Despite a couple of poor offensive outings in UNLV’s last two games, Chace Stanback should still be a top priority on all opposing teams’ scouting reports. That was evident Monday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Facing a 2-3 zone, Stanback looked comfortable in scoring a career-high 29 points in the Rebels’ 81-63 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Stanback’s scoring outburst, which included eight 3-pointers on nine attempts, came after he totaled just seven points in UNLV’s previous two games.
“My teammates were really looking for me tonight,” he said. “They were able to find me when I was open and I was able to knock them down.”
It didn’t hurt that Stanback was wide open on the perimeter much of the night due to the packed-in zone defense. UNLV’s guards often were able to penetrate and dish to Stanback for quality shots. Rebels coach Dave Rice said it was an ideal situation for Stanback to get back on track after two subpar games.
“Playing against a zone is a positive for Chace,” Rice said. “He’s able to get his feet set and get open looks. A lot of that credit goes to his teammates.”
The Warhawks (1-11), who were 27-point underdogs, kept it interesting for a while, though. They hung around for the first 20 minutes before the Rebels opened up a commanding lead in the second half. UNLV (12-2) went on an 11-0 run coming out of the intermission that was highlighted by not just one, but two alley-oop reverse dunks by Mike Moser from Oscar Bellfield on back-to-back possessions. They were the only shots Moser made all night, but they were certainly the most memorable of the game.
With the hero from the Rebels’ win over Illinois on Saturday, Quintrell Thomas, out with a turf-toe injury on his left foot, Carlos Lopez stepped up in the post. Coming off the bench, Lopez had his best all-around effort this season with 12 points and nine rebounds. The job Lopez did on the boards caught the attention of Rice, who seemed very pleased with the sophomore.
“Defensive rebounding is a huge key for us. It has been one of my concerns since Day One,” Rice said. “For Carlos to get nine rebounds in 21 minutes shows his progression. He continues to get better, and Carlos is a huge part of the equation for us moving forward.”
Rice also got to employ a new weapon for his club with guard Reggie Smith seeing his first action since transferring from Marquette last season. Smith was welcomed by a standing ovation from many Rebel fans when he checked into the game with 11:32 left in the first half.
“For the crowd to come out and give me a standing ovation before I checked into the game felt great,” he said. “I didn’t play as well as I think I should have, or as well as I usually do, but that game is out of the way.”
Smith scored three points on 1-for-4 shooting with one assist and three turnovers in nine minutes. But he made his presence known quickly by knocking down a 3-pointer less than a minute into his UNLV career.
Things should get a lot tougher for the Rebels when they play Pac-12 title contender California (10-2) at the Thomas & Mack at 2 p.m. Friday.