DIAMOND HEAD CLASSIC :

Trojans out-muscle Rebels in Diamond Head Classic finale, 67-56

Offensively silenced UNLV closes out non-conference slate at 12-2 after loss in Honolulu

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Eugene Tanner / AP

Southern California forward Marcus Johnson (0) celebrates with his teammates after winning the Diamond Head Classic on Friday in Honolulu. USC defeated UNLV 67-56.

USC vs UNLV

In the finals of the Diamond Head Classic, UNLV fell to USC, 67-56. The Rebels closed the non-conference season with a 12-2 record.

UNLV vs. USC

Southern California forward Leonard Washington fends off UNLV guard Kendall Wallace (2) for a rebound in Friday's finals of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

USC POSTGAME: An ugly ending in paradise

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Ryan Greene and Alex Adeyanju discuss UNLV's unflattering finish at the Diamond Head Classic, falling to USC, 67-56. Plus, the guys grade out UNLV's non-conference season and take a look at what's to come in Mountain West play.

HONOLULU — A six-hour flight back to Las Vegas on Friday night was set to feel much longer than that after UNLV was slugged by Southern Cal, 67-56, in the Diamond Head Classic title game.

What could feel even longer, now, is the 11-day stretch with no game action before the Rebels (12-2) begin Mountain West Conference play on Jan. 6 at BYU.

"It makes it tough, because you're just going to practice with no games, and don't have a chance to prove yourself for 11 days," junior guard Tre'Von Willis said. "But it's a tough loss to swallow, for me, especially. We have to go back to square one and get back to doing the things we do."

In back-to-back blowout victories over SMU and Hawaii to start the week in Honolulu, UNLV made a habit of imposing its will and doing those things it normally does.

On Saturday, surging USC, which is now 8-4 with six straight wins, took the upper hand right from go and never let go of the dominant position.

UNLV came in scoring an average of 78 points per game, while USC entered allowing only 56.4.

"Kind of early in the first half, with the ball screens and stuff, they were doing a good job of sending stuff in one direction," said sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield, who led UNLV with 17 points. "We just didn't really get the flow of it."

Despite the Rebels' rough offensive start, they were still within range and hanging tough late in the first half, down 23-18.

At that point, USC ripped off a devastating 10-0 run, highlighted by senior point guard Mike Gerrity flinging a full-court inbounds pass to teammate Dwight Lewis. He hit Lewis in stride for an and-one layup at the other end.

UNLV trailed 39-25 at the half and could never quite adjust.

"You have to get a lower base, you have to play with more strength, you have to look for contact more, have to deliver the first blow instead of responding to getting popped all the time," coach Lon Kruger said, recalling his halftime message to his team. "I thought we did at times in the second half. Not enough. That's another physical team that came in and knocked us around. We've got to figure out how to handle that better."

The first instance of an opponent having its way with the Rebels physically in that fashion came in — oddly enough — the team's only previous loss, falling 95-80 on Dec. 12 to Kansas State.

The difference this time, however, was that the Trojans continually left the door open down the stretch, giving UNLV several opportunities to climb back into it late.

Bellfield hit a 3-pointer with 4:43 to play, pulling the Rebels to within 11 points at 59-48. USC went just 8-of-15 from the free throw line from that point on, but UNLV in turn was only 2-for-8 from the floor in that closing stretch, turning the ball over twice.

Of course, expecting UNLV to find some kind of offensive rhythm late might have been asking too much. Not only did USC refuse to let up on the defensive end, but the Rebels had hardly been themselves to that point in terms of offensive production.

Bellfield was the only one of UNLV's top four scorers on the season to offer much of anything.

Willis played 29 minutes before fouling out late, and was 0-for-6 from the floor. It was only the second time in his UNLV career in which he was held without a field goal and the first time this season.

Junior guard Derrick Jasper picked up his second foul 94 seconds into the game and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. On the heels of one of his best performances as a Rebel against Hawaii, he scored three points on 1-of-3 shooting.

Sophomore forward Chace Stanback was 1-of-5 from the floor, scored five points, picked up four fouls and didn't grab a rebound in 13 minutes, with his night chopped up thanks to his own foul trouble.

In all, UNLV was 17-of-50 from the floor, 5-of-22 from 3-point range and committed 15 turnovers across from eight assists.

"There were really no open looks at all, it was really crowded and jump shots weren't falling," Willis said. "We weren't getting up and running in transition, every bucket had to be earned. They did a good job with that."

USC was paced by senior forward Marcus Johnson, who posted game highs with 19 points and nine rebounds. Gerrity, who was named tournament MVP, finished with 13 points, three assists and no turnovers.

In all, it was another case of a bigger, stronger team having its way with UNLV, and combating that will be a big focus for UNLV as the Rebels head into the 11-day hiatus from game action.

After all, it won't be the last time this year that Kruger's club encounters that brand of opponent.

"They're a very physical club by nature with that big, big front line," Kruger said. "The biggest concern is those big, physical teams. Those types of teams have beaten us twice. That's a concern. You never know how you're gonna respond to that until you line up against it. We lost those two battles, so we have to continue to be concerned about that. But this team's progressed well, we've got a great attitude about working.

"We're disappointed right now, which you'd expect and hope for, but we'll bounce back."

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  1. You do realize they played with out Garrity and Washington? When you add 2 23 year old starters to your line up it is a big difference. LMU would lose by 25 today.

  2. Gosh I wish UNLV played in either the ACC or Big East so these delusional Rebs fans would shut up. I listened to the same ole crap last year about how great Wink Adams was, how he was an all-American, how the Rebels were going to be so great, etc. And then the season started!!! These guys are a bunch of average Joes that have exactly NOTHING special going for them. All this Sweet 16 talk is PREPOSTEROUS! I don't know who has their heads in their butts more...UNLV hoops fans or Ole Miss football fans! Wake up, folks. You ain't winning NOTHING!

  3. First off someone needs to check Garrity's ID, guy looked like he was in his 40's!

    Kruger said he is concerned playing against bigger and stronger teams... Here is an idea, recruit some quality big men so we can match up with those teams. Watching our 6'2'' guards being posted up by 6'7'' 230 forwards is getting old. USC and Kstate punched the Rebs in the mouth and no one responded back.

    If the Rebs really want to turn the corner and be a legit top 25 team which they have the guards to be, they need quality big men period.

  4. We do need the emphasis on quality. The two bigs that transfered were not very good character guys. I think Lopez will be very good next year, he looked good in the pre-season.

  5. SufferinSuccotash - are you Reggie Theus in disguise?

  6. Why do you only post after losses, Surrerin?

  7. Just two questions for Sufferin.
    Who was that white guy you saw in the mirror?
    And what was he doing with your fur coat?

    Reggie seems a bit old to play for the Rebels but he would be a big-time recruit. I suppose we could use him on the bench and bring him in on defense when old guys like Garrity are in the game.

  8. I'm sorry RT, but UNLV "ain't" ever going to be playing in the Big East or ACC. After you learn that "ain't" is not a word, you should try locating a map.

    The rest of your post is just stupid. I'm pretty sure UNLV started 17-4 last year and that Wink Adams is currently collecting a paycheck for playing basketball.

    If you don't care about UNLV basketball, then exactly why are you on this website posting about it.

    Here is a tip for SufferinSuccotash, aka Rebel Robert. Instead of responding to his posts, just ask him about UNLV's on campus football stadium.

  9. Thanks for the English lesson, gorebs97.

    As for last year's Rebels team, perhaps you stopped watching after that 17-4 start. And that would have been a pretty good idea. The rest of the sreason was an utter embarrassment, with the Rebs losses and poor performances too numerous to list here. You must have missed that though. So just to let you know, UNLV wasted that 17-4 start by finishing with only 4 wins in their last 11 games...including getting bounced with ease in the first round of the MWC Tournament (at home no less!), then laying an egg to bring a pathetic closing stretch of a wasted year to an end with a loss to Kentucky in the opening round of the NIT.

    Sorry you tuned out after the that 17-4 start that had you all excited. It must have been quite tittilating to watch the mighty Rebs dispatch powerhouses like N.C. A&T before the REAL season started.

    As for Wink Adams, I don't give a darn if he is making $20 million a year playing ball somewhere...LAST YEAR he SUCKED!!!

    So who's stupid now,a**wipe?

  10. I just realized who you are, gorebs97! You are one of those guys that swore up and down during the offseason that Chase Stanback was so DOMINANT in workouts and pick-up games that he would average 25 and 15 (that's points and rebounds, in case you aren't that familiar with basketball lingo). How he was going to "flat out RULE the Mountain West this season", like one of my media friends has been claiming since Stanback's redshirt year. Reality check: Stanback is averaging 8.6 and 4.9! INCREDIBLE!

    You Rebels fans are so funny! Sweet 16 baby!

    Yea, when pigs fly to the moon!!!

  11. First time readers, have no fear! It really isn't THAT bad!

    Wins bring positivity, losses bring out Sufferin and his pessimists!

    The truth is, most Runnin Rebel fans are happy with a good 12-2 start and realize that our only two losses were against very good opponents (K-State is 11-1 and #12 on the AP and USC is a brand new team with Gerrity and Washington, look for both teams to be ranked late in the season).

  12. OK let's take a deep breath now. USC is a big and physical team that is well-coached and understands how to play defensive basketball. Rest assured, you have not heard the last from that team. Second, UNLV just came out flat, they were disrupted and were unable to adjust. I've had a concern about this team all season, in particular, how they respond to adversity. When things aren't going their way, suddenly they become one-dimensional and selfish instead of running plays and making the extra pass. Defense was pretty bad last night too. Not moving their feet and jumping around at every pump fake, not establishing position and letting guys dribble all the way to the hoop from end line to end line. There is a lot to work needed there too.

    Hey, RT. A lot of people thought the 2007 team wasn't going anywhere, that any Sweet 16 talk was "preposterous". Ask Georgia Tech and Wisconsin whether they think that a Kruger coached team is dangerous in tournament play.

    Another thing, the MWC is probably stronger this year than it has ever been, with 3 (4 if you include UNLV) with a very legitimate claim to the NCAA tournament. Even back when Majerus had the Utah thing going on, the conference was not as strong this year top to bottom. Let's see how conference play goes before we rip the Rebels. I'm happy with 12-2 with wins over Louisville and UA and UNR. K-State is a monster and USC is better than a lot of people think. The real test comes now with conference play.
    I agree we need some quality bigs. Shaw is awful against any kind of size. Santee is the best of the three, gives great effort but has terrible hands. Massamba is similar but not as physical as Santee. With Joel and Essengue and White we almost made the elite 8. With Lopez, Thomas, and hopefully Polee or Gordon next year we should me much more physical and able to deliver the kind of push back needed against more physical teams.
    Sorry about the long post..

  13. oh man you all are ridiculous. Everyone was praising them(even succatash so shut your bitchy little mouth already) and when they lose they think its the end of the world. Teams are going to lose get over it. They'll be fine. Winning one of the next two games will help ease this loss. This team will be fine.

  14. Very disappointed in Coach Kruger. When youre getting your ass handed to you like last night the best players should be on the floor regardless of foul trouble. Chopper should never see the floor and Wallace should not be playing more than 15 min. Wally is most effective coming off the bench to shoot a couple threes as a relative unknown.

  15. We need to recruit better athletes. We looked like a high school team

  16. I was curious last night as to Kruger's rotation off the bench. I know we had foul trouble last night but, it was odd how certain players like chop were in the game so long. We were clearly no match for USC in the key. We could not get an easy bucket and the offensive rebounding was terrible. They gave us the opportunities to come back and we couldn't take advantage of it. Clearly we have size issues, I hope Coach can find a way to remedy this problem going into a tough conference schedule.

  17. Finally, a little more breathing room in the bandwagon. I hope it didn't hurt too bad when you fair weather fans fell out. We'll need you again later.

    Only 2 losses and to big name schools at conference time? I'll take it! Our team is well coached and stacked with competitors... we'll respond well.

  18. I will be the first to admit that UNLV would be a POWERHOUSE in the YMCA's 6'4"-and-under league. This four guard offense is awe-inspiring...if they weren't all 6'2" (other than Willis) that is!. But seriously, other thaqn Findlay Prep, UNLV is the best team in town! Wow! UNLV...'10 YMCA Champs!!!!

  19. You guys make me sick, especially you Robert. Its all praises when we win, and nothing but bitching and moaning when we have an off night. In a 30 game season, you expect our team to go undefeated. You complain about the talent level, when its the best since the tark years.

    Here is an idea, GET OVER IT! BE excited with what we have. I enjoy watching our team play, and I support the team when we win or lose. Kruger is the best thing to happen to UNLV in years, and dont think for a second that because you like Rebel basketball that you are qualified to second guess his decisions.

  20. When we play against a zone our outside shots must fall. Players were settling for bad shots and that's on Kruger to fix. If we played as tough as we did in the 8:00 to 3:00 minute mark of the second half it would have ended differently. The difference between last years team and this team is leadership. Willis is the leader that Wink was not. I'd much rather take this lump now than against BYU or New Mexico. We'll see how they respond. Losses make the whiners come out. We all know Kruger will use this loss as a teaching tool. Quit your b****ing

  21. We played bad and our back-ups played the first half. With our stars Jasper and Stanback playing in the 2nd half, we outscored them, still playing terrible. UNLV bb will be fine, I agree with 08.
    Rebels go 13-3 and win the season and tourney titles and a 5 seed in the NCAAs.

  22. UNLV has GOT to shoot better. Don't settle for the crazy shots. Foul trouble I don't think was as much the issue as Willis was not scoring later on. USC completely shut down our scorers, making our other teammates step it up. They did, but just too little, too late. I can't say I agree with Chop being in so late in the game. I know he riles the team up, but that is maybe right after halftime and take him out after a couple minutes.

    I was so disappointed watching the game because it was so uncharacteristic like the K St. game was. There seemed to be nop sense of immediacy, no sense of heart or passion.

    Gotta keep battling guys.

  23. *The level of basketball this team is playing is the best since Jerry Tarkanian was the coach.
    *Kruger has not reached his ceiling. Look at the roster for the 2010-11 season.
    *Kruger will leave UNLV as the second best coach in UNLV Basketball history.
    *Tark lived off of transfers, so if you are criticizing Kruger for bringing in transfers, might as well criticize Tark for doing it.
    *The guys considering UNLV for 2011 & 2012 are pretty damn solid. Look at Jordan Goodman (2011). As athletic as bigs get.

    *Also, Tony Wroten Jr, the #2PG in 2011, has a lot of interest in UNLV.

    The recruiting is fine. Kruger came into UNLV with a not so great squad and in 3 yrs took it to a sweet 16. Now, he has more players than u can count from thr Top 100 considering UNLV. As long as things are improving each year (besides last yr), there isn't much more to ask from a coach.

    Losses are inevitable. If you cant except losing, then dont watch sports.

  24. SufferinSuccotash -Obviously you're a student of the game?

    USC recently picked added two key players, one of them the point guard. They're not nearly the same team that lost to Marymount earlier in the season.

    But wow has the mood changed here!

  25. yeah, havent you noticed logic..that since UNLV started winning games that all the sudden there were 50 comments on each story instead of 10??

    FAIRWEATHER FANS!!! Now they are like"OMG they lost! Who do I like now??"

  26. yes bandwagon fans are just the best. Go rebs, after they hit a hot streak again I look forward to you BW fans high approval of Kruger again. If the Rebs get 11-12 wins in conference we are a lock for the NCAA Tourney even if we don't win the regular season title or the MWC tourny. So instead of bitching and moaning how bout you hide under your rocks where you have been for the past several years and post your happy remarks when they put together their next win streak.

  27. Sufferin is exactly right! This is coming from a lobo fan. Kruger is not the coach for your team. UNLV will lose a lot of games in coference. The first two league games will be losses! Mark my word. Playing guys like Steve Jones and recruiting guys like him and Massamba is the reason why UNLV will be a NIT team under Lon Kruger. If you want nice guys with heart they that ok Kruger but you need to be coaching a D2 team. Start with Reggie Theus as coach and do not recruit no talent people like chopper jones!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  28. RT, I never said a word about Chace and I've never attended pickups. You are a clown.

    Lobo69, since when did UNLV recruit Steve Jones? He transferred from ASU. You are lucky that Kruger turned down McDonald and Hobson.

  29. I called this just before the game ended. Good learning experience for the rebels. Bad fans as usual!

  30. Chop Jones transfered from ASU and WALKED-ON to UNLV. He propels this team with his energy and leadership.

    gorebs97, you are correct. UNLV turned to McD and Hobson. Hobson would yell at everyone and cuss people out if he wasn't picked in pick-up games with the UNLV team...

    UNLV is a better team than BYU and New Mexico. UNLV would never to lose to Oral Roberts. At least the teams that UNLV lost to will be in the tourney.

  31. If UNLV lands Cory Joseph AND Dwayne Polee somehow....New Mexico fans will find a way to twist it around and say their players are better and those two suck

    hahahaha

  32. The last thing I need to hear from a Lobo fan is what kind of coach our team needs. Kruger already has more tournament wins in four years than the Lobos have had the last 15! You guys can't even handle Oral Roberts! the only thing I want to hear from Lobo fan is "thank you" for being in our conference and allowing us to play a team with a real marquee and prestige. maybe after you've been to the Final Four multiple times and win a national title, THEN you can tell us what kind of coach we need. By the way, Alford was run out of Iowa because he was a terrible strategist. Good recruiter, bad xs and os guy. Does that characterization have merit? Worry about your own coach, Wolves fan.

  33. As most of you know, I am and will continue to be a monster Rebel fan. Which, allows me to do some nitpicking after losses while still loving my team.

    I will say that it is depressing to see Chop getting more minutes than JHawk and.....Massamba does look out of his league. I don't see that there is any relavent arguement against the fact that we aboslutely need stronger, taller, talented, more athletic, and in the very least more coordinated big men. USC was able to focus on our guard play because there was zero threat down low. And when they did have their few offensive chances to prove they belonged (by rebounding and laying in easy buckets) they were dominated and looked very mediocre.

    Wishfully, that all gets fixed next season with Lopez, Thomas and hopefully some better recruits coming in. Also, I will continue to hope for the best for the Rebs this season but it's hard for me not to say to myself "this team is incomplete and good teams have and will take advantage of this. Moreover, it's hard to put my heart into a team that most likey isn't going very far. Next years roster should be much better."

    If I wasn't so competitive, it would be tempting.

  34. Like you Camron, love my Rebels but I can also see where we need improvement. You're absolutely correct about our big guys. I had high hopes for Santee early this year when he displayed some nice ability against SIU and Louisville, dunking and handling the ball and getting boards. Since then he seems to have had PT reduced, and he has regressed a bit. Another concern for me watching the game against USC: passing. Lazy passes, passes to the feet, passes out of bounds. You need to pass the ball at your teammates waist, not 3 ft over his head or at his toes. What was that all about? Twice Stanback just kind of lazily tossed the ball to the wing, right into the hands of USC. ???

  35. Chopper Jones came to UNLV because of Kruger. PERIOD. He is Krugers man.

  36. Really, where is your evidence/documentation that he's "Kruger's man"? And what the hell does it mean to be 'his man' anyway?

    Jones requested to transfer to UNLV as a walk-on, same as being a non-schoarship athlete. UNLV did not recruit him as the next Larry Johnson or at all for that matter.

    I cannot have respect for a person who trolls around other teams sites and talks smack while his team hasn't been to the big dance or even gotten out of the first round of the MWC tournament with their new 'savior' of a head coach.

    Even if you beat us in a couple of weeks it still wouldn't mean that you won a game in the first round. So until you can do that, close the freakin' book.

  37. The worst part of the game for me was that we had a chance to tie the game after going on a little run to close the gap to 10. USC missed what seemed like 8 out of 10 free throws to finish the game, and we didn't convert. That is where a healthy Tre'Von would have said, "Give me the ball and get me a one-on-one!" With him not healthy this team will struggle. It is fun to talk about Jasper and Stanbeck, and the Wonder Twins, but without a healthy Tre'Von this team will not go very far. Just like his tattoo says, "In Tre We Trust."

    We seemed to be overly stocked at guard, yet when Tre'Von is off, there is no real fix. Yes other guys have scored as much or even a bit more than him in spots, but this game showed more than ever that the Rebel are going to go only as far as Tre can carry them.

    Let's hope some rest will do Tre some good and they stick it to the Lobos, and Zoobs!

  38. Chopper playes with Krugers son. He came to Vegas with Krugers sona and knew he had a spot on the roster. Im not trolling. I like the rebel articles because i think that UNLV is the best competition in the MWC for us.

  39. Kevin came for the 2006-07 season only and Chop got here in time for the 2008-09 campaign. They did not come together. He may have been assured a spot on the roster, as a walk-on. Still not getting how he is Kruger's man. More like, you want him to be Kruger's man so that you can continue to undermine Kruger's recruiting.

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    I suppose I am as guilty as anyone because I didn't write anything in the other two articles and did write something in this article. There is also more to be said about a loss, i.e. coaching decisions, player performance, than there is to say about a win, i.e good job boys, and Go Rebels! This dichotomy has to be acknowledged.

    Only showing up after losses does nothing to help your team, the Rebels are your team right? And calling for Kruger's head every time we lose just so you can finally be right when he inevitably leaves/retires/gets fired, is like forecasting rain everyday, and we know how often it rains in Vegas...

    So if the 2009 Rebels are your team, not just the 75-91 rebels, but this year, right now, in the present, current Rebels are your team show some real support and get behind them when they need it most -after a tough loss. You think this loss hurts? You didn't even play the game!!!

    Sure you should offer some constructive criticism, even playing arm chair coach and saying, "I would've done this differently," is fine, as long as you keep your heart (and your head) in the right place.

    Let's go Rebels!

  41. I really like that comment lvnative.

    The players are more dedicated than any team has been since the Tark years (06-07 not included). A loss makes these players want to try that much harder. That is a good thing.

    I can live with a bunch of "long-shot NBA prospects" (in the majority's opinion) taking us to the tourney and winning some games. I can NOT live with a team full of NBA-talent (Bayno years) not even winning the conference, let alone making the tourney.