A smooth jump shot is no better than Chace Stanback's second-best attribute. What's more important to the UNLV forward is his positive attitude.
Even when the shots don't fall, Stanback said he keeps his chin high and his sights set on the next game.
"He's probably the most positive guy on this team," sophomore forward Mike Moser said.
That approach should serve Stanback well when the 20th-ranked Rebels (25-7) face Wyoming (20-10) at 8:30 p.m. today in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The teams met five days ago in the regular-season finale, and UNLV won 74-63 with little help from Stanback, who missed four shots and went scoreless for the first time this season. It did not ruin his Senior Night celebration, however.
"Not at all. We got the win, and that's all I can ask for," Stanback said. "If I go 0-for-4 the rest of the season and we win every game, I'll be happy.
"That's just part of the game. You've got to take the good with the bad. You're not going to play well every night. You can't get too down on yourself when you have bad games, and you can't get too high on yourself."
San Diego State and New Mexico finished as league co-champions, with the Aztecs earning the top seed in the tournament. The third-seeded Rebels and sixth-seeded Cowboys are meeting for the third time, after Wyoming won 68-66 on Feb. 4 in Laramie.
Stanback, UNLV's second-leading scorer at 13.0 points per game, has yet to make a field goal against the Cowboys this season. He shot 0-for-2 and made just two free throws in the loss in February.
"We need to make sure we do a good job to get him shots early and get him involved, because he's a big key to our team," coach Dave Rice said. "Chace practices the same every day, and he's a leader every day. He just has had some games where he hasn't made shots."
When he's hot, Stanback has displayed an ability to carry the Rebels. He scored 28 points in a victory over then-No. 1 North Carolina in November, and he hit 20 of 27 3-pointers in a three-game stretch in December.
But when he's not hot, Stanback can appear disinterested. He scored five points or fewer in eight games this season. His scoreless outing against Wyoming on Saturday was just the second of his 98-game UNLV career.
The Cowboys, who rank fifth in the nation in scoring defense at 55.4 points per game, are tough on most opponents and tougher against Stanback, who also has been bothered by a sore right knee.
"We're going to try to keep everything the same, and hopefully I'll be able to knock a couple shots down for my team," said Stanback, the Rebels' top 3-point shooter (74-for-159, .465).
Wyoming guards Francisco Cruz and Luke Martinez, who has been the primary defender on Stanback, combined to connect on 11 3-pointers in two games against UNLV.
"Martinez and Cruz are keeping me awake at night with their ability to make shots," Rice said, "and (Adam) Waddell and (Leonard) Washington are a great one-two punch inside."
The Rebels are 16-0 this season at the Thomas & Mack and are expected by many to win the conference tournament despite not playing their best basketball the past month.
"There's definitely a sense of pressure for us, but we embrace it as a team," Stanback said. "We have to come out there with a chip on our shoulder every night. We're looking forward to this postseason."
Rice said Stanback has successfully put his offseason troubles in the past. Stanback was arrested in May, pleaded guilty in Las Vegas Justice Court to driving under the influence of marijuana and was dealt legal penalties in addition to a one-game suspension.
"What people really wouldn't see from the outside looking in is his leadership. He's fighting against injuries, and he never gets down," Moser said. "He's a real positive guy, and anybody would be happy to have him in their locker room and on their team."
Moser and Stanback are UCLA transfers two years apart. Stanback, a three-year starter, ranks 23rd on UNLV's career scoring list with 1,196 points as his days in the uniform wind down.
"I try to put a smile on a teammate's face when they're down," Stanback said, "and I try to motivate people."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.