Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 | 2 a.m.
- Canada trip, including 74-59 win at McGill in finale, puts some of Rebels’ pieces in place
- Dunk fest: Rebels run away from Laval 97-62 in easiest victory of their Canadian tour
- 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 — The outcome of the games UNLV played over the last four days doesn’t actually mean anything, at least not in the same way it will in the regular season. The Rebels went 4-0, including Tuesday’s finale, a 74-59 victory against McGill, but you won’t find that record in any standings.
This trip, including the 10 practices leading up to it, was about working in some new players, getting to play against outside competition and learning about each other and how everyone fits into UNLV coach Dave Rice’s system. But you can still learn from a loss, some would argue even more than you can for a win. So, did winning all of these games matter that much to the Rebels?
After UNLV wrapped up its fourth and final victory Tuesday, Rice reiterated a point he had made after Saturday’s opening 74-70 victory against Carleton. It was about putting on a Rebels jersey — practice jerseys in the case of these games — and the importance of coming out on top when you’re playing for this program. His players agreed.
“We don’t go into a game just to play,” said senior Anthony Marshall, who led the Rebels with 17 points Tuesday. Marshall also made the key plays at the end of Saturday’s game against Carleton and he was the co-leader in points (18) against Laval on Monday.
Of course, it’s not surprising the players want to win. The guys who were playing the card-game spades in the team hotel would probably say the exact same thing about those late-night battles. As student-athletes, competition is woven into their DNA, and to expect or accept anything less than victory is difficult.
It would probably have been easier for Rice to handle considering he’s got several more years of exhibition games and tours under his belt.
True to his plan, Rice used four different starting lineups, giving everyone a chance to showcase their talents. He also put together a lot of different lineups, giving his players several pairings to get used to on the court. It’s a learning experience, after all, and the best way to learn is by doing, which Marshall understood.
“We wanted to go out here, win some games, get our freshmen in, see different rotations, correct our wrongs; just get better,” Marshall said.
Rice said despite the inconsistencies and lackluster finale, they definitely achieved that goal.
“It will greatly benefit us as we go back home and start preseason conditioning and get ready for regular season practice in October,” Rice said.
By the time that first practice rolls around — Fri., Oct. 12, in case you were curious — this northern journey will be nearly two months old. The Rebels believe the camaraderie, bonding and lessons learned could last all season, but other than recalling Marshall’s steal against Carleton, freshman Katin Reinhardt’s debut in the same game or debating who had the best dunk against Laval, there’s not a whole lot of on-court stories to be told.
UNLV had so little down time because of its four games in four days schedule that by October the players will likely remember the games as one giant basketball smoothie, the individual parts only slightly distinguishable from the collective whole.
“When we first left I think we all thought it was going to be kind of long,” Marshall said. “But once the games started and we started playing it flew by pretty fast. We’re about to go home (Wednesday); it seems like we got here a couple of days ago.”
A loss would have been much more distinguishable long-term in the Rebels’ minds. Odds are that had they lost, one could still extract exact details about their demise after practice in October or even much later in the season.
Yet with a perfect 4-0 record that really doesn’t matter, UNLV won’t have to hang on to minute ups and downs of each game. Instead, the Rebels use that brain space thinking of wandering foreign streets together more than 2,500 miles away from home. They will think of the pranks that surely went on behind closed doors or how it felt to be out on the court together for the first time against someone who doesn’t wear a Rebels jersey.
They’ll just remember the important things.