UNLV BASKETBALL:

Burst from Jones helps Rebels chop up Wolf Pack

Senior walk-on sparks key 11-0 second half run in victory

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Steve Jones celebrates as the Rebels go on a 35-12 run against UNR during the second half of their game Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the intrastate rivalry 88-75.

UNR vs UNLV

Thanks to 35 bench-points, UNLV used a second-half surge to beat Nevada, Reno 88-75 Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack.

UNLV vs. UNR Basketball

UNR forwards Luke Babbitt, left, and Adam Carp battle with UNLV forward Brice Massamba and guard Anthony Marshall as they chase down a loose ball during the first half of their game Nov. 18, 2009, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won 88-75. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UNR POSTGAME: Kruger's gamble pays off ... big

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Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Rob Miech break down an 88-75 UNLV victory which turned on a dime from a slugfest into a track meet on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was all the result of a gamble made by coach Lon Kruger with the Rebels trailing by 12 with 15 minutes to play ...

Some walk-ons wait an entire career to have the night that UNLV senior guard Steve Jones had on Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

And for most of them, that night never comes.

But trailing 54-42 with a shade under 15 minutes to play against in-state rival UNR, coach Lon Kruger grabbed Jones along with freshmen Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall off of the bench. He threw them in in place of arguable his three best players — Chace Stanback, Tre'Von Willis and Derrick Jasper.

What ensued was a beautiful blend of precision on one side, shock on the other and madness all together.

UNLV rattled off 11 consecutive points as part of a 46-21 run to close the game.

Jones, referred to as "Chopper" by his teammates, was the sparkplug.

"We all just looked at each other and said, 'Hey, this could only go one of two ways,'" Jones recalled of that timeout. "I mean, we can either go down the road we're on or we can just put it all on the floor and see what happens.

"The end result was pretty good for us."

Jones started the rally with a layup in traffic on the left side of the rim.

After three more UNLV buckets made it a four-point game at 54-50, Jones brought the crowd noise to another level when he forced a turnover with heavy defensive pressure along the sideline. Moments later came a 3-pointer atop the key and a subsequent Wolf Pack time out.

The house rocking, his teammates storming at him to celebrate, Jones was the recipient of several vicious chest bumps, all while wearing a confident scowl across his face.

"That was great," he said. "Last year, I was in a suit and tie. I couldn't chest bump. I had to fist bump. To hear the crowd going, see my teammates happy, see that we're getting into this, it was a great feeling and I loved it."

Besides winning a state championship at Jesuit High in Portland, Ore., Jones said it was his greatest moment on a basketball court.

His teammates wouldn't mind him having a few more this season, especially if the regulars get off to rough starts like they did on Wednesday.

It began early, as junior guard Tre'Von Willis picked up his second personal foul less than two minutes into the game and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. The Rebels then looked unwound for a while.

"Chop just brings a ton of energy and a positive attitude to the team, and he's one of the players that always makes you want to do more," Willis said. "You can call him an X-factor. I can't say enough about Chop. He really gets the team going."

He can also surprise, too, which he did on the defensive end during his 20 minutes on the floor.

The Rebels regularly switch on defense, and on several occasions, the 6-foot-1 Jones found himself matched up against UNR 6-foot-9 star forward Luke Babbitt.

A tall task? Yes. But Jones was part of a committee which frustrated Babbitt all night and held him to just 2-of-11 shooting in 36 minutes played.

Jones made up for the size difference by getting creative, which involved things such as sticking a forearm in Babbitt's back to keep him in check.

"All my dirty tricks? I can't say anything about that — come on, now," Jones said jokingly. "I was just ready to fight. We practiced it all the time, positioning in the post with the guards, since we switch. You're always prepared to face a bigger opponent, and that's what happened tonight.

"I'm always ready to battle and attack. He's a tremendous player. We watched film on him, and he can do so many different things. He's got the jumper; he can drive; he's a really smooth player. We just knew we had to take that battle on and be ready for the fight. You've got to respect him, but at the same time, you've got to relish the opportunity to defend a great player."

The entire package taken into consideration — the five points, the three assists and the major helping hand on defense — and most may have been surprised to see such a bold move while facing a 12-point second-half deficit pay off so well for Kruger.

But in the sixth-year coach's eyes, it wasn't that huge of a risk.

"You see him every day in practice, and he's like that every day," Kruger said. "He's got great energy, great enthusiasm, doesn't care what role he plays. He just wants to help the team win. He was a redshirt (after transferring from Arizona State) last year and he wins — by vote of the players — most inspirational player.

"So that tells you what the players think of Chop, and certainly he's a coach's delight, and I appreciate what he does."

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  1. Looks like we got our leader. Who says the leader has to be the best player. I love how he huddles the guys up every dead ball and riles em up or just gives em advice. Even though all of his contributions arent on the statsheet, his value to this team shouldnt go forgotten..

    this is 3 walk-ons who have been successful the last 3 years now..Terry, Rene, Jones.

    IF YOU ARENT GETTIN A CHANCE AT WHERE YOU ARE PLAYING NOW OR ARENT BEING RECRUITED, COME WALK-ON AT UNLV AND KRUGER WILL GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO PROVE YOURSELF AS LONG AS YOUR WORK YOUR BUTT OFF IN PRACTICE.

  2. You gotta love Chop's swagger and attitude out there. Of course it's not like we're putting Gary Graham in there or Augmon, but the kid has heart. As for Curtis, I have to admit i had some reservations when Kruger made him point guard, but the results speak for themselves(NCAA tournament victory), and I ended up being a huge Terry fan by the end of the season. If you need any proof as to how valuable Terry was, look at what happened last year after he graduated, a significantly less efficient team offensively. Give the man his due, just because he wasn't recruited by Tark doesn't mean he wasn't a great UNLV player.

  3. Sufferin
    Did it also make you sick to your stomach when Chopper forced that turnover? How about when he hit that 3 pointer? Did they really make you feel like vomiting? You must have been feeling the pain bad when he was igniting the crowd right? Well, then good, you lived up to your screen name! You should thank him then.

  4. Chopper of the first half - agree with Sufferin
    Chopper of the second half - ok

    I think he will play 8-15 minutes a game until we get through the tourney in Hawaii and then they will trail off as the two freshmen get more established. Those two filled in nicely for Willis.

  5. That picture is ridiculous lol

  6. He is definitely not the most talented player out there, but the spark he provides for the team is immeasurable. To be honest, I expected NO PRODUCTION from him prior to the season, so I have to say I'm pleasantly surprised.

    And Sufferin, I know what you mean about CT. I used to get the same feeling. BUT honestly, he made a few key baskets in the clutch. Do you remember the close win over SDSU a couple years ago? You can't really compare Chop to CT. No disrespect, but I wouldn't say Chop is that much of a liability. Kid plays with a lot of heart and hustle.

    I don't expect him to get as much minutes as he did last night. I also don't expect our starting guards to be as ineffective. But give the guy his due.

  7. Oh and by starting guards, I didn't mean O. We needed those 22 points!

  8. Love his energy and hustle but truth is he's probably the worst player in our rotation. Especially if Massamba and Santee show up.

  9. I don't know how sufferin' could feel that way about chop last night. Last night his play reminded me of Wink Adams 2 seasons ago more so than Terry. Hittin threes, stopping the big man, gettin the crowd pumped up, if he keeps playing the way he did last night I think he should start. The players need him and the crowd needs him just for his energy, he and Oscar were the only one showing real signs of life out there.

  10. Didn't see the game. Was it on that stupid cable network?

  11. Sufferin you are an idiot.

    Anyway, someone needs to tell the mtn. that his name is "chopper" not "pork chop" and they need to get that lady off the broadcast team (the one that looks like a horse).

    Kruger is a whiz with the walk-ons. Terry, RR, and now Chopper. I hope he proves to be as valuable as Terry and RR were.

    GO RunninRebels!

    Thanks for the coverage Ryan!

  12. Sufferin,
    i guess you are also sick to your stomach that you were DEAD WRONG about how Matt Shaw should start. yea Shaw is playing pretty decent but he is nowhere near the level of Santee/Brice. You've gotta make due with what THIS TEAM has. STOP compating these Rebels to the teams of the 80s-90s b/c they arent at that level.

    Well with what Jones did last night:
    -scored a layup that sparked a 11-0 run
    -locked up an All-American and forced him to take several bad shots
    -how bout all that defense and energy too?

    he aint the most talented but he is a contributor. much more than your boy shaw that you think should start, idiot.

  13. The more I watch Steve Jones play, the more I like him. He makes up for his shortcomings by hustling, playing within himself, and firing up his teammates. The way he beats his chest and pumps his fist in the air to get the Rebs motivated shows just how special this acquisition is for Lon's squad. It reminds me of the Butler/Scurry snarl after grabbing rebounds. He's an intangible, and quickly becoming the emotional leader of this team. I like your moxie, Kid!

  14. For the love of GOD RYAN! How much longer do we have to endure this pathetic excuse for a human being?

    Sufferin', you make me sick to my stomache. Fool! The Rebs won a game I'm sure you predicted we'd lose.

  15. If I'm not mistaken, Chop is one of the main guy's to show recruits around town when they come to visit. That tells me a lot about Chopper right there.

    Then, mix in the fact that he's been voted most likely to get killed playing basketball. From what I understand, it's not uncommon for him to dive 6 rows deep for a loose ball,,, IN PRACTICE. My 5 Choppers can beat your five primadonna's most days of the week and probably twice on Sunday. Being voted "most inspirational" by his team mates as a red shirt, is pretty impressive too. Who would know better than they would?

    Very happy for Chop's results last night. GO Rebels!

  16. Why do you guys even respond to "sufferin". We all know who he is and why he acts like this...He loves the attention. Quit giving it to him and someday he might go away.

    Chop is going to be the spark off the bench when needed and last night, we needed him. Enough said.

  17. apparently shaw should be playing all 40 minutes..look how out of shape he is! if he did that, hed get carried off in a stretcher!

  18. I'd PAY to see your pain after Stew and Chop slugged you in the stomach

  19. stew? whos that? and yea i know..i wish Sufferin would come out and yell i am Sufferin Succotash aka Rebel Robert at a game when its quiet :)

  20. Really though, both are class acts and would never stoop to the level of that pile of mule dung

  21. grayback, still havent said who stew is. assuming it is shaw. i hope shaw trims down to the weight he was at his sophomore year

  22. Maybe Robert aka Sufferin wants the real reason he got fired from his job at UNLV to be exposed...if he keeps this up, his past unethical actions will have to be revealed to the public...

  23. Chop's play reminded me a lot of another former Rebel Jevon Banks. A defense-first spark plug that could hit an occasional shot and change the momentum of a game by doing all the little things.