Friday, Nov. 21, 2008 | 2:10 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech talk about the bench's repeat performance of it's Tuesday magic in Thursday's 87-71 victory over Northern Arizona. Plus, Wink Adams and Joe Darger break out of their droughts, and a look ahead at what's on the horizon for the Rebels in this NBA-like stretch to start the season.
- Opponent: North Carolina A&T
- Where: Thomas & Mack Center
- When: Saturday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
Kendall Wallace couldn't remember the last time he'd felt himself get in a rhythm from 3-point land like that in a game.
At least not on this continent.
"I played well in Australia," the UNLV sophomore guard said, referring to the Rebels' summer trip Down Under. "I hit about five, six (consecutive) threes in Australia. It comes on every once in awhile."
One of those occasions happened to be Thursday, as Wallace cashed three deep balls in the first half en route to a career-high 14 points in an 87-71 victory over Northern Arizona. His previous career-high — nine points — came in his collegiate debut last season against NAU.
On the trip to Australia, Wallace was 13-of-40 from beyond the arc in six games. Thursday night, he had a chance to get in a true rhythm for the first time this season, playing seven first-half minutes. He went 1-of-6 from 3-point range in 23 combined minutes in the Rebels' first two regular season contests.
Two of his Thursday ‘threes’ were the final buckets the Rebels scored before the half, capping a 14-0 run that sent UNLV to the intermission with a 54-31 lead.
The first came off an impressive pass out of the post by freshman forward Brice Massamba. The second was the result of a nifty wrap-around pass from freshman point Oscar Bellfield.
Maybe Wallace just happened to be fifth-year coach Lon Kruger's 'it' guy off the bench in this particular game. Tuesday night, it was DeShawn Mitchell scoring 14 points of his own.
In total, the bench notched 33 points to follow up a 37-point reserve performance in Tuesday's victory over Texas-Pan American. A year ago, asking for 30-plus points from Kruger's bench was not possible.
Now, he doesn't have to ask, as the reserves agree there's real competition both in practice and in games to earn minutes.
But Wallace's night was about more than just sniping from deep. He defended well, too, coming up with one steal and nearly swiping another in the closing minutes. With the student section chanting 'We want tacos' (a prize for all in attendance when the Rebels score 90 points), he took a dive for a loose ball into the seats formerly known as 'Gucci Row'.
"Defense is what gets you minutes on this team,” Wallace said. “Coach Kruger really harps on that. I think it's gonna come down to that and making shots. I just need to knock down shots and try not to turn over the ball and just look for my teammates."
Wallace wasn't the only reserve who was clicking.
Mo Rutledge also hit a pair of threes in the first half, Mitchell was solid in stretches on both ends and Massamba made a strong case to be the team's No. 2 big man with four points and a pair of sweet dishes out of the post.
"Energy coming from the bench, that's always a good, positive thing so it's not all on the starting five," Rutledge said. "Every day in practice, we're all going heads-up with each other, everybody's going their hardest."
It's translated well, as Kruger is toying with different lineup options during his team's NBA-like stretch that concludes with a home game Saturday against North Carolina A&T and a road test Monday at Texas-El Paso.
"Anytime Mo steps in there, makes a couple of threes in the first half ... DeShawn the other night, Kendall tonight, I thought Brice came in and was a big target in there ... Tre'von (Willis), of course, is a guy who could really be a starter as well," Kruger said. "We love doing that, we hope we can keep doing that."