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September 22, 2014

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Rebels Triumph Easily Despite Williams

Portland State’s Freman Williams did his thing Saturday night and the UNLV basketball team did its thing and the results were predictable.

The Rebels’ thing is winning basketball games, which they did with a breeze, 112-96, increasing their season record to 12-2, Las Vegas Convention Center win streak to 58, and what with another week of upsets among the nation’s top teams, improved their chances of moving from sixth place to third or fourth again.

Williams’ thing is putting the ball up. And up. And up. The nation’s leading scorer up 39 field goal attempts against UNLV, nearly half of hi team’s total, and hit 16, also nearly half of his team’s total. He also hit 11 of 15 foul shots for 43 points.

That was less than five over his season average of 38.8 and his shooting percentage of 41 percent was far below his season mark of 50 percent.

Williams got most of his points off the fast break. When UNLV got a chance to gets it defense set, Williams, a 6-4 guard who handles the ball less than adequately, was handled well. UNLV head coach Jerry Tarkanian alternated putting 6-7 Eddie Owens and 6-7 Reggie Theus on Williams and they made life generally miserable for him. Owens forced him into one of his seven turnovers in the opening minute of play and not long afterwards, Glen Gondrezick drew a charging foul on Williams.

Sam Smith, Theus and Larry Moffett each clocked one of Williams’ shots, all on fast break layup attempts. Moffett’s was the most spectacular. Early in the first half, he came in behind Williams, and was going up high for the layup, and swatted the ball out of his hands from behind, leading to a fast break bucket the other way by Owens.

Williams scored most of his points long after the game had been decided. He had 19 at the half when the Vikings rallied from 15 down to make it only 54-45 UNLV but scored only two points when the Rebels broke the game open early in the second half and took a 23-point lead with 16:46 remaining. He showed his impressive shooting credentials after that, scoring 22 points when it didn’t matter.

“He shoots so many times you know he’s going to score some points,” Owens said later, admitting he had taken the task of guarding Williams as a personal challenge and was up more than usual for the game.

“I’m not taking away anything from him,” Owens added. “I think as a team they don’t play to win, they just want to score a few buckets.”

Williams scored his points while playing all but two minutes of the game and he was in at the end when the Rebel reserves allowed the Vikes to whittle down a 30-point deficit.

Owens led UNLV in scoring with 22 points, playing only 25 minutes. He took 22 fewere shots and missed 13 fewer times. He also hit all eight free throws and had seven rebounds.

Unlike Williams, Owens got plenty of support. Sam Smith, showing a complete return to his Sudden Sam from before his knees slowed him down, popped in 20 points on 10 of 16 shooting, almost all coming on his cannon shot. He also had five assists in only 25 minutes.

Robert Smith and Glen Gondrezick each added 18 and Reggie Theus 13. Robert hit nine of 15 shots and had a game-high nine assists in 27 minutes. Gondo hit on eight of 13 from the field, pulled down 12 rebounds and had six assists and three steals in 24 minutes. Theus added eight rebounds and four assists.

UNLV dominating a much smaller team for the second night in a row, pulled down 63 rebounds and had six assists and three steals in 24 minutes. Theus added eight rebounds and four assists.

UNLV dominating a much smaller team fro the second night in a row, pulled down 63 rebounds, with Lewis Brown getting 11 in only 21 minutes and Moffett eight more. Big Lew also took a charge.

The Rebels also had 34 assists, with Tony Smith getting seven, giving him 20 in two nights.

It was Robert Smith who was almost personally responsible fro pulverizing Portland State’s zone defense in the first half and getting the Rebels untracked. The Vikings were leading by three with 12:03 to go when UNLV suddenly took off on a 26-8 spurt with Robert popping in four consecutive jumpers from the top of the key and adding another bucket by taking the ball all the way downcourt for a fastbreak layup.

That helped make it 46-31 in the Rebels’ favor at the 4:28 mark but, UNLV, as it has had a habit of doing, let up near the end, going scoreless the final 2:16 of the half.

“I gave ‘em hell at halftime,” Tarkanian said later and whatever he said worked. In the first 3:14 of the second half UNLV outscore Portland State 17-3 to make it 71-48 and it was all over but the final. In that span, UNLV showed off its run-and-gun attack and balanced scoring at its best. Owens, Sam Smith and Gondo each had four points and Robert five.

From there the lead grew to 100-70 before UNLV let up.

“In the second half, in particular, we got a big lead and started playing selfishly again,” Tarkanian lamented, “I don’t know what to do about it. On our part we get sloppy when we get a big lead. We played super until we got a big lead.”

Portland State coach Ken Edwards whose team is now 15-10 overall and 0-6 against UNLV, commented later. “They’re big. They have a lot of depth. I don’t know if they’re as good as last year’s team. They didn’t seem to play as hard. Let’s face it. They are one of the best in the country. We played hard.”

UNLV has only one home game remaining this season, against Hawaii March 1. The Rebels have only one game this week, on the road at Denver University.

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