UNLV BASKETBALL:

UNLV-TCU Notebook: Assistant coach returns to bench

Feeling the Pressure

With post-season hopes looming, UNLV used a full-court press and a 23-2 run to help avenge a January loss to TCU by beating the Horned Frogs 71-57 Tuesday night.

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Lew Hill

The Rebel Room

TCU POSTGAME: The press and the enigma

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's 71-57 defeat of TCU, which involved the smaller Rebels lineup applying staunch defensive pressure on the inexperienced Horned Frogs. The guys also dissect one of Wink Adams' steadier performances of the year, the enigma known as Tre'Von Willis and what's up next for Lon Kruger's 18-6 ball club.

UNLV vs. TCU

The UNLV defense presses TCU as UNLV took on the TCU Horned Frogs Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

Box score

Beyond the Sun

The economy continues to tank, there was a biting chill outside the Thomas & Mack Center and inside the arena Tuesday night, and UNLV had dropped two consecutive overtime games.

To one person, however, it was a joyous evening.

Rebels assistant coach Lew Hill was back on the bench.

After experiencing chest pain last Tuesday after that first overtime defeat to San Diego State at the Mack, Hill left the building wearing an oxygen mask and laying on a stretcher.

He spent about 48 hours, resting and undergoing tests that came up negative, at Sunrise Hospital. He did not make the team’s trip to New Mexico, where it lost another one in extra time.

Hill, 43, returned to practice Sunday, when he told the Sun that doctors have prescribed some lifestyle changes so he experiences no further chest discomfort.

He was on coach Lon Kruger’s bench, beside assistants Greg Grensing and Steve Henson, and director of basketball operations Mike Shepherd, for UNLV’s 71-57 victory over TCU.

“Oh, it felt awesome,” Hill said afterward. “When it’s your health and you’re back walking around, it feels good regardless of what you’re doing. It’s good to be back on the court.

“I’m getting my strength back every day. It’s a wonderful thing.”

Getting defensive

UNLV’s 21 turnovers were the most it’s committed in more than three seasons, and the 26 miscues by TCU made it a blemish-filled game.

Kruger attributed that to the “frantic” pace of the game set by his full-court defensive pressure, which operated efficiently with a smaller lineup.

UNLV was beaten on the boards, 39-28, but the Rebels were losing that battle with centers Darris Santee and Brice Massamba in the picture.

Kruger benched Santee on Saturday, in New Mexico, in favor of the guard-heavy lineup and rotation that so frequently paced the Rebels the past two seasons.

It is the team’s most productive unit – mostly Wink Adams, Oscar Bellfield, Tre’Von Willis, Rene Rougeau and Joe Darger – and Kruger expects to stick with it for a while.

“We disrupted them a lot,” Bellfield said of the Rebels’ full-court press. “I mean, we really got up and pressed them. That was our main focus, pressuring them and making them turn the ball over.

“Coach wanted us to get after them the whole game … this is a really good win for us. We needed to pick it up, take from it and learn from it, and transfer it to other games.”

Hot first half

UNLV scorched the nets in the first half Tuesday when it made 16 of the 27 shots it attempted. But that 59.3 percent effort wasn’t its finest of the opening half this season.

That happened against Northern Arizona on Nov. 20, 2008, when the Rebels shot 64.3 percent (18-for-28) to lead, 54-31, at halftime.

And at TCU last month, UNLV shot 56.5 percent (13-for-23) in the first half but trailed, 40-39, at the intermission.

Tuesday’s figures are even more impressive considering the Rebels missed three of their first four shots of the game. After that, they went 15-for-23 (65.2 percent).

Free throws

After going 5-for-24 from the field in his past three games, Willis sharpened his shot Tuesday and connected on all four of his attempts. It was also only the second time in 14 games that Willis had multiple steals. Against Utah on Jan. 24, he had six assists and three steals. Tuesday, Willis recorded five assists and two steals … UNLV’s 9-for-19 (47.4 percent) touch beyond the 3-point arc was its best long-range performance in four games … to further illustrate the Rebels’ defensive intensity, they blocked six shots for the second time in their past 12 games … senior walk-on Rob Ketchum scored his first points in the Mack, sinking a pair of free throws, to give UNLV a 71-55 edge with 33.9 ticks left … freshman forward DeShawn Mitchell didn’t score in his five previous games, but his fastbreak jam, on a feed from Rougeau, at the end of the first half fired up the crowd of 12,178 and gave the Rebels a 40-29 lead … UNLV plays host to Colorado State (8-15, 3-6) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.

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