The Dave Rice coaching era began in workaday fashion Nov. 11, as the Rebels defeated Grand Canyon University—a Division II team, but one with a number of Division I transfers—83-66. The Antelopes gave the Rebels a run for their money, staging a late first-half comeback and trailing by just one point at halftime.
Going into the game the Rebels knew that they would be short-handed, with only seven scholarship players available. Anthony Marshall was suspended for one game because of NCAA rules for playing in a summer league game, Chase Stanback was out because of a suspension during the spring and Carlos Lopez has a sprained ankle and he’s out for a while. Coach Dave Rice seemed worried as both his big men got in foul trouble early in the game. Knowing his bench was already thin he went to small forward Karam Mashour for some extra athleticism and enthusiasm.
What was impressive was the way this thinned-out UNLV roster adjusted in the second half: The defense tightened up; the offense was more aggressive. Justin Hawkins, previously thought of as a defensive specialist, finished with a career high 25 points. Sophomore transfer Mike Moser had 16 points, and 20 rebounds and Oscar Bellfield played well although he was in a lot of pain with leg cramps, with 12 points and dished out 6 assists. Brice Massamba had 10 points, and Quintrell Thomas scored 12 points and pulled 7 rebounds—an encouraging showing in the post with Lopez missing. Kendall Wallace, playing 38 minutes on sore knees and chipped in 6 points on two 3-pointers that were the high point of the Rebels’ lackluster first half. Mashour, auditioning for a spot in the Rebel rotation, finished with two points on a hard slam dunk.
Tonight’s game at Reno will be a tougher test. The Wolf Pack was not impressive in a 22-point home loss to Missouri State, but they figure to be more inspired for the rivalry game. On the other hand, the Rebels will be have Marshall and Stanback back, and we’ll get a better chance to see what the Rice era really has in store.