Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Monday, Aug. 20, 2012 | 9 p.m.
- Khem Birch watches UNLV dispatch Ottawa before it heads to his native Montreal
- Bryce Dejean-Jones leads charge as UNLV pulls away for 89-76 victory
- First impressions: Taking a closer look at 5 Rebels’ debuts in victory at Carleton
- Katin Reinhardt steps up in his debut, leading UNLV to a 74-70 victory at Carleton
- Rebels explore Ottawa after rude awakening their first night in town
- North of the border: Get to know UNLV’s opponents on its Canadian tour
- The first-year successes were nice, but Rebels coach Rice says he’s still developing
- UNLV’s Carlos Lopez and Quintrell Thomas working hard to get on the court
- Roscoe Smith a picture of calm amid the uncertainty about his immediate eligibility
- Moser’s new position a focal point in Rebels’ first practice for upcoming Canada tour
- Rebels begin all-important practices for Canada exhibition tour on Saturday
- All UNLV in Canada coverage
MONTREAL — There were really no season-impacting lessons to take away from UNLV’s 97-62 runaway victory against Laval in McGill’s Love Competition Hall on Monday night.
The Rebels, who moved to 3-0 in their four-game Canadian exhibition tour, were the better team by a margin wider than the final score, and they played like it from the start of the game. There was no lackadaisical defense along the perimeter in the first half — the biggest problem in both of the Rebels’ previous victories — and UNLV had no trouble putting the game out of reach, as it did at times in the second half against Ottawa on Sunday.
No, this was an elite NCAA Division I team manhandling a lower-division Canadian squad because, well, that’s exactly what the Rebels were supposed to do.
“We got everybody in, got everybody scoring, got everybody touching the ball,” said junior Mike Moser, who scored 14 points. “It’s always a good feeling when everybody’s involved in everything that we’re doing.”
“That was pretty fun,” said junior Carlos Lopez.
Sophomore Bryce Dejean-Jones and Anthony Marshall led the way with 18 points each. Lopez and freshman Savon Goodman both scored 16, and senior Quintrell Thomas made it a half-dozen Rebels in double figures with 10 points.
The only UNLV player who didn’t score against Laval was senior Justin Hawkins, whom Moser said is battling an illness and spent most of the day in bed. Hawkins may have struggled on offense — he was 0-for-5 from the field, including two air-balled 3-point attempts — but he was a menace on defense, finishing with eight steals and five rebounds in 26 minutes.
“Just for him to be out there playing defense and running and trying to steal the ball is good enough for me,” Moser said.
The Rebels on the bench occasionally looked bored, and the ones on the floor looked more mechanical than emotional, like they were simply performing the function they came here to do. That doesn’t mean they lacked effort; quite the opposite, in fact. But the thrill of victory is often associated with the feeling of accomplishment that comes with rising to and overcoming competition. Laval simply didn’t provide much of that.
The Rouge et Or played hard and even outscored the Rebels 15-10 in the fourth quarter (the game was played under FIBA rules with four 10-minute quarters instead of two 20-minute halves). In fact, that final stretch was the first thing UNLV coach Dave Rice brought up in his postgame comments.
“Ran out of gas a little bit, and it’s just a reminder to our guys of, regardless of the opponent, how good of shape we have to be in to play the way we want to play,” Rice said.
There’s no doubt conditioning will be important for the Rebels this year, but they really don’t have any choice other than to improve in that area by the time the regular season rolls around in November. The team will be run ragged in practices and, as a result, they’re going to have stronger legs at the end of games.
Tired legs at the end of a blowout in August — their third game in three days, no less — isn’t a lesson so much as an inevitability.
Before Laval made its mini-charge at the end in front of a decidedly pro-UNLV crowd of about 200, the Rebels put together their most consistent performance of the trip at both ends of the floor.
“That’s what we’re working on,” Lopez said. “The first two games we had our ups and downs. I feel like this game we had a little bit more control of how hard we played all the time.”
The Rebels, who once again had teammate Khem Birch in the stands showing support, had to play with a nine-man rotation as freshman Katin Reinhardt sat out after injuring his left knee in the second half against Ottawa on Sunday. Reinhardt had an icepack on his knee after the game but said it’s feeling better than it did the day before.
“He very much wants to play; we know what a gamer he is,” Rice said. “He’s probably questionable for (Tuesday), but he feels good about it and (athletic trainer) Dave Tomchek feels like there’s no structural damage so we’re very confident he can get back sooner rather than later.”
Freshmen Goodman and Daquan Cook made their first career starts and the other freshman, Demetris Morant, was serenaded with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” immediately after the game from Rebels fans. The entire game had a kind of celebratory, or at least less intense, feeling than the previous victories. That environment was due in large part to the dunk contest the game turned into early on.
Of course, that contest really only included Rebels. UNLV threw down about 12 dunks of varying impressiveness. Lopez had two, as did Goodman and Dejean-Jones. When it was clear a lift-off was about to occur, the other Rebels had little better to do than grade the finish.
“(Overall) I give us a seven,” said Moser, who had at least one of his own. “We can definitely do better.”
The team returns to the same venue Tuesday for their Canadian finale against McGill at 4 p.m. Las Vegas time. Dunking may be the only thing they could improve on.