It's easy to find a comfort zone at home. UNLV coach Lon Kruger is ready to find out how his basketball team responds to changes in scenery, starting with a trip to Disneyland.
The Rebels, 3-0 after victories over Wisconsin, Southeastern Louisiana and UC Riverside, are taking their show on the road for an extensive time and a variety of tests.
"It really challenges us," junior point guard Oscar Bellfield said. "You get out in a different atmosphere and get to play teams from different conferences. It will be a great experience."
The journey begins when UNLV faces Tulsa (2-1) at 8:30 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the 76 Classic at Anaheim, Calif. The eight-team tournament will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPNU.
The opening games at the Anaheim Convention Center feature Cal State Northridge-Virginia Tech and DePaul-Oklahoma State. The Rebels play either Murray State or Stanford in Friday's second round. The championship tips at 6 p.m. Sunday.
"It's a good field," Kruger said. "It's a field where five or six of the teams could jump up and win the thing."
Kruger has few qualms with his team thus far. But he figures to learn much more while UNLV plays its next seven games away from the Thomas & Mack Center.
The Rebels visit Illinois State on Dec. 1, UNR on Dec. 4 and Louisville on Dec. 11. They make a rest stop in Las Vegas to play Boise State at the Orleans Arena on Dec. 8.
Bellfield and junior forward Chace Stanback carried UNLV to a 68-65 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday. Stanback scored a career-high 25 points, 17 in the second half.
"We feed off each other, and we're really building our confidence," said Bellfield, who had 18 points, 16 in the first half.
Kruger said senior guard Tre'Von Willis will play in a reserve role again Thursday. Willis returned from a four-game suspension and shook off some rust against the Badgers.
Willis, the Rebels' leading scorer last season at 17.2 points per game, shot 2-for-7 and finished with four points, five assists and three turnovers in 23 minutes.
"I thought Tre made some nice plays for others. He mishandled a couple balls. But I thought he worked through it, and he'll make steady progress," Kruger said.
Starting forward Quintrell Thomas, a sophomore transfer from Kansas, has also had some difficulty after a one-year layoff. Thomas played a total of just 15 minutes in the past two games and had more fouls (eight) than points (seven).
"We need him on the floor a lot more than that," Kruger said. "He's got to play with intensity but without the fouling. He'll get more and more comfortable. Sometimes with the game tempo, when you haven't played for a year, it just takes a little while. But he's going to give us good stuff."
Bellfield, Stanback and sophomore guard Justin Hawkins went to high school in Los Angeles, so some of the Rebels will feel the comforts of home in Anaheim this week.
"Most of our players are from California," Bellfield said, "so we're going to have a really good crowd."
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2907.