The National Finals Rodeo was in town and pushed UNLV’s game against Division III La Verne out of the Thomas and Mack Center and up the road to the Orleans Arena.
The move certainly didn’t take the 20th-ranked Runnin’ Rebels out of their game.
Freshman Anthony Bennett scored 27 points to lead UNLV to its sixth straight win, a 91-44 victory Thursday night in its home away from home.
”He’s (Bennett) able to use his versatility,” UNLV coach Dave Rice said. ”Our guys have done a terrific job of post feeding him.”
Bennett, who went into the game averaging 19.5 points, has led the Runnin’ Rebels (8-1) in scoring in eight of their nine games and each of their last seven. The 6-foot-8 forward ranks second in scoring in the Mountain West Conference and 34th nationally, leading all freshmen.
”When we’re at our best, the ball moves,” Rice said. ”It makes us extremely hard to guard. One of the points of emphasis for us the last couple of weeks is to make sure we shoot our outside shots off of post feeds, kickouts and dribble penetration.
”When we share the ball like we did in the second half, good things happen.”
After shooting 40 percent (12 of 30) in the first half, the Rebels shot a blistering 65.5 percent (19 of 29) in the second – including going 3 for 3 from 3-point range. The Rebels’ 52.5 field goal percentage for the game was their best output of the season.
Katin Reinhardt added 14 points, while Savon Goodman chipped in 13 for UNLV, which opened the game on a 15-2 run.
”I tried to be more aggressive than the guys defending me tonight,” Goodman said. ”We put more emphasis on coming out in the second half, getting defensive stops and running in transition.”
Junior forward Mike Moser, third on the team in scoring (10.9) and tied with Bennett at a team-leading 8.3 rebounds, sat out the game. He dislocated an elbow early in the Rebels’ 76-75 win at California on Sunday.
Vince Bauer had 16 points and Jake Veith added 11 for La Verne (1-5), which has lost five straight and dropped to 0-9 all-time against UNLV.
After opening a 38-21 halftime lead, the Rebels went ahead 47-30 with 14:28 left in the game and then closed the game on a 44-14 run.
”We went out playing as if they were an NCAA tournament team,” Reinhardt said.
La Verne, a private school located in the Los Angeles suburb of the same name, came in shooting 40.3 percent from the field and 42.3 percent from 3-point range. The Rebels held the 31.4 percent from the field and 20.0 percent from beyond the arc. La Verne came into the game averaging 59.2 points while allowing 63.4 points.
”Our number one goal coming into this game was we wanted to execute the things that we practiced, and we did that,” La Verne coach Rich Reed said. ”But some of our shots just didn’t fall for us.”
Though they are worlds apart as far as caliber of play, there is a series history between the schools. They played a home-and-home in 1962 and 1964 and last met 47 years ago, in 1965.