Maybe someone should have told the North Carolina Tar Heels that the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels have won 17 consecutive games in November, well make that 18. UNLV knocked off the nation’s top team and won the Las Vegas Invitational.
Led by new head coach and former player on the 1990 National Championship team Dave Rice, the Runnin’ Rebels are off to a 7-0 start. After beating USC in the first round and previously undefeated North Carolina, the Rebels should find their way into the Top 25 rankings.
Sparked by a second half run there was never a moment where the Rebels were in trouble against the No. 1 team in the nation.
UNLV’s ball movement and tenacity dominated the game and confused UNC at times. Every loose ball there was a UNLV player scratching and grabbing for it. It was if they were destined to do the unthinkable and beat the top team in the nation.
The Rebels took advantage of numerous pick and roll plays and knocked in 13 3-point baskets which matched a season high.
Mike Moser, one of the top rebounder’s in the nation continues to play some of the best basketball on the team. Moser, a 6-foot-8 sophomore put in 16 points and led all players in rebounding with 17.
While many may think UNLV had a home field advantage that was not the case. The Las Vegas Invitational, played at the Orleans Arena, only sits 7,471 and there were at least 3,000 in Carolina blue rooting on their team.
When the North Carolina Tar Heels signed up for the Las Vegas Invitational they knew the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels were no pushover. Under new head coach Dave Rice the Rebels’ display key traits from the 1990 NCAA Championship team that once featured players like Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and even the head coach.
The top-ranked Tar Heels previously won the LVI in 2007 and dismantled South Carolina in the first round by 25 points while UNLV beat a strong defensive USC team 66-55.
One of the biggest changes from last season is the UNLV has changed the way they attack the basket under the new coach. It seems to be working as they are averaging 80.3 ppg and a healthy 48-percent shooting. One of the biggest differences is when they are shooting the ball. Under the game plan of Lon Kruger the Rebels were taught to shoot at certain times of an offensive set, but under Dave Rice, they want leaders like Oscar Bellfield, Justin Hawkins and Chase Stanback to just shoot. It worked because four out of five UNLV starters finished the game in double digits.
The game for the Rebels shows just how far they can go this season and what they can accomplish when playing good basketball. Anything is possible when the Runnin’ Rebels come to town, just ask previous No. 1 North Carolina.