In preparation for the fast approaching regular season and perhaps a necessity considering UNLV played their only exhibition game Wednesday night against Florida National, the Runnin Rebels met up with Steve Alford and his UCLA Bruins Saturday at Pauley Pavilion. In what was supposed to be a "secret scrimmage" in which no media or fans are allowed to attend, the Bruins essentially outplayed UNLV in nearly every aspect of the game. Ultimately winning by a 30-point margin.
The two teams have very similar situations going into the 2014-15 season. Like UNLV, the Bruins are returning only one starter from last season and are counting on a well regarded freshman class to quickly build chemistry and provide solid production for the team going forward. USA Today even believes so, ranking No. 36 UNLV not far off from UCLA at No. 33.
There are several things to keep in mind when evaluating this game. While it was officiated, a scrimmage is obviously not the same experience as a regular season game or even an exhibition for that matter. There is absolutely nothing on the line and without any fans in the arena, the atmosphere is completely different. Couple this with the rumors that the two teams played an additional 15 minutes after the 40 minutes of regulation, and it's clear this was nothing more than a scrimmage.
Getting into the game itself, a cause for concern would definitely have to be the Runnin' Rebels' lack of effort on the boards. UCLA out-rebounded UNLV 49-28. It doesn't make it any easier considering the two teams appeared to be on opposite ends of the spectrum shooting wise, but for the Bruins to finish the game with over 20 more rebounds than the Rebels is just unacceptable.
UNLV coach Dave Rice didn't reveal the score or throw out any stats from the game, citing NCAA rules restrictions, but he made it clear his team was blown out in the first 20 minute period.
"We got a wake up call in the first one. We got it put on us pretty good. It was a great learning experience for our new guys." -Dave Rice
A clear difference in the game turned out to be UCLA's excellent shooting from behind the arc and UNLV's struggles. The Bruins drained 13 of 18 three-point attempts, while the Runnin' Rebels shot an abysmal 3 of 20 from long range.
On a positive note, five-star freshman Dwayne Morgan had a pretty good day for UNLV. Finishing with 14 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes. It appears that he was the most productive player on the floor Saturday for the Runnin' Rebels. Sophomore forward Christian Wood also had a solid performance, scoring 10 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 25 minutes.
Five-star freshman, Rashad Vaughn had a rough game however, struggling from the floor despite finishing with 12 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Senior guard Jelan Kendrick had a poor day shooting from the floor as well, finishing with 9 points.
The third five-star freshman Goodluck Okonoboh had a pretty lackluster performance as well, scoring just 5 points to go with five rebounds and two steals in 29 minutes.
Given their similarities, you wouldn't expect the final score to be as lopsided as it turned out to be. But keep in mind that this was nothing more than a scrimmage and there is no need to overreact to a meaningless game. If anything this game should benefit the Runnin' Rebels in a long run. Getting familiar with so many new faces and learning each others tendencies on a basketball court is not an easy task.
If a team is unprepared going into the season and ultimately struggles when faced with quality opponents, confidence can be shaken and it could spell disaster. UNLV should be grateful they were able to play the Bruins. Even if it turned out to be a negative outcome, it's better this game happened sooner rather than later.