There are different kinds of wins in sports. Ones when you outplay an opponent. Ones when you don’t and still succeed. Ones when you make your owns breaks. Ones when the other guys break down. UNLV’s basketball team had another kind Saturday. “This was a character win,” Rebels coach Dave Rice said.
Is there such a thing as a season-defining moment for a college basketball team in just its fourth game? For UNLV, it will find out Saturday.
History is pretty clear on this: You can’t begin listing the greatest Final Four games and not mention many — Magic vs. Larry in 1979, Texas Western and its all-black starting five vs. Kentucky in 1966, Jim Valvano looking for someone to hug in 1983, Villanova slaying Georgetown in 1985 — before reaching games between UNLV and Duke in 1990 and 1991.
It’s a difficult thing, almost impossible at times, to preach freedom as a coach one minute and urge discipline the next.
UNLV’s basketball team will awake Wednesday, head to the airport and board a flight for New York, where the Rebels will meet Stanford in a Coaches vs. Cancer Classic game Friday night at Barclays Center.
It wasn’t perfect. Far from it. But for a team that suited up six players on Friday who hadn’t competed in a regular-season Division I game, UNLV did more good than bad.
A crazy theory recently was floated. The theory, turned into a question, is this: Did coach John Calipari collect so much talent this season that Kentucky might be good enough to beat a bad NBA team?
There is another slogan. It’s not about running this time.
What the Rebels encountered Wednesday — a 100-65 victory against an outfit named Florida National before a heavily inflated announced gathering of 10,253 at the Thomas & Mack Center — was an exhibition is every sense of the word.