, but finished with 17 points in transition.
UNLV led 50-38 with 10:27 remaining but scored the game’s next 14 points to take a convincing advantage. The final three baskets in the rally were all dunks in transition — two from Anthony Marshall and one from Mike Moser to bring the 12,061 fans at the Mack to their feet in what had been a game with few plays to cheer about.
“I feel like we are playing our game. That is to just play defense, get deflections and run out (in transition),” said Oscar Bellfield, the UNLV senior guard who finished with 12 points. “If we keep doing that, I don’t feel there is anyone that can stick with us.”
UNLV did significant damage at the free throw line in connecting on 25 of 31 attempts. And while the Rebels struggled from the perimeter — they made just four of 17 shots on 3-pointers after making 12 and 10 the last two games, respectively — an usual source shined on the inside.
Senior center Brice Massamba had one of the strongest games for UNLV, leading the Rebels with nine rebounds and scoring 10 points. He was the difference-maker Cal Poly wasn’t expecting, having arguably the best game in his four-year UNLV career. The offense at times went through Massamba in the post, especially with Cal Poly so focused on taking away the perimeter.
“Brice Massamba was terrific tonight,” Rice said.
UNLV will play another tough opponent at 5 p.m. Friday when it takes on USC at the Orleans Arena in the eight-team Las Vegas Invitational. The wins against Morgan State and Cal Poly were in the first two rounds of the event.
The Rebels expect another physical game against a USC team that will also try to slow the pace of the game. But thanks to their success late against Cal Poly, the players gained confidence moving forward.
Marshall felt Cal Poly’s physical play more than his teammates. In the first half, he was fouled hard while going to the basket, virtually being tackled into the photographers underneath the basket. A flagrant foul was called, and Marshall hit both technical free throws.
“By that play, we knew we had to match their intensity and how physical they were,” said Marshall, who finished with 13 points and seven assists. “They threw the first punch; we just happened to counter.”
Moser, who entered leading the nation in rebounds at 14.3 boards per game, only finished with eight boards. He was one of five Rebels in double figures in scoring a team-high 14 points. Chace Stanback added 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and had a game-high three blocks.