BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — UNLV completed a much better than expected 16-2 run through nonconference play with a ho-hum 89-57 victory over Cal State Bakersfield Thursday night at Rabobank Arena. But it was clear that the 17th-ranked Runnin’ Rebels were already focused on their next task at hand.
A very big task.
“Nine days until we play our first conference game at San Diego State,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said of the Jan. 14 Mountain West opener at Viejas Arena. “I told the guys in the locker room after the game how proud I am with the progress that we’ve made.”
There wasn’t much to criticize after this one. Once the Rebels got warmed up, they pretty much blew the Roadrunners (7-9) off the court, using a 16-2 spurt in the first four minutes of the second half to go up by 25 points, 54-29. UNLV, which led by as many as 34 points, shot 48.5 percent from the floor, outrebounded Bakersfield, 48-33, and finished with a 18-2 edge in fast break points.
“I think the good thing about our team is that I can praise them and yet they’re not satisfied,” Rice said. “We rise to every challenge. We know that we have a tremendous challenge coming up with the start of league.”
The Rebels were led in scoring by sophomore forward Mike Moser, who had his eighth double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds) of the season, and junior guard Justin Hawkins (17 points, 4 of 7 3-pointers). Senior guard Oscar Bellfield broke out of a two-game, 1-for-9 shooting slump with 13 points (5 of 8 from the floor) and 5 assists while junior guard Anthony Marshall added 12 points and 6 rebounds, including several crowd-pleasing dunks.
The Rebels fly back from Bakersfield on Friday morning and will then take the day off. Because of the long break before their league opener against the defending MWC co-champion Aztecs, Rice said he plans to hold a game-type scrimmage with his squad during the middle of next week in an effort to stay sharp.
“You can’t simulate a game without a game but you can do the best job that you can in terms of trying to make it game conditions and getting our guys running up and down the floor,” Rice said. “(Nine days) is a long time off. It won’t be an excuse but it will be something the coaching staff will need to watch.”
UNLV’s 16-2 start is its best since the 1992-93 season.
— Mylvsports.com staff report