DIAMOND HEAD CLASSIC LIVE BLOG:

Rebels thump Mustangs in Honolulu opener, 67-53

Sweltering defense helps UNLV pull away early from SMU

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Ryan Greene/Las Vegas Sun

UNLV warms up prior to Tuesday’s action at the Diamond Head Classic, where it faces SMU in Honolulu’s Stan Sheriff Center.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009 | 9:28 p.m.

SMU vs UNLV

Behind the bench play of Anthony Marshall and Tre'Von Willis, UNLV beat SMU, 67-53, in the opening round of the Diamond Head Classic on Tuesday night in Honolulu.

Diamond Head Classic: Tuesday

Saint Mary's guard Matthew Dellavedova looks on as a Northeastern player shoots free throws on Tuesday morning at the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Dellavedova scored 17 points, including four 3-pointers, in the Gaels' 78-67 victory at the Stan Sheriff Center. Launch slideshow »

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Game 3: UNLV vs. SMU

FINAL, UNLV wins 67-53

HONOLULU — It took quite a bit of travel for UNLV to get to the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, but really only an instant to prove that they'd be a force in the eight-team field.

A 67-53 victory over SMU on Tuesday night in an opening round contest wasn't nearly as close as the final score indicated, as UNLV (11-1) applied pressure early and took the Mustangs out of it by halftime.

SMU was forced into 20 turnovers with only six assists to go against them, and the Rebels capitalized. After shooting 58.1 percent from the floor in the first half (18-of-31), the second half for the most part was pretty much just a formality.

Tre'Von Willis and Anthony Marshall led four Rebels in double figures, scoring 12 points apiece. Chace Stanback added 11, while Matt Shaw tallied 10. Marshall played most of the first half and helped push the tempo on both ends after Oscar Bellfield was shelved with foul trouble in the first minute.

UNLV advances to face the winner of the tilt between Charleston and host Hawaii tomorrow night at 8:30 PST back at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels for full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition.

7:14, second half, UNLV leads 61-35

HONOLULU —  The Mustangs have finally let go of any threat of making this one a game down the stretch, as UNLV holds a 61-35 edge on SMU late in the second half.

SMU has failed to tighten up in terms of taking care of the ball, as the Mustangs have turned the ball over 18 times with only four assists to show for the effort.

Meanwhile, they are 0-for-13 from 3-point range and 13-of-46 overall from the floor. Is most of that due to sloppy play? Sort of. UNLV's defense has been pretty darn good.

15:25, second half, UNLV leads 50-27

HONOLULU — To open up the second half, Kendall Wallace threw a gorgeous lob from the left wing to the right side of the rim, where Derrick Jasper flushed it home for a bucket.

And in an instant, UNLV sent SMU a message: The Rebels weren't going to coast to the finish line.

A 23-point halftime lead has held strong, and SMU is doing its part. After committing 13 turnovers in the first half, the sloppy Mustangs already have three to their credit after the break.

Another positive sign early in the second half for UNLV is the aggressive play of Oscar Bellfield, who only played one minute in the first half.

He's taken the ball strong to the hole twice and is playing sticky defense. He's getting it from Lon Kruger, who is coaching this game the way he should be — as if his team is up by three and not 23, using a strict rule in not letting Bellfield go after his third foul despite the scoreboard. Bellfield went back to the bench after the whistle.

Halftime, UNLV leads 42-19

HONOLULU — Not only are the Rebels up by 23 after a dominating first half to open their showing in the Diamond Head Classic, but they're having fun doing it.

UNLV is enjoying playing hounding, swarming defense just as much as it is in capitalizing of of SMU's 13 turnovers. Combine that with 18-of-31 shooting from the Rebels and you get to where we are, with Lon Kruger's club bullying its way past the Mustangs, 42-19 at the break.

The 13 Mustang turnovers are across from only three assists. UNLV has scored 21 points off of those miscues and is scoring from high-percentage locations, with 22 points in the paint so far.

UNLV is also 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

SMU is just not very disciplined, and hasn't looked the part since early on. A tell-tale sign that a team has little discipline? Down by 23 points late in the first half, they were going for highlight real jams on lob plays.

Some key numbers from the first half ...

— Oscar Bellfield played just one minute after picking up two quick fouls. Does Lon Kruger throw him back out there? I bet he does, but only for about 10 minutes or so. With three games in four days, you might as well keep guys as fresh as possible.

— Tre'Von Willis has 10 points in 12 minutes, while Anthony Marshall never left the floor after coming in for Bellfield. He has 10 points in 18 minutes, playing more than anyone else in a Rebels uniform so far tonight. He's 5-of-6 from the floor, relying on hustle and tough drives to the rack. He has three rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block.

— SMU is only 7-of-30 from the floor and 0-for-8 from 3-point land.

7:59, first half, UNLV leads 29-12

HONOLULU — UNLV has had some impressive stretches of play so for early in the season, but as far as inflicting this much damage on an opponent mentally, it's hard to remember the Rebels having a better half to this point.

The Rebels have 14 points so far off of eight Mustangs turnovers. UNLV is swatting shots underneath, but it's not just the big men doing so. Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins have each blocked SMU dunk attempts and turned them into points on the other end.

At this point, it's hard to figure out what kind of a chance SMU has to get back into it. UNLV isn't letting up, and Lon Kruger will have a completely fresh Oscar Bellfield at his disposal in the second half. He still hasn't come back in after picking up two fouls in the game's first minute.

Tre'Von Willis, Anthony Marshall and Chace Stanback all have eight points apiece so far for the Rebels.

15:17, first half, UNLV leads 13-4

HONOLULU — Oscar Bellfield picked up two fouls in less than a minute for UNLV in its Diamond Head Classic opener, but that's about all that's gone wrong so far for the Rebels, who lead SMU 13-4 early on.

UNLV is 3-of-5 from 3-point range, and a recent Anthony Marshall feed to Matt Shaw for a long-ball set the scoring off big-time.

Marshall came from behind to block a Justin Haynes dunk attempt on the defensive end, then on the other end showed unselfishness in dishing to an open Shaw on the right wing.

After that, an offensive miscue for the Mustangs led to UNLV getting a fast-break opportunity. Tre'Von Willis capitalized by sinking an and-one layup going into the first T.V. timeout.

It's a practically empty arena, SMU has a pep band and cheerleaders in the building and the Rebels have been on the beach for two days. So much for their focus being elsewhere, eh?

Game 2: Southern Cal 55, Western Michigan 51

HONOLULU — Mike Gerrity is quickly making the post-Tim Floyd, post-O.J. Mayo, post-all that mess era for Southern Cal hoops look not so bad after all.

The senior point guard just became eligible this weekend following his transfer from UNC-Charlotte, and in his Trojans debut had 12 points, 10 assists and five rebounds in an upset of then-No. 9 Tennessee on Saturday.

His encore wasn't too bad, either.

A late layup just before the first half buzzer gave the 6-foot-1, 180-pound guard his first points of the day in Tuesday's Diamond Head Classic opening round showdown with Western Michigan (4-5). Still, the Trojans (6-4) trailed 27-18 at the break.

However, it was a sign of things to come. He'd score 15 points in the second half, finishing with three assists, three rebounds and two steals also to his credit in a 55-51 come-from-behind victory.

It's not that anyone else didn't want to step up for the Trojans. It's just that no one seemed to be capable of it.

The second half charge covered up an atrocious first 20 minutes on the offensive end for USC, who in the end used brawn underneath to outscore the guard-heavy Broncos in the paint, 30-14.

This, of course, sets up the first semifinal for Wednesday's second round of action, between Southern Cal and Saint Mary's (10-1) at 2 p.m. PST at the Stan Sheriff Center. That game will be seen on ESPNU.

It'll be a true clashing of very different playing styles. Saint Mary's averages 84.4 points per game and wants to suck you into a track meet. Southern Cal, meanwhile, under defensive-minded first-year coach Kevin O'Neill, is scoring just 60.3 per outing and has a four-game winning streak in its wake.

Some points from today's second quarterfinal ...

— USC is not a very good shooting team. Or at least it wasn't today. The Trojans eventually leaned on their size advantage inside after going just 5-of-22 from the floor in the first half. As a team, they were 2-of-13 from deep, while leading scorer Dwight Lewis simply had a rough day, going 4-of-15 from the field.

— You've got to love Western Michigan's fire. The Broncos's meeting tomorrow with Northeastern could actually prove to be quite entertaining, as both teams were pretty vocal and animated in losing efforts during the early portion of today's opening round. Watching super-scorers Matt Janning and David Kool go head-to-head will be fun for any hoops purist.

— It's looking more and more like UNLV will have a good shot at taking home the inaugural tournament title if the Rebels can just make it to Friday's finale. We already discussed how the Saint Mary's starters played an average of 32.4 minutes today. Well, the Trojans' starters went an average of 33.4. They produced six bench points. This is a key storyline to watch if UNLV winds up facing either of them come Friday.

We're in a lull right now between the early and late sessions. Be back shortly as we get ready for UNLV-SMU.

Game 1: Saint Mary's 78, Northeastern 67

HONOLULU — It looked for a while like an upset would come right off the bat at the inaugural Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.

But Saint Mary's (10-1) finally found its stroke from long range, pulling away from Northeastern (2-6) mid-way through the second half en route to a 78-67 victory.

The Gaels took a four-point lead into the half, and the Huskies came back to go ahead by as many as three early in the second stanza at 47-44.

That's when Saint Mary's kicked it into gear with a 10-2 run, keyed by back-to-back treys from Matthew Dellavedova and Ben Allen. Randy Bennett's club never looked back.

This would have been a pretty huge upset, actually. While there aren't specific odds on who's going to take the title from this tournament home, the widespread assumption is that Saint Mary's and UNLV are the 'favorites.'

(Sidenote: Don't let Northeastern's 2-6 record fool you. That was the Huskies' first loss by double digits this season, with the first five coming by a combined 20 points. Senior guard Matt Janning will keep the loser's bracket interesting. Kid's pretty sharp.)

It's safe to say that a Saint Mary's-UNLV showdown in the finale would be pretty entertaining.

Both team's have some talent inside, but overall are pretty guard-heavy. Between Dellavedova and point guard Mickey McConnell, the Gaels' backcourt is shifty, creative and very on-point. UNLV might have them licked in terms of depth, and that could be big if the two meet after having playing twice in the previous three days.

Some points from today's opener ...

— Saint Mary's double-double machine Omar Samhan truly played like himself inside, leading the Gaels with 19 points and eight boards. He has pretty soft hands and nice touch on short fadeaway jumpers inside. Definitely has great feel.

— The Gaels were 5-of-8 from 3-point range in the second half.

— Saint Mary's won the rebounding battle, 34-27.

— Speaking further on a potential UNLV-Saint Mary's matchup, the Rebels' depth advantage could actually prove to be pretty huge. While UNLV has 11 players averaging at least 11 minutes a game, Randy Bennett appears much more set on a firm rotation. His five starters averaged 32.8 minutes in the opener, while Jorden Page played 21 minutes off of the bench and Mitchell Young went for 15. For reference to that 32.8 minutes per starter, UNLV's most leaned-upon player in terms of minutes played is Oscar Bellfield at 27.4.

— Mickey McConnell, who has taken over nicely this year for the departed Patty Mills, wasn't his typical self in terms of scoring, putting away five points on 2-of-9 shooting. But the guy's a pretty nice rudder for the Gaels. He had nine assists and no turnovers in 37 minutes of run.

Southern Cal and Western Michigan just tipped off. Stay tuned to lasvegassun.com all day and all week for constant updates on action in paradise.

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  1. http://www.justin.tv/cbb2k8

    You can watch the rebels live.

  2. One thing that seems to happen every time I watch the Rebels play is that Matt Shaw is consistently put in a position to score almost EVERY possession. Be it a ball screen where he rolls, pops, a double team on Tre or someone else that leaves Shaw open, establishing post position, it seems as though Shaw is always in a scoring position. Stream of consciousness

  3. Well, that was a letdown. From 28 and looking like a top ranked team down to 12 and looking like a bunch of dogs who had never played basketball before. Absolutely hate Krugers slow down style at the end of games. His guys obviously aren't prepared properly for it or they just suck at. Either way, run down the damn floor and shove it down there face. Can't lose if you're still scoring.

    Hope this funk doesn't roll over into tomorrow nights game. And yes, I am hard on the Rebels when they don't play well, even in mere stretches.

  4. Though this game looked like a blowout on paper, it was anything but. Especially in the second half. It was like Oscar, Tre, and D.J. were just getting lazy with the ball in the end. Too bad, could've walked away with a 30 point victory and carried it into tomorrow. SMU definitely did a good job of playing UNLV-style basketball in the final 5 minutes. But, a W is a W and I'll take it.

  5. I don't know what game you were watching, but that game was a blowout. SMU had a slight glimmer of hope with about 4 minutes and our entire bench in the game, but the game was never closer than 14 points since the start of the game. A bit sloppy at the end but when the starters were on the floor it SMU didn't stand a chance. Warriors are looking sharp though, they better be ready to play the entire 40 mins tomorrow.

  6. We play three games in four days which will make it 6 games in 10 days. I have no problem with slowing it down and resting our selves. The goals of the season are not to blow out SMU by 30 and then lose to Hawaii the next day. It is a long season and there is no reason to run up and down at this point.

    It got a little scary there for a second, but we won the game and it was a blowout on paper and on the scoreboard.