Rebels’ scoring rise has common thread

It’s rather easy to look back in the UNLV record books and find that the last time the Rebels topped the 90-point mark in consecutive games was during the 2003-04 season. The dates and games are right there in plain view: Feb. 21 vs. Colorado State (94 points) and Feb. 24 vs.Wyoming (95 points).

What isn’t as easy to see is what the common factor is between that Rebel squad and this one. The similarity—and it’s a big one—is that Dave Rice played a big role in both teams’ scoring outbursts.

Obviously, it was much different in ’04. Charlie Spoonhour had stepped down as UNLV’s coach just four days prior to the game against Colorado State. Rice and Spoonhour’s son, Jay, were on the staff and became co-head coaches, even though the younger Spoonhour was named the interim coach. That squad at that particular time was as much Rice’s as it was Spoonhour’s. The players trusted one another and used an up-tempo system to not only rally late during a mostly disappointing season, but also galvanize the Rebels’ fan base. In fact, many fans wished the tandem would get consideration for the coaching job even though bigger names were being bandied about.

The similarities are pretty shocking. Against the Rams in 2004, the Rebels showed an unselfish style that they hadn’t all season with all five starters reaching double digits in points. Facing Wyoming three nights later, UNLV dominated with its up-tempo attack, getting 26 points from both Romel Beck and Odartey Blankson.

Rice and Jay Spoonhour earned many fans for what they did in what appeared to be a lost season. They led that team to a near-magical run that ended in the final of the Mountain West Conference tournament on a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Utah’s Nick Jacobson.

More than seven years have passed since that UNLV squad electrified the Thomas & Mack Center with its exciting play. But that passion and energy has returned in full force this season. And although the names have changed greatly, one remains the same: Dave Rice.