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Rebels party like it’s 1990, knock off top-ranked North Carolina

The victory is one of the most significant in two decades, signaling another step in the program’s rebirth


Sam Morris

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez celebrates the Rebels upset of UNC with a court full of fans at the Las Vegas Invitational championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 at the Orleans Arena. UNLV beat the number one ranked Tar Heels 90-80.

UNLV shocks No. 1 North Carolina

KSNV coverage of UNLV basketball team's 90-80 victory against top-ranked North Carolina, Nov. 26, 2011.

UNLV scores big win against North Carolina

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez celebrates the Rebels' upset of UNC with a court full of fans at the Las Vegas Invitational championship game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, at the Orleans Arena. UNLV beat the No. 1-ranked Tar Heels 90-80. Launch slideshow »

Some 15 minutes after supporters of the UNLV basketball team stormed the court at the Orleans Arena to celebrate the Rebels’ upset victory against top-ranked North Carolina, coach Dave Rice finally worked his way past a long line of well wishers to the team’s locker room.

As he approached, he could hear joyful players continuing the celebration, cherishing a 90-80 victory against the No. 1 Tar Heels in the Las Vegas Invitational finals on ESPN2 that will surely propel the Rebels from being unranked to the middle of the top-25 rankings.

Rice also had a grin from ear to ear, knowing the benefits of beating a powerhouse team in building his young program. But, as the coach was quick to tell his players, it was just one game.

Sure, it was the signature victory they were looking for, and the ultimate reward for the hard work they’ve put in since Rice was hired in April. At the end of the day, however, it was simply the Rebels’ seventh consecutive win to open the season.

After all, it is still November and there is still plenty of basketball left.

“We don’t want one game to define our program,” Rice said. “It’s a huge win for us, but what we want to be judged on his our consistency over the non-conference season, conference season and over the course of years. That is what consistency is all about.

“But to do that, we have to get some of these huge wins, and this was a huge win for our program,” the coach continued.

UNLV opened the second half with 14 unanswered points to erase a four-point halftime deficit and take the lead for good. The Rebels seemed to gain more confidence as the minutes ticked off the clock, keeping the lead above six points for the final 15 minutes and creating an energetic buzz in the arena where you could sense something big was going to happen.

And it did.

On message boards and through social media, some fans are already ranking the win as one of UNLV’s top five of all-time. The Rebels hadn’t played a top-ranked opponent since beating Arizona by one point in the 1989 Sweet 16.

“North Carolina has a storied program. They have great players. They have a hall of fame coach,” Rice said. “We knew they would answer all of our runs with runs of their own. Yet every timeout, we came together and our seniors said, ‘Hey, let’s get this thing done.’”

Mike Moser, who is second nationally in rebounding average, continued his tremendous start to the season with 16 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. He drained a pair of second half 3-pointers, helping the Rebels connect on 48 percent of their field goal attempts in the half — a mark that included seven 3-pointers.

“We did better than we thought we would do this game,” Moser said. “We knew we would play them tough and keep it close, but we really handled them.”

There were roughly 30 NBA scouts in attendance to evaluate North Carolina’s roster of All-America players. But for the most part, UNLV held the Tar Heels' big guns in check. Harrison Barnes had a team-high 15 points, but Tyler Zeller made just one shot in finishing with five points, and John Henson went 4-for-12 to score 11 points.

“When you play North Carolina, when one guy gets in foul trouble, another McDonald’s All-American comes in (off the bench),” Rice said.

UNLV senior Chace Stanback, one game after being limited to four points against USC, had arguably his best game as a Rebel with a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds in 33 minutes. He was unstoppable in the second half and not shy to take the important shot.

With less than two minutes remaining and UNLV clinging to an eight-point lead, Stanback received the ball in transition and pulled up for a mid-range jump shot. The logical play in that situation would be to run some time off the clock, but Stanback calmly sank the shot to extend the lead.

Rice would have it no other way. For his up-tempo offense to work, there can’t be any hesitation in his players — regardless of the situation.

“Our guys know that when they are open, they need to shoot the ball, whether it is the first minute of the game or the last minute of the game,” Rice said. “I don’t want guys looking over wondering, ‘Does coach want me to shoot this ball or not.’”

Stanback’s clutch play led to a victory that will surely be a turning point in the Rebels' season. But like Rice, he knows the season can’t be defined by a win in November.

“It is a great thrill. But we know it doesn’t stop here,” Stanback said. “We have to keep working and get better everyday.”

Senior Oscar Bellfield had another solid game for UNLV, opening with a pair of 3-pointers in the initial five minutes to give UNLV an early lead, and finishing with 16 points and nine assists. Anthony Marshall finished with 13 points and a monster slam dunk in the first half that showed the Rebels weren’t going to back down.

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

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  1. I am so very happy for Dave, the coaches and players. What a great win!

  2. Shabazz, any doubts now???

  3. What a great win for the program. Yeah, we shot it well beyond the arc but the majority of those were wide open looks generated & designed by playing thru the post, ball movement, and other words, we were carving them thru execution! Very, very impressive. Listening Bilas go on about UNC not doing this or that was typical ACC arrogance..the reality was that we were in their grill the whole game defensively & he seemed clueless as to how well we defend and have been defending for a while now. But he called it out on Oscar though...he managed the game beautifully & was clutch in every facet. Moser is a flat out Man & it was nice to see Chace step up after disappearing vs USC. Great job top to bottom. Overall, the good news is that we beat the #1 team in the nation. The bad news is that nobody is gonna want to run with us anymore. We'll probably see alot of slow down stuff coming our way...but as long as we keep defending like we do...we'll be fine. This is gonna be Fun.

  4. congrats, UNLV!

  5. What I thought was most impressive is how much tougher we were than UNC. They are so talented but we definitely pushed them around all game. We were so much more physical and hard nosed. Best part was how we continued to keep the pedal down all game. There was no let up. How about that Tar Heels??? Runnin' Rebels!

  6. Amazing game and an amazing win for the new coach!
    What was really sickening last night was the constant gushing on ESPN by Jay Bilas and his co-host on how NC can make it back in the game and how great they are. Even at the end it was like they refused to acknowledge what UNLV was doing to them. But the Rebels did it and it was a great start to what we can only hope will be a spectacular season.

  7. Despite this win, there's no way Shabazz chooses UNLV. Now back to reality...

    Great job Reb's!

  8. UNLV dropped #1 North Carolina therefore should be #1, Go Rebels.

  9. You're right Sinatra, and there's no way we can beat #1 North Carolina either, oh......

  10. Hawkins is a great improvement story this year, but Massamba! That guy made Zeller look extremely ineffective, great job big fella!

  11. Great win!! I guess its about time for the NCAA to start messing with our program again. They can't allow those pesky mid-majors to get too big now! Haha! just kidding!

    I couldn't be prouder of our boys! keep it going!

  12. I was at the game last night, and great win for the Rebels. I did not think they'd win and I was surprised how they punched UNC in the mouth. My only issue was with some of the unruly UNLV fans. After a great play by UNLV they would get in the face of UNC fans and yell at them. Coach Williams took his team off the floor quickly and shook Rice's hand before the game was over. Teams like UNC, KU or any of the elite teams will refuse to come to Vegas if there is a chance they would play UNLV if that is how our fans act. Having teams like UNC play in LV and against UNLV on national TV is huge for our town and team. We need to make sure a few idiots don't ruin things for the rest of us. We are not Oakland... Stay classy Vegas.

  13. I'll bring this up again, hoping that something eventually will be done about it by UNLV, the MWC, opposing teams, Local TV stations, etc.....

    The UCSB, Wichita State and Hawaii games are not being televised on any level. The Wisconsin and Illinios games are on the big ten network only. Really? We can't do any better than this!!! WHAT IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT'S HOLY?!!!

    Loved the victory, just wish we could watch the encore(s). Come on Jim Livengood, do something about this right now!

  14. Agent 99 said: "What was really sickening last night was the constant gushing on ESPN".

    I agree, the announcers worked the entire week prior to the game on what superlatives they would use during the game about North Carolina. How great the NC big men were, how they had run over their other opponents etc etc. When that didn't materialize, they didn't know how to call the game.

    This shows the weakness of pre-season rankings. The raters look at the overall program including previous years and decide who will win, giving them high rankings, then along comes a team like UNLV to trash their thinking.

    Let's also recognize Lon Krueger who had some great recruiting to leave Dave Rice a great squad. I don't, however, think Lon could have produced the same outcome. Ya done good David Rice. Thanks too to the players. You've put the "running" back into the Rebels name.

  15. I am so impressed with how well the team played. Of course, most of the credit goes to the players but I also want to give a shout out to the coaching staff. As Heath Schroyer was giving instructions during one of the time outs I realized that the Rebels have an incredible team of coaches. A head coach, Dave Rice, that seems to pull all the right strings; the top recruiter in the west, Justin Hutson; a former head coach, Heath Schroyer, with experience; and the BEST player development coach you could ask for in Stacey Augmon. They had the Runnin Rebels ready for UNC and the players executed!

  16. Props to the team on a solid win. Hopefully this can propel the University back into respectability because its not happening on the football field.

  17. Fantastic game across the board. Everyone contributed, played hard, and had a solid game. That was the best defensive game I have seen the rebels play so far this season. Every game needs to be that intense and great things will happen.


  19. I didn't get to watch the game, but wish I had. Great job UNLV. This gets the alums excited.

  20. Last nights win was no accident, fluke, or luck, the game went down exactly the way it was supposed to. I know 1 win neither defines or summarizes a program but it does show the unlimited potential & the depth of talent on this team. The Rebs are inferior to no one!!

    I tried telling people that Moser has top 10 NBA draft skills & I was laughed at, tell Harrison Barnes that Moser isn't sick!! Thats alright haters you can't see skills. Moser is the only one in college hoops that can stop himself, as long as Mike stays mentally focused he will dominate all year.

    I'm pretty sure this team will lose a few games this year but overall as a staff I believe Rice & Augmon will successfully communicate how to play at an elite level consistantly. This is a really good team who can become great & even greater with the next few recruiting classes. Good times, been a long time coming.

  21. I watched the game on ESPN last night and thought the announcers were TERRIBLE!! They were talking about how great NC was and how they were going to match up against Kentucky next week and how strong their division was once again and so on and so forth,... all the while non-ranked and 7 point underdog UNLV was pulling away with a 14 point lead but they said nothing about how well UNLV played and where they might be ranked. FIRE these rookies ESPN Please!!!!GO REBELS!!!

  22. @denver, I just watched the game again (espn3 if you haven't seen it, watch it online) and suffering listening to the announcers Bilas and Schiambi it was like a 85/15 coverage towards UNC. Almmost everything that came out of their mouths was UNC, even when they messed up it wasn't the terrific defense, just the fact that they needed to take a better shot or some junk.

  23. Can people please stop talking about Shabazz? Let's support the players we have right now. We also have some really good recruits who know where they want to play and have already committed to us. They were probably loving every minute of the game last night.
    We don't need to prove ourselves worthy of Shabazz's services like we're some
    second-rate program. I say let him go somewhere else. Sure, he'd be good for the program but I think Rice and company will do just fine. If he feels there's a better coaching staff somewhere else then so be it.

  24. Loved it when Oscar took the ball straight to Tyler Zeller. No fear!!!

  25. FastCamron - You can dream all you want, but Shabazz isn't coming to UNLV. At least I'm a realist. Don't get me wrong, this was a great win for the program, but one win isn't enough to convince Shabazz to choose UNLV over a program like Duke or UNC that has a very long history of winning. We need to be consistent winners and have a big name coach to get top recruits.

  26. We'll get top recruits. We already have some that could have committed to "big name" coaches.

  27. Shabazz would be sweet but UNLV doesn't need him & will be just fine with who they already have. We'll have Moser, Marshall, & Hawkins back with the addition of Reinhardt, Jones, & Cook. Reinhardt & Jones will be superstars, don't sleep on Cook either he is the best player in Baltimore & one of the best on the East Coast. Even if Rice doesn't feel the final 2 schollies we're still looking real nice.

  28. Spell check "fill the final 2 schollies"

  29. James:

    I thought you said Moser was going to be one and done? Agree that the guy is the best player to attend this school since Shawn Marion, but he will be back next year- he has a lot more to work on but he could end up being a lottery pick if he develops a consistent outside jumper.

    Big win for the program- I do think Rice and company has this program on the right track.

  30. I'm just saying IMO he could already play in the NBA, if you have the chance to go why would you stay? If he blows up this year he will have his chance to go pro but of course that is up to Moser. To each his own..