Blog Entry

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

Posted on: November 27, 2011 1:21 am
Edited on: November 27, 2011 1:47 am

By Matt Norlander

With his former coach, Jerry Tarkanian, and the kid he wants to coach, undecided No. 1 2012 prospect Shabazz Muhammad, sitting courtside, first-year UNLV coach Dave Rice led his team to one of the biggest upsets he’ll ever have in his coaching career.

Even if it’s only November, any time you knock off North Carolina and they’ve got a 1 next to their name, it’s a big deal. You know what, the latter need not apply. And Rice may never nip a top-seeded team off again — or he could wind up collecting another half-dozen by the time he retires, decades down the road. The point is, it’s the best possible start to his time in Vegas he could’ve asked for.

And it’s quite a storyline for us, the college basketball-fanatic public, to take in. The Runnin’ Rebels gave the sport its biggest upset of the season so far, decisively taking out the Tar Heels 90-80 Saturday night at the Orleans Arena in the finals of the Las Vegas Invitational. This wasn’t a skin-of-the-teeth W. This was a bombs-away affair that Vegas had in the bag with five minutes to go.

(So much for this prediction, huh?)

“We were definitely confident that we could win the game,” UNLV sophomore forward Mike Moser said by phone late Saturday night as he boarded the team bus on the way back to campus. “We were surprised we controlled the game like we did. Other than that, our mentality is to attack, attack — on defense and offense.”

It’s not like North Carolina to play the way it did Saturday night, with a lack of attack. Was it what UNLV did, or what did UNC not do that surprised him most?

“Nothing, really,” Rice said by phone after the game. “I was just proud of the resolve our players showed. We have become a very good second-half team. One of the strength of our team is our depth. We have unbelievable confidence with the five guys who start and four guys who come off our bench.”

UNC’s probably just as good as we expect them to be. This was a bad night for them. But UNLV? Could be a lot better than we expected — and plenty expected this team to be NCAA tournament-worthy. The victory Chace Stanback, Moser, Oscar Bellfield and others got for their team, their program, their city tonight — it’s season-making. It doesn’t get much more motivating or valuable than to beat the top-ranked team in the country on your soil. (It wasn’t a true home game, but it might as well have been.)

Stanback led the team with 28 points, Moser hit some huge 3s throughout the game, but Rice said Bellfield was the guy in those critical spots who came up large tonight. And his confidence and presence in the timeout huddles was the continual shot of adrenaline that kept the team on a whir.

“Oscar Bellfield is a tremendous leader,” Rice said. “He’s the guy, along with Anthony Marshall that makes us go. To start the game, the 3-point shots Oscar hit made us a confident team.”

Vegas shot 13-of-32 from 3 and 15-of-18 from the foul line to help keep distance from Roy Williams’ team in the second half. Thirteen offensive boards and 22 assists also helped; amazingly, UNC only committed nine turnovers, yet wasn’t even sniffing a comeback in the second half. The 14-0 run that UNLV started the second half with was clearly the key — UNC couldn’t return the shots, both metaphorically and realistically.

“We try to coach, try to play based on what the defense gives us,” Rice said. “North Carolina is such a good defensive team, they really took away our inside game.”

UNC became the second elite team to lose to an unranked opponent in the past 30 hours. UConn fell to Central Florida Saturday.

Moser said he was 100 percent confident his team was winning with a minute to go, when Chace Stanback was on the line. Not a second before that, though.

“The ultimate confidence in that guy at the end of the game,” Moser said of his teammate.

As for those 3 balls that kept getting tossed into the Vegas air, Moser said that wasn’t in the team’s game plan to start.

“Honestly, the 3s really just came naturally,” he said. “They (UNC) were in the paint so much.”

Ben Howland’s month just got worse, too. The UCLA coach, who doesn’t have a win over a D-I team yet, watched as Moser and Stanback, two guys deemed not good enough for the Bruins, just plotted their team to the front page of every major sports website tonight and into Sunday morning.

“I am really, really happy for our staff,” Rice said. “We’ve got really good assistant who left other opportunities to come to this program. We had 11 scholarship players returning, and they all stayed. When so many guys transfer, I’m so happy for them to get this kind of win after committing themselves to this staff and our program.”

Carolina will get its chances (starting Wednesday against an incredibly tough Wisconsin team, then at Kentucky Saturday) to prove itself over and over. UNLV doesn't have to. It has to keep winning, but it doesn't have to do better than it did tonight. Its season was made thanks to an aggressive game plan and a fearless group that took advantage of a top-ranked team that looked uninspired and irresolute throughout the second half.

Photo: AP
Category: NCAAB

Since: Nov 28, 2011
Posted on: November 28, 2011 12:21 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

I was there as a Carolina fan, there were 2 sections of mostly Carolina fans, and there were about 8 sections that we mostly UNLV fans.  Obviously, many of the Carolina fans were not regular attendees of games, in other words casual fans or people around the country that like UNC and could easily travel to Vegas to watch a couple of basketball games easily.  In the case of the UNLV fans there, they were rabid fans from Las Vegas area.  So, even though the actual fan base split was probably closer to 70/30 the enthusiasm level was about 90/10.  While not technically a road game for Carolina it was definitely a home game from an atmosphere level for UNLV.  The referees were awful (both ways) and the announcer was a homer supreme.  I am guessing he regularly does Rebels games or he wants to. 

UNLV played better than Carolina and deserved to win. That said, they were a poorly coached team, and with an almost double digit lead under three minutes to go were chucking up 3 balls with 30 seconds on the clock after breaking the press.  Against a good team or even a decent team on the road UNLV would have probably lost the game because of their lack of discipline.  So, for those wanting to promote the coach to Tarkanian status, probably true, which is not saying a lot, IMHO.

I was sitting at a restaurant bar in the Venetian having lunch on Saturday wearing some Carolina colors, when some UNC fan came up to talk to me and was asking if I had watched the UNLV vs USC game Friday.  I said yes.  He said I don't think UNLV can cover the 7.5 point spread.  I said they looked tall enough and athletic enough to compete with anyone on a home court situation.  He walked away thinking I was crazy. 

So, a big upset, yes.  A surprising big upset, no. 

Since: Jan 30, 2008
Posted on: November 28, 2011 9:47 am

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

Loiusville are scared of this Running Rebel team . Rebels beat them  2 out of the last 3 years and then Loiusville opted out of their game with UNLV this year just like ARIZONA did. Smaller schools like Butler and UNLV will never get the respect they deserve  a fact of life but it is oh so gratifying when they beat these big conference teams  that are way overrated for the most part. This game was one of the better displays of basketball I have seen in a while . High paced high energy not this slow down isolation basketball that has been ruining the game for years!!

Since: Mar 30, 2009
Posted on: November 27, 2011 9:18 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

They may yet end up with Coleman.  But again, these kids nowadays are into instant gratification, and if they are going to spend a couple years at a school, why not be at one where the rebuilding is complete, and not just getting underway?  Why not where you can get everyday communication and instgruction from John Wall, Boogie, Patrick Patterson, Rajon Rondo, etc etc etc?  You are correct, we will see, and it is these types of debates that make the recruiting questions fun to ponder.  I do not claim UK gets everyone they go after, tho Cal DOES get his man 8-9 times out of 10.  I am just saying, in terms of what a school can offer a kid who has no intention of being there any longer than he has to be....

Since: Nov 27, 2011
Posted on: November 27, 2011 8:58 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

As far as the crowd split between UNLV and UNC does, the tournament offered a certain amount of seats to the various schools to sell to those willing to make the trip. UNC has a very good away crowd, but in spite of that there were seats left unsold. They were offered to anyone in a one day sale. The local ESPN radio affiliate pushed the sale on air, to do for the Orleans what is usually done at the Thomas and Mack, i.e. pack the seats with Rebels fans. The open seats were quickly sold. So while there could have have potentially been unused seats, or many more blue shirts in attendance, they were instead filled with scarlet and gray. 60/40 sounds about right.

Since: May 13, 2010
Posted on: November 27, 2011 6:57 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

You better HOPE the NBA stays at one and is the ONLY way UNLV would even a prayer with Shabazz over UK.

Yeah, yeah, yeah....I hear you...just like UK got Coleman from SU.  IMO...if Shabazz was there, it was to see what they really had at their worst moment.  Why go unless this type of win doesn't tilt you in that direction?  For the courtside seats and a chance to shake hands with Barnes?  We will see.

Since: Sep 5, 2006
Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:52 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

This one was ugly.  Just like Kentucky was able to do in the Elite 8, UNLV killed UNC from three point range by outscoring the Heels 39 to 12 (Kentucky outscored Carolina 36 to 9 from downtown).

Although the Runnin' Rebels were 13 for 32 from three point range, UNC was lucky it wasn't worse because virtually none UNLV's three point attempts were even contested.

Furthermore, UNLV played with much more urgency than the Heels and seemed to want this game more as evidenced by the fact that the Rebels dominated UNC on the boards (Mike Moser alone had 18 rebounds).

The upcoming week could be a very unpleasant one, if Carolina doesn't ratchet up its energy level a couple of notches.

Wisconsin made 13 of 24 three point attempts last night and favors a style of basketball that is tough to play against (as well as brutal to watch), while Kentucky has been looking ahead to Saturday's game for months.

These next two games should provide a pretty good idea of Carolina is really made of from an effort and toughness standpoint.

Since: Mar 30, 2009
Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:39 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

jonvi, Shabazz is NOT already a Runnin' Rebel, and here is why.  With the NBA possibly (probably) going 2 years and done, instead of one, Shabazz is asking himself where does he want to spend TWO years, and where will he have a chance to win a title.  And that is UK.  Darius Miller will be gone next year, and probably Terrence Jones and maybe Doron Lamb.  Shabazz steps in with Davis, Kidd-Gilchrist, Teague????  Forget about it.  You better HOPE the NBA stays at one and is the ONLY way UNLV would even a prayer with Shabazz over UK.

Since: May 13, 2010
Posted on: November 27, 2011 4:13 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

I don't care what you say, beating UNC anywhere is special.  And to just top of the cake with ice cream: 

With his former coach, Jerry Tarkanian, and the kid he wants to coach, undecided No. 1 2012 prospect Shabazz Muhammad, sitting courtside, first-year UNLV coach Dave Rice led his team to he’ll ever have in his coaching career.

If he wasn't before, Shabazz is a Runnin Rebel now. Shoot if they need a over 50 fat guy with an appreciation for JD...sign me up too!

Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: November 27, 2011 3:40 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

Are there any UNC fans on this planet who remember what team sent them home last year? You guys are still talking ish about beating UK in a regular season game when a much lesser talented Kentucky team stole your Final 4 hats the same season.

Since: Oct 9, 2006
Posted on: November 27, 2011 12:35 pm

UNLV beats No. 1 UNC; upset of the year to date

Perimeter defense wll be the Heels achilles heel all year long.  Roy Williams is an avergae coach who can only win with talent.  Game time adjustsments were terrible.  Carolina doesn't have enough athletic players

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