Published Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 | 6:03 p.m.
Updated Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009 | 8:56 p.m.
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Final, UNLV wins 72-63
So much for a lack of consistent, start-to-finish effort.
UNLV improved to 9-1 on the season on Thursday night with a routine 72-63 victory over Weber State. It was the Rebels' first game back on their home floor at the Thomas & Mack Center in 19 days.
Junior Matt Shaw led the way with a career-high 16 points for the Rebels, including 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range. His second half production helped make a late Weber State rash of treys ineffective.
Chace Stanback had 15 points, five rebounds and four blocks for UNLV after averaging 14.5 points per game in the team's previous two contests. Oscar Bellfield added 10 points, while Derrick Jasper had seven points and a game-high 12 rebounds, including 11 on the defensive glass.
The Rebels led 37-32 at the break, but used a 12-0 spurt to open up the second half and keep them ahead for good.
UNLV was 25-of-53 from the floor and 10-of-23 from long range. Meanwhile, pesky defense held Weber State to 36.4 percent shooting. Sophomore guard Damian Lillard, who entered the game averaging just under 20 points per game, was just 2-of-13 from the floor with 8 points.
UNLV is back in action for its home non-conference finale on Saturday, when South Carolina Upstate comes to town for a 7 p.m. tilt.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
7:34, second half, UNLV leads 57-46
UNLV's defense continues to pester Weber State into the land of inconsistency, and no one shows that more than the Wildcats' leading scorer this season, Damian Lillard.
Coming in averaging just under 20 points per game, he's 0-for-10 from the floor tonight, with his only two points coming from the free throw line.
The Rebels are 22-of-45 from the floor, and a solid 9-of-19 from long range.
Nine different UNLV players have scored, and Weber State is just 15-of-46 from the floor in a steady effort. Probably the most balanced this team has had yet this season.
On a sidenote: New athletic director Jim Livengood just made the rounds in the Thomas & Mack Center, glad-handing with those in the stands. He was sporting a red Rebels polo. I'm assuming he's back to the phones to talk to football coaching candidates.
15:48, second half, UNLV leads 49-34
Could this be UNLV's first solid, consistent, 40-minute effort of the season?
Early indicators in the second half tonight say so. The Rebels scored the first 12 points of the second half, and extended a five-point halftime lead over Weber State to as many as 17. It's now 15, as UNLV leads 49-34.
Chace Stanback hit two buckets as part of the spurt, followed by space-creating 3-pointers from Derrick Jasper and Matt Shaw.
Jasper only has five points tonight, but has six defensive rebounds, while Shaw is an impressive 3-of-4 from long range.
Halftime, UNLV leads 37-32
Chace Stanback's recent offensive surge continues, as he posted 11 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting to lead the Rebels into the locker room up 37-32 on Weber State.
He did it with swagger, too.
The sophomore forward, who came in averaging 14.5 points per game in UNLV's last two outings, hit a nice three from atop the key, topped with a fist pump. Then, to close out the first half scoring for the Rebels, he faked a defender right, stepped left and cleanly snapped home an 18-foot jumper.
The attitude in terms of confident body language is contagious so far, as the Rebels, while only up five, are in firm control.
Here's a look at some key numbers from the first 20 minutes ...
— UNLV has nine assists to just four turnovers, while hitting 14-of-28 from the floor. Not bad offensive efficiency.
— The Rebels have allowed seven offensive rebounds to the Wildcats and are being out-boarded, 19-17. But, UNLV's 14 defensive rebounds have been key, as Weber State is just 10-of-27 from the field.
— Weber State could be making this a much closer contest, but the Wildcats' 9-of-16 showing at the line so far is hindering them. They came into tonight hitting 76.4 percent of their foul shots through nine games.
— Eight different Rebels have scoredso far, and only Matt Shaw and Oscar Bellfield have more than one foul to their credit. Again, pretty clean first half for Lon Kruger's club.
2:38, first half, UNLV leads 31-24
Brice Massamba had a monster, one-handed putback jam, and Chace Stanback's recent 3-pointer have kept UNLV comfortably ahead of Weber State late in the first half at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Stanback hit a trey atop the key just before the first half's final full timeout, pumping his first afterwards, as he leads the way with seven first half points.
UNLV is efficient tonight, hitting 11 of its 23 shot attempts so far, while Weber State continues to struggle for breathing room against UNLV's active defense. The Wildcats are 8-of-25, as UNLV has forced five turnovers so far.
Statistical hidden gem of teh night so far? UNLV has five first-half blocks, with Stanback recording three of them.
Not sure what the reason is, but UNLV is displaying a decent amount of attitude and swagger tonight.
11:54, first half, UNLV leads 16-9
Coming off of the bench for the second consecutive game, Tre'Von Willis apparently still doesn't mind.
The junior guard, who is UNLV's leading scorer, hit a quick three, a baseline jumper and provided a monster block just before a recent full timeout as the Rebels lead Weber State, 16-9.
After a turnover by Steve Jones off of a Willis pass, he shot down the floor and swatted a Franklin Session shot attempt about two rows deep into the crowd. He then brushed his jersey off in a light celebration.
So far, UNLV is flustering Weber State on the defensive end, holding the Wildcats to 3-of-11 shooting.
14:54, first half, UNLV leads 9-5
Weber State is 1-of-6 from the floor to start of tonight's contest, and UNLV has taken advantage, grabbing five defensive boards so far.
Two of them turned into 3-pointers for junior forward Matt Shaw, who is starting for the second consecutive game for the Rebels, pushing them ahead early, 9-5.
The other three points came from Oscar Bellfield, including a hard drive to the hole for a layup after the Rebels missed their first four field goal attempts of the night.
Kind of a quiet, sparse crowd at the Mack tonight. Guess you can't say it's completely surprising, but UNLV's playing with tons of energy so far regardless.
Welcome back to the Thomas & Mack Center.
It's been a while, huh?
In fact, it's been 20 days since UNLV last played on its true home floor, defeating then-No. 16 Louisville, 76-71.
In that time, we've learned plenty about the Rebels, watching Lon Kruger's club win three straight on the road.
At this point, with UNLV at 8-1, we continue to learn.
Tonight, we will see if the Rebels can finally break the spell and impose their will in the first half ... for the first time since that Louisville game.
After scratching and clawing to earn just a one-point, 31-30 lead at halftime on Tuesday night in Cedar City, Utah, the Rebels turned it on and shook off any lingering effect from Saturday's 95-80 loss at the Orleans Arena to Kansas State.
UNLV thrashed Southern Utah in the second half, 46-29, en route to a 77-59 triumph.
The Rebels didn't do it by burning up the nets, specifically. They were only 15-of-35 from the floor in that second half, but more importantly were able to control the tempo, working for high-percentage shots and holding SUU to just 7-of-2 shooting after the break.
If there was ever a better time to carry momentum over into the first half of a game, now would be the time.
In the middle of a three-game week leading up to a Christmas tournament trip to Honolulu for the Diamond Head Classic, UNLV gets 5-4 Weber State in tonight's 7 p.m. tip at the Mack.
That said, tonight's three things to watch ...
1) Chace Stanback needs to keep it up on the offensive end. After averaging less than seven points per game in the season's first seven contests, he's scoring at a 14.5 ppg clip in the last two on 10-of-19 shooting and 4-of-7 efficiency from 3-point range. Tre'Von Willis will again come off the bench for the Rebels, as a minor back injury is flaring up a bit lately. Plus, it keeps him out of foul trouble early. If he's going to be counted on to provide a late push on the offensive end, Stanback should set him up nicely if things keep up the way they've been going.
2) What kind of crowd will there be? Obviously, some of the air was sucked from the fan base with Saturday's loss in a game that got plenty of hype and build-up. Tuesday's game was not televised, so for most people, their last mental image of UNLV hoops was watching Kansas State dictate for 40 minutes over the weekend. Surely, the Mack won't be full, but tonight we see how much of that crowd at the Orleans was of the bandwagon variety.
3) Will new athletic director Jim Livengood be introduced at halftime? Could provide quite the moment ... if it happens.
Prediction and 'Pick to Click'
As far as a prediction for tonight, I think the fact that an opening line of UNLV -16 was bet down to UNLV -13 this afternoon says that many with money expect Weber State to play the Rebels close ... at least for a while. I'm going with UNLV 78, Weber State 59.
And my 'Pick to Click'? I'll ride the hot hand and say Chace Stanback keeps the offensive surge going.
Talk to you around tip-time.