One of the most talent-laden games of the season is scheduled for Saturday, but unfortunately, there’s no way to get a ticket.
The much hyped Rebels are set to scrimmage even-more-hyped UCLA, but the game is closed to fans and media, per NCAA rules. UCLA is ranked No. 13 in the preseason AP poll, while UNLV checks in at No. 18. Both teams will have a slew of potential NBA draft picks on the floor, making this an intriguing matchup.
NCAA rules prevent coach Dave Rice and his players from commenting specifically on UCLA or the game, but the Rebels seem to relish the opportunity to measure themselves against such a quality opponent.
“It gives us the ooportunity to play against a very talented team, generically speaking,” Rice said. “And the other thing is we can play a full game, we can go back and play special situations. We can all play man-to-man defense, we can all play zone defense. Just a lot of combinations, varieties of things that can help us get better. And to do it against someone other than ourselves, there’s a great value.”
There are also some individual storylines surrounding the game — junior forward Mike Moser played at UCLA as a freshman before transfering to UNLV and blossoming into a star, while Las Vegas native Shabazz Muhammad chose UCLA over UNLV when it came time to make his college decision. Muhammad, the consensus top freshman in the country, may not take the court due to a shoulder injury.
Moser back in action
Rebels fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as junior forward Mike Moser returned to practice on Tuesday and looked no worse for wear. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder last year, Moser had sat out the previous two open practices with a groin injury.
Moser didn’t speak to the media afterward, but he appeared to be moving fluidly throughout the session.
Rebels run through end-game plays
The latter portion of Tuesday’s practice focused on end-of-game scenarios, with the players running through a variety of buzzer-beater situations.
The drills saw Rice coaching the offense and assistant Justin Hutson coaching the defense.
“My philosophy is that we need to work on end-of-game situations so that we’ve been there before,” said Rice. “And obviously it’s not the same being in the Mendenhall Center as it is with 18,000 people in the arena or being on the road. But if we work on those situations before, there’s a familiarity with what we’re doing and we can get ourselves in position where we can go get a good shot, or if we’re on defense we can understand our defensive scheme and understand how to get a stop.”
Junior center Carlos Lopez-Sosa left practice early after hitting the floor during a full-court scrimmage. He returned several minutes later with a wrap on his shoulder and watched the remainder of practice from the sideline.
“We’ll know a lot more probably in the next day or so,” said Rice. “Carlos is tough. He wanted to stay out there, but [athletic trainer] Dave Tomchek felt it was best to just give it some time.”
Lopez-Sosa has been playing effectively in practice, and with sophomore Khem Birch not eligible until late-December, Lopez-Sosa could be looking at significant minutes early in the season.
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