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Rebels recharge over holiday

It’s not quite halftime in the basketball season, but this will do. After a month spent mostly on the road, UNLV coach Lon Kruger sensed his players needed a rest stop.

The holiday on the calendar provided the Rebels an opportunity to take four days off last week and return refreshed.

“I think the break was very timely. It’s always good to break around Christmas when we can,” Kruger said. “From an emotional standpoint, the guys always come back with their batteries recharged a little bit.”

Kruger gave the team time off after UNLV’s 63-59 victory over Kansas State last Tuesday in Kansas City, Mo. Kruger stayed an extra day at Kansas, his home state.

“It’s always good to go back and see family and regroup,” said junior forward Chace Stanback, from Los Angeles.

The Rebels (11-2) resumed practice Sunday night and Monday morning in preparation for their first game in nine days, Thursday against Central Michigan (3-9) at the Thomas & Mack Center.

The Mountain West Conference schedule begins when UNLV hosts No. 16 Brigham Young on Jan. 5.

After a 9-0 start, the Rebels were derailed in a loss at Louisville on Dec. 11, followed four days later by a home loss to UC Santa Barbara. With seven consecutive games away from the Thomas & Mack, the travel schedule brought on some mental and physical fatigue.

“It’s not an excuse, and yet it’s as tough a seven-game stretch as maybe we’ve ever had,” Kruger said. “We were a little banged up after 13 games. But it was good for our guys. I thought they handled it relatively well.”

UNLV’s past four games did not provide much highlight material, and Kruger said, “We recognize some things we have to do better.”

Shooting ranks high on his short list of concerns, but tired legs might have contributed to recent poor shooting efforts.

“We had shot the ball well through the first eight or nine games,” Kruger said.

Through 10 games, the Rebels were shooting 52.8 percent from the field, including 39.9 percent on 3-pointers. In the past three games, they shot 65-for-174 (37.4 percent) from the field and 11-for-58 on 3s (19 percent)

“It’s a shooting slump. We’ll get through it, though,” Stanback said. “Everybody has got to maintain their confidence. It’s contagious. Once one person starts getting hot, then everybody is.”

Stanback’s scoring average was 16.4 points on Dec. 1, when he was shooting 61.6 percent. In the six games since, he has shot 36.5 percent and his scoring average has dipped to 13.2.

Stanback stayed late after practice Sunday to work on his mechanics to get more lift on his jumper.

“Chace is a good shooter,” Kruger said. “He’ll get that back.”

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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