UNLV BASKETBALL:

K-State pesters and flusters No. 18 UNLV in 95-80 victory

Rebels sloppy, inefficient as Wildcats hand Kruger’s club first loss of the 2009-10 season

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Justin M. Bowen

Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, left, scrambles for a loose ball against UNLV’s Derrick Jasper during K-State’s 95-80 victory over the Rebels at the Orleans Arena on Dec. 12, 2009. Pullen led all scorers with 28 points, including a 7-of-10 showing from 3-point range.

Kansas State vs #18 UNLV

The Wildcats' sharp shooting, along with the Rebels' sloppy play led to UNLV suffering its first loss of the season, 95-80, to Kansas State Saturday at the Orleans Arena.

UNLV vs. Kansas State Basketball

UNLV head coach Lon Kruger gets after his bench during the game Saturday as the Rebels take on Kansas St. at the Orleans Arena.  UNLV dropped their first game of the season 95-80
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The Rebel Room

K-STATE POSTGAME: An unfriendly reunion for Kruger & Co.

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Ryan Greene and Christine Killimayer delve into what was No. 18 UNLV's 95-80 loss to Kansas State on Saturday at the Orleans Arena. The Wildcats shot the lights out, while the Rebels had a hard time doing much of anything in their first loss of the 2009-10 season. Plus, a look ahead at a week which favors a UNLV team with wounds to lick.

UNLV had flirted with first half fire enough in its 7-0 start to the season, and Saturday at the Orleans Arena, the No. 18 Rebels finally got the second-half burn.

Lon Kruger's club had made a habit — in its previous two games, specifically — of falling behind early with sloppy first-half play, but always scraped enough together after the intermission to come away on top.

Kansas State wasn't so forgiving.

In a game which many thought would be a seesaw, tightly contested defensive grinder, the Wildcats easily had their way, running away with a 95-80 win.

"We've got to realize we can't keep playing mediocre basketball in the first half and expect to keep winning games," said junior guard Tre'Von Willis, who led UNLV (7-1) with 17 points. "When a team's on fire like that, it's hard to come back."

To say K-State (9-1) was simply hot doesn't even come close to telling the whole story. On the offensive end, the Wildcats found consistency they probably never knew they had.

Outside of its 18 turnovers, Frank Martin's club made its possessions count.

The Wildcats entered Saturday shooting just 33.5 percent from 3-point range and 62.6 percent at the free-throw line.

Both numbers took a significant jump against the Rebels, as the Wildcats hit 14 of their 23 attempts from beyond the arc, then twisted the knife by going 25-of-32 at the stripe in a game where the referees had tight whistles.

"Open looks, high-percentage shots," UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield said. "It was really on us, just really digging down deep and really playing defense and letting our man get open looks. That's something we have to work on."

No one took better advantage of the Rebels' flustered appearance early than junior guard Jacob Pullen. He scored a game-high 28 points, including an eye-popping 7-of-10 performance from 3-point range.

Signs of what was to come came right off the bat. After UNLV missed four shots on its opening possession, Pullen casually stroked a three on K-State's first trip down the floor with the ball.

As the Wildcats consistently pecked away at the Rebels' defense, UNLV was suffocated and thrown for a loop whenever it tried to respond.

The Rebels pulled 6-foot-8 sophomore Chace Stanback from the starting lineup in favor of freshman guard Anthony Marshall. The Rebels also tried to penetrate against K-State's sizable front line and kick out for open perimeter looks. As the game progressed, those looks became tougher to come by.

"Kansas State dictated a lot more than we did, and our disappointment probably comes from the fact that we weren't able to change that," Kruger said. "They obviously shot the ball extremely well. That's a combination of us not guarding as well as we need to. I thought they played great. I thought they were sharp."

The game took an downhill twist for the Rebels just before the half.

UNLV had done just enough to hang around throughout the opening period and were trailing, 40-34, while holding for one last shot before the break. Instead, a Justin Hawkins turnover turned into a layup for Pullen, pushing the Cats ahead by eight at the intermission.

With UNLV still only trailing by nine, 54-45, early in the second half, K-State delivered the ultimate blow with a 13-0 run. That spurt included threes from both Pullen and Denis Clemente, plus an old-fashioned 3-point play from junior forward Curtis Kelly, who played an inspired brand of ball against the program which also recruited him hard in the summer of 2008 when he was transferring from UConn.

"We turned it over three or four times in the second half when they made their run, and they converted those into transition points," Kruger said. "That contributed a lot."

The final stats showed just how much K-State's size and physical presence wound up affecting UNLV.

Saturday marked the first time this season that the Rebels recorded more turnovers (16) than assists (14). Also, K-State's 95 points were the most a UNLV team has allowed in a single game under Kruger.

Among other statistical oddities, junior guard Derrick Jasper was held scoreless for the first time as a Rebel, and K-State's 57.1 field goal percentage made it the first UNLV opponent this season to connect on more than 40 percent of its shots.

"We didn't play well as a team today, you could sense it," Willis said. "Countless mental breakdowns we had on both ends of the floor. Transition defense, blocking out, every facet of the game, the Rebels got outplayed. We thought we got some hustle points, but everything else, they won tonight."

After a week of buildup with no games to play heading into the K-State contest, UNLV gets a chance to rebound from its first loss of the 2009-10 campaign in opposite fashion.

A trip to face Southern Utah on Tuesday is the first of three games the Rebels will play this week. That stretch also includes a Thursday home date with Weber State, then a Saturday matinee against South Carolina Upstate. The busy week is followed by a trip to Honolulu for a three-game stint at the Diamond Head Classic.

"It's definitely a learning experience," Bellfield said. "It's probably something that we need to get. We got it, so we've got to just face it and get ready for our next opponent."

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  1. We got out-coached, out-played, and out-(you-fill-in-the-blank) by K State. It was painfull to watch. We got dominated in every aspect of the game. Pretty much the only highlight of the game was the guy sinking a half court shot for a pair of airline tickets...

    Oh well, one game at a time.

  2. This was a disappointing loss but most of us cant be too surprised. UNLV has not consistently played well all year. We have played well for a half or a 5-10 minute spurt but never put a whole game together. Kansas State is just a better team right now. Night in and night out in college basketball you sometimes get your a$@ handed to you. I do not think it is time to panic but concerned is a good word. We have a relatively easy rest of the non conference schedule and then we need to have these things ironed out before conference starts. Starting out at BYU and New Mexico(who are now 10-0 beating Texas A&M in College Station) we could easily start out 0-2 and be scrapping the rest of the way. Offense need to improve a lot. Got to start shooting better or no matter how hard they play they will not win against better opponents. Lets get it fixed Rebels!

  3. SufferinSuccotash!!!! Crawl back in your hole. You haven't been around for the last few weeks. You hide when the Rebels win. You only post when UNLV looses. You think 1 lose backs up all your negative Lon Kruger posts? This is why whatever you say is irrelevant. No one cares what you have to say. No one cares that you used to work on Lon's staff. No one cares that you feel feel burned after all these years.

  4. Although I always like to see my Rebels win, I think this loss was actually a good thing. I stated as much after the Santa Clara game, the Rebels need to improve, especially on the defensive end. Too much fouling, letting guys get to the rim. I have confidence that Coach Kruger can improve the team in this area. I believe and hope the kids will learn from this one. We have a few easier opponents this week before the Diamondhead whatever so I will be looking for improvement, especially on defense.

  5. Wow. We lose a game and robert (sufferin) suddenly appears after not posting during our 7 game win streak.

    It's like clockwork.

    That my friends is what you call credibility! lol at this clown. Watches every game with his fingers crossed that we'll lose so he can crawl out of his hole and say "I told you so."

  6. your all a bunch of clowns. Just like the idiots that sat in front of me. Most of the 14 3's from a team that shots 33% from the were contested and or from the NBA line. When a good team shoots like this there is not much you can do but tip your hat to them. The KSU fans were even saying nothing that we could have done just the best they have shot all year. You people are amazing with your lack of knowledge and perspective and ability to at the drop of a hat criticize the team and act like the sky is falling. Get on or get off but shut up!

  7. @LV Born

    Finally someone with a brain.

    Sorry Ryan, I think you're dead wrong. Did the Rebels come close to playing perfect? Of course not. Do they have things to work on? Very much so. But....after watching the game and then looking at the box score it was very obvious to me that there was only one stat that determined the game, percentage from 3. The mistakes they made were only amplified because K-state couldn't miss.

    There are morons on here talking about how ALL of K-state's shots were uncontested. Stupid! They were shooting them from the moon on a lot of occasions. If they shoot their average this is a totally different game.

    I listened to the post game show and had to endure all 4 commentators talking about how much more quick, tall, athletic, long and strong K-state was than UNLV. What a joke! Were they even at the game?! Did they disrupt with their length at times yes. But did they dominate anywhere but shooting the 3? No way in hell.

    Did we not score enough for everyone? We scored 80 points against a team renowned for defensive play! Listening to everyone talk you'd think that we scored 50.

    I'm just going to do what it obvious and tip my cap to a team that will never, in any of our lifetimes, shoot that well again.

  8. Thank you for saying it like it is LV-Born-N-Raised... A good team explodes like that from three and you just aren't going to win. Some breakdowns on defense, yes, but they were on fire.

    Now we get to see how this team responds to a loss. Good teams get better after a loss like this. Heck, if you would have told me 24 hours ago that we would have scored 80 points vs. K-state's defense, I would have taken it and ran.

    Absolutely, I'm disappointed with the outcome. But the sky is not falling Rebel fans. Looking at the schedule to start the season, I would have taken 7-1 after 8 games in a heartbeat.

    We've got your back, fellas. Let's win three games this week and we'll send you off to Hawaii.

  9. Just putting this out there. Louisville lost to Western Carolina and Arizona got spanked by SDSU. Those "marquee" wins are looking less impressive with each passing day. This win would have legitimized the Rebels, but now expectations need to come back down to earth. The next 2 weeks is a patsy parade and then UNLV opens MWC play at BYU and UNM.

  10. No the sky is not falling but I do not think we should bury our heads in the sand either. Lets face it we do not shoot the ball well from the field or the line. Even though K State scored 95 points I think our defense has been pretty solid this year and it is going to get better. Our slow starts have been due to poor offense. Missing open jumpers and not converting in the paint. The one game we jumped out early was Louisville and we let them back in the game because we went cold. I think we are getting better shots than last year but nobody is consistently knocking them down. We are going to struggle to beat conference opponents who know all of our schemes and personell if we can not shoot the ball better. Runnin' Rebels!

  11. I have said it before and i will say it again. UNLV is 4th in conference at best. Mark my word. They will not be 500 in conference. They can only recruit left over scrubs. Start by firing Kruger and hiring Reggie Theus!

  12. Now that is ridiculous. I would love some action on UNLV finishing above .500 in MWC. A Lobo fan talking about coaching? I always get nervous before games against New Mexico until I remember that Steve Alford is coaching. Then I relax. Left Iowa because he was going to be run out of town. Recruits so so and coaches worse. Whines really well though.

  13. Wow ... didn't take long for some people to turn :) Just playin ...

    I had a friend in Kansas text me after the game asking if UNLV was overrated or Kansas State was underrated. Fair question. I told him it was probably more of the latter than anything. All yesterday showed is just how dangerous Kansas State can be when it hits a ridiculous 14-of-23 from 3. Think about it. If UNLV did that yesterday, they're probably getting Top 10 votes today. The Rebels just ran into a buzzsaw, plain and simple. That doesn't mean there aren't problems that need to be fixed. They obviously need to play better first half ball, and might need to figure out better ways to score against bigger teams that can defend the way the WIldcats did.

    In the end, it's probably best for everyone to take the same approach as Kruger -- It's one game. K-State was abnormally hot. Plenty of them left to go.

  14. the lobos win a decent road game for the first time this decade and they start to mouth off.

    Isn't unm's leading scorer a transfer? is he a left over scrub?

    Talk to me when alford wins a game in the ncaa tournament. Or even the MWC tournament.

    UNLV has actually done it under Kruger. lobos still have to talk about what they hope/think they're going to do.

    If the lobos had a year like Kruger had in 2007, it would have been the best season in the history of the lobo program. They haven't made the sweet 16 since the field expanded to 65.

    All talk until you do something.

  15. Part of their good shooting was the fact that Kruger's gameplan backfired. He chose to put too much focus on defending the paint and giving up open looks from 3 in the first half. This gave the K-State players a chance to get in rhythm early and knock down 3's.

    In my opinion, Kruger outcoached himself. If he would have just stuck to his normal defensive strategy, I think the Rebels have a much better chance of winning this game. I mean Clemente and Pullen are the 2 best players on the team and his game plan was focused on their big men. He should have had more confidence in our bigs being able to handle theirs. Just a horrible defensive gameplan that cost us the game (Willis and Bellfield in foul trouble early also hurt us alot).

    Don't get me wrong though, I'm not a Kruger hater, 7 out of 8 games this year he outcoached his opponents, just this game he outcoached himself.

  16. I'm not saying the sky is falling and this is a bad team but is was absolutely embarassing yesterday...

  17. First of all we did not play that well at all. Second Kansas State played lights out. If they played that way every night they would kill every team in the country, you just cant stop a team thats shooting above 60% from 3. Now if we put this in perspective and if both these teams shot their season average this would of been a completly different game. K-State on average would of only hit 8 or 9 of those 23 attempted 3's and not 14 like they did. lets say they hit 9, thats 15 points off right there. Now if they shot their average from the field they would of only made 24 shots not 28 and thats 8 points off there. That would bring their points down from 95 to 72. You can also look at their free throw shooting which was way above average for the year. That would take another 4 points off and bring them down to earth at 68 points. Now looking at the rebels scoring they shot a lot better from the line. They hit 20 out of 23 and on average should of only made 16/23. That would bring the rebels score from 80 to 76. Take off another 4 points from the field and that pulls it to 72 points. So if these teams both shot their season averages(did not adjust the rebs 3 point shooting as we were still well below where we really should be at for 3 point %) that would put the score around 72-68, right around the total and line that the sports books were predicting(even if i took off 1 3point shot for the rebs that would be a 69-68 score, but if it were really that close free throw shooting at the end would drive the score up higher than that)... We gotta give it up to K State, they played great ball last night and like i said they would have beat anybody in the country shooting like that.

    GO REBELS!!!!

    p.s. Sufferin - Your a complete DBag! why dont you come to a game and identify yourself to everyone so we know who to throw stuff at??? Your not a Rebels fan but merely a hater!!!

  18. @StevenLorang

    With all due respect did you watch the game? Several of their early 3's came off high ball screens with the guard curling and shooting it from the NBA line? Of the 14 maybe 4 were uncontested from the CBB 3 point line.

  19. There was nothing the rebels could have done different to win that game last night. They were not outhustled, out-determined, out-skilled, & barely got outrebounded. When a team shoots like KSU did from 3 point range their is nothing you can do. Pullen hit 3's all night with a hand in his face, there is no way you can stop that, you just have to swallow that pill. Have some of you already forgotten the 3 pointer he hit while falling out of bounds with the Rebel defender draped all over him? There is no defense alive that can stop that!! KSU will not have another game all year where they shoot like that from 3. That was the Arizona game from last year reversed on us and then some.

  20. @FastCu... I mean FastCamron-

    BOO!

  21. Not an embarrasing game. If any D1 team shoots like Kst. did last night, they are bound to win.

  22. NBA Jam.... On Fire!!!!

    Seriously, that 3 point shooting last night was ridonkulous. Congrats to K-State. Buts this is about all I got from that game... UNLV can't beat a team that can't miss. All this about UNLV playing bad D and turnovers is nonsense. UNLV, as most college teams would, got flustered. Hard not to when the opponent's basket is 6 feet wide.

    Btw, thats not being a sore loser. K-State definitely deserved that win but I'm sure even they will agree that they could have beat anyone in the country shooting like they did in Vegas.

  23. I don't think the sky is falling either, but the defensive game plan was to collapse and double-team in the paint and see if they could hit outside shots. And guess what they did, amazingly well. Bad game plan, incredible shooting by K-State.

  24. The funny thing is that you guys think you lost because we shot the 3 ball out of our minds, which we did. But, if you would have pressured our guards more, we would have dumped it down low and beat you into submission in the paint. Either way, we would have won. Funny how you all go from talking a lot of crap before the game to what you're saying now. The Rebels are a good small conference team but would probably end up in the bottom third of the Big 12. Enjoy.

  25. 164th, K-State's defense and shooting were great. Congrats on the win.

    However, I think you should reserve the small conference talk until your school wins a national championship in any major sport. I believe K-State had about a 50 year head start on UNLV too. You should not be the one to talk about ending up in the bottom third of the Big 12.

  26. Everyone put the torch/pitchfork down and step away!

    In a game there are only two outcomes: Win and Lose. That seems simple to understand yet there are some that will simply say if you win you are good, if you lose you are bad. It's this kind of hyperbole that leads to knee jerk reactions and ignorant statements.

    UNLV hopefully takes care of business with these next three games and heads out to Hawaii 10-1. If you had higher expectations from this team you are CRAZY!

    If they drop one of these next ones, then you nutjobs have an argument. But a loss to a potentially NCAA tournament bound team on a neutral court in DECEMBER doesn't hurt anyone. This won't be listed as a bad loss in March.

  27. Also I get why some of you want to call out Kruger and say he should be fired. You put yourself in a win/win situation. If the Rebels win you are happy (hopefully)and then you can slink away and act like you never said anything. But if they lose enough to fire Kruger you then get to say, "I told you so. I told you all along" And then you are happy again because you are a jerk and not a good person

  28. i have a handwritten note from the Mayor of Manhattan, Kansas testifying to the lack of consideration that many of the so-called red-necks have for the town and the citizens who live there and pay taxes for the street maintenance and the upkeep of the park and other features of Manhattan for the redneck back door truck drivers to run their redneck trucks on.