Rebels’ reserves ignite comeback in 88-75 victory over UNR

Kruger goes to bench for game-changing momentum to beat rival Wolf Pack

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield drives for two of his 22 points 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 ...

UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger should have been rolling the dice or picking numbers on a roulette wheel or hitting 18s on a blackjack table somewhere in town Wednesday night.

Against what appeared to be high odds, he made a move at the Thomas & Mack Center that paid off handsomely in the Rebels’ 88-75 victory over UNR.

Trailing their Silver State rival by a dozen points 5 1/2 minutes inside the second half, the Rebels rallied when Kruger benched a trio of starters for two rookies and a walk-on.

The Wolf Pack had just rattled off eight consecutive points to take a 54-42 lead. A crowd of 13,113 had been silenced.

“They were probably thinking, ‘What’s about to happen? Are they going to pick it up or give up?’ And we picked it up,” said UNLV sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield, who scored a career-best 22 points.

Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins, the freshmen whom Kruger threw into the game to put out the fire, looked at each other.

“We have to pick it up right here and right now,” Marshall told Hawkins. A step behind those two, senior walk-on Steve “Chopper” Jones said, “We have to bring energy!”

“The crowd was quiet and seemed out of the game,” Hawkins said. “We came in right from the get-go and brought energy. We leaned on each other for defensive support and just kept it going.”

And going, and going …

Ten seconds after getting into the fray, the 6-foot-1 Jones slipped in a layup on the left side among tall traffic after Bellfield found him with an exquisite pass.

That started a snowball rolling that ended up looking like a boulder to the Wolf Pack.

Before UNR (1-1) scored again, UNLV (2-0) had rung up 11 points in a row. Jones capped that blast by knuckle-balling a 3-point shot through the net to get the Rebels within 54-53.

The tide had turned, however, and in a major way. Much of the crowd was on its feet, the “Rebbbbb-elllllls” chant had begun and a media timeout with 11:49 left gave the Pack a breather.

UNR tried stemming it with four free throws, but Jones and Marshall and Hawkins were determined to keep rolling.

Seconds before the next media timeout, with 8:12 left, Bellfield cruised in for a layup that capped a devastating 23-4 run to give the Rebels a 65-58 edge.

New UNR coach David Carter called for a timeout, the Rebels’ band struck up “Viva Las Vegas” and Wolf Pack star sophomore forward Luke Babbitt knew it was finished.

“That’s a good team and they have great fans,” Babbitt said. “We played in a hostile environment. We let the fans get into the game ... We can’t let that happen. After that, it was all over.”

The 6-9 Reno native had 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds. He went 2-for-11 from the field but sank all 10 of his free throws.

Babbitt, and guards Brandon Fields (22 points) and Armon Johnson (14 points) – the trio on which Carter will rely – were all on the court when UNLV poured it on with its reserves.

“They’re a deep team, a really deep team,” Babbitt said of the Rebels. “That hurt us a little bit. They were able to bring in fresh guys. We just weren’t able to hold the 12-point lead.

“We kept the crowd out of it when we were up 12. Give them credit. They turned it on and we weren’t able to respond.”

In that game-changing 23-4 run, Hawkins, Marshall and Jones combined for 17 of UNLV’s points. Hawkins executed a savvy hesitation move in the lane, which he finished with a stylish scoop, for two of his points.

“Maybe some of the fans thought the game was over,” said Hawkins, who had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting. “The young guns come in, get playing time, lose by 15 or 20 points … not us. We’re winning this game by any means necessary. We HAD to win this game.”

Kruger is going to enjoy his deep roster.

“We have a lot of different combinations and lineups,” he said. “Anthony and Justin have played a lot of basketball in their lives. They know how to play, they’re good competitors and they’re physical.”

When Kruger went back to first-stringers Derrick Jasper, Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback, they did not fritter away their inheritance.

With seven minutes left, UNR was within 68-62 when Stanback hit a 3-point shot. Matt Shaw scored two strong inside baskets and Bellfield found Brice Massamba near the rim for another easy layup.

“That second squad looked good tonight, looked like the first squad,” said Willis.

“We were playing kind of flat,” Shaw said. “Luckily, once those guys got in they picked up our energy crazy. Justin, Anthony … those guys can run all day. They don’t get tired. They brought a lot of energy for us.”

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  1. "They don't get tired." That will vow will for when they become starters :) the chemistry is developing a lot quicker than many expected, including me, the So Illinois game will definitely be another tough game. Fans need to get out there to the Thomas&Mack and support the Rebels!

  2. I love to see my Alma mater whoop our biggest rival. The Wolf Pack went home licking their wounds. Lon was smart going to the bench in order to get some fresh blood on the court. Similar to what I'm going to do in the Legislature, bring the energy.

  3. I was getting nearly upset at the 1st half performance, and UNLV was very lucky the score was not MUCH more. They can't do that slow start missing the baskets against better teams coming up such as Louisville. They will just get too far ahead.

    Reno had no depth. It was like seeing the same 3 guys on the court the entire game I think and I think they just got wore out. Bellfield definitely kept UNLV hanging by a thread until the scoring run. The 1st half was absolutely abysmal though, like UNLV could not make a shot and UNR was making most of theirs (especially 3's). Into the 2nd half, it was as if a light switch had turned on for UNLV and turned off for Reno though. I think they just got tired trying to keep up the pace.

  4. Actually it was Bellfield on that play

  5. Technically it wasn't a steal, either, it was a jump ball and the Rebels had possession.

  6. It was Hawkins who grabbed the ball and it was not a foul. The guy dribbling the ball was losing the ball when Hawkins grabbed it, tried to regain control and ended up falling to the ground. The jump ball call was correct. In situations like that you can't call a foul. It was basically a loose ball situation once the ball handler started losing the ball.

  7. Good news bad news scenario. The Bad news is that UNLV's defense was very porous last night. Time and time again Reno drove right by UNLV defenders and scored or kicked it out for threes. In the second half we were fortunate that Armon Johnson and Babbit decided they were going to jack up jumpers and not give up the rock. Also fortunate that Babbit is not smart enough to go post up when guards were checking him. We need to get that fixed ASAP. The Good news was for the first time in two years I saw our guards consistently take it strong to the hole and not settle for contested pull up jumpers(second half). That really paid off. I have not been the biggest Bellfield fan but he was tremendous. I can only think of two jumpers he attempted the rest were strong moves to the hole. Jasper, Hawkins and Marshall followed suit. It was great to watch. We still have a long way to go but I hope the coaches cue up the tape of the second half and preach the benefits of getting to the rack. They will be a much better offensive team if they do this. Runnin' Rebels!

  8. @ liljoe31:

    It was JHawk.

  9. Nothing to get excited about? More than 13k got damn excited about it in that building last night ... I counted at least a dozen easy misses at point-blank range, until the reserves gave them that jolt. UNLV easily could have hit triple digits. Easily. No inside game? Ridiculous. Santee and Massamba both were strong, so was Shaw. The shtick is really getting old.

  10. We know that our inside guys do not have good post up game but they did play hard and if they can be stronger finishing when the guards penetrate that would be all we need offensively. I too have been critical of our bigs but if they can continue to score 15-20 points and have 15-20 boards between them that is pretty good for this group.

  11. Awesome game! I had so much fun watching our guys run and score last night. I love the athleticism this year. Should be a fun season and anyone who stays home is missing out! UNLV did some bigtime butt-kicking last night!

    Go Rebs!!

  12. Thank you Rob! I totally agree!

  13. ban him Miech!

    I don't know why Kruger doesn't play the lottery or sit at a Megabucks machine, because apparently he's the luckiest person living on the planet Earth.

  14. Considering we outscored the opponent by 30 in the paint, and outrebounded them there is obviously an inside game. However I do think we will have a challenge against an athletic big man unless the one of the bigs really steps up with post defense. Shaw or Santee seem like the better bets at they seem more coordinated than the still-developing Massamba. If someone can block a shot or two a game and defend without fouling in the post this team can win the conference and go deep in the tourney.

  15. I have been critical of the inside game but Massamba had 6 boards in 14 mins and Santee 7 boards in 14 mins... held Babbitt to 2-11 shooting. I don't know how anyone can criticize that.

  16. Rob, besides banning him......

    Riddle me this. The announced crowd for Pitt State was 14,000 plus but it looked more like 11,000. Last nights attendance was 13,000 plus but looked more like 16,000 plus. Is it just me or is that funky?

  17. I've gone to more Rebel games than I care to admit, and this ranks right up there as one of the more exciting. Outside of the obvious reasons, it was the scenario: our in-state rivals, the first D-I opponent for a basically unknown UNLV team, and a big time gut check at the 14 minute mark.

    The air was sucked out of the Mack, and the Reno fans were in full gloat mode. This young Rebel team could've folded up like an accordion, but they didn't. Lon took a timeout, went to his coffers, and the Rebs never looked back the rest of the night.

    I am so proud of what this team accomplished Wednesday. They overcame another horrid shooting night, seemingly biased referees, and the ongoing process of getting to know each other, to prevail with authority. I mean, that 25 point swing in the second half was a thing of beauty.

    Kudos goes to Hawkins, Marshall, and Chopper Jones, who is quickly becoming the emotional core of this team. I love it when Steve Jones pumps his fist in the air to amp up the defense. Big props also go to the Three-Headed Monster (Massamba, Shaw, and Santee) for putting in another great performance. They collectively make up for whatever they lack individually, plus give us 18 fouls to work with.

    Shots may have rattled out; defensive assignments may have been missed, but the team's heart and resilience never waivered.

    My voice is happily hoarse today. Go, Rebs!

  18. This team is good, but will get a lot better as the season progresses, roles are defined and guys that haven't played in a while get their reps.

    I'm particulary interested in seeing how Jasper's game improves with more court time. He looks like one of those rare players that plays very quick, but not too fast/out of control.

  19. It is good to see the rookies step it up. I wonder if J-Hawk will be in the starting 5 now. I think Marshall and J-Hawk should get a lot of consideration for starting jobs next game! What is up with the mtn. calling Steve "chopper" Jones "pork chop"? They are idiots.

    Thank you for the coverage Rob I really appreciate it. Keep up the good work!

  20. thanks all ... I'm not so sure the young bucks will all of a sudden be in the starting five ... not that that's not deserved, but that energy off the bench was stunning and not something Kruger wants to lose. The upper classman, I'd think, have been served a wake-up call. Notice how their interior games improved after that run by the rooks and Chop?
    Pork Chop? Hmmm ... Actually, that's sort of what Kevin Kruger first called Jones ... it was in relation to pork chop ... pork chops ... food ... but quickly became Chop.
    How about a nickname for AM JH and Chop???
    The three-headed monster at center is appropriate. Heck, against a solid center, at the very least that's 15 fouls to make the other big man earn it. Not bad. But they are producing, and I think they will continue to do so...
    Santee wants to finish his college career well, Massamba's older brother really lit a fire under him in Sweden over the summer and Shaw is jacked to be playing after that year off rehabbing his knee.
    Plus, Carlos Lopez is going to make practice very challenging for those guys all season. So will Q Thomas when he's ready to go in four to six weeks.
    Lot going on folks ... remember, have fun!

  21. Sorry, Rob. I had pro fouls on the brain.

  22. How about "wonder twins" as a nickname for the AM, J-Hawk combination off the bench?

  23. Massjockchop actually, scratch that. The only theme fitting enough would be to call them the Chimera.

  24. Yeah, Wonder Twins seems to stick. They're gonna be together a while :)

    They feed off each other the way Wade and Banks & Anthony and Hunt used to.

  25. Ok, whoever mentioned Hawkins starting lets slow down. No doubt he is my favorite player on teh floor right now, but is just stupid to think he should be starting, Just like someone somehwere asked about Tre falling out of the lineup. Tre didnt play in the first half with fouls and still wound up with 8 points. Im excited with what this team can do, esp since our "stars" havent rounded in to form yet

  26. how bout J-Mars :) or A-Hawk? haha i like WonderTwins though. keep the ideas comin

  27. yea, i like Hawkins energy off the bench too. If one of the starters is off his game, Hawkins makes up for it..say its January and Hawkins is averages 12 pts a game then he deserves a starting spot over whoever isnt contributing..

  28. The rebels played great last night especially the bench. I'm glad to see the Big's attacking the basket. The only bad thing about last night is the students leading the rebel chant. SIMPLY HORRIBLE!!! It wasn't "Rebbbbb-elllllls" more like "Rebel,Rebel, rebel." Can someone please address them say the "RRRRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEBBBBBBBBBEEEEEEEEEELLLLLLLLLLLSSSSSS" chant right?

  29. southern, no worries man ...
    uh, ofarebel, I think your post will get some attention over in Kruger's Korner ... :-)
    Maybe "Triple Threat" for JHawk, Anthony and Chop?
    keep em coming

  30. Ofarebel, we are all chain smokers, so unfortunately, we can't draw our voices out for an extended period of time. That and we are too intoxicated to a point that if we might forget it .. REEEEEEE .... what?

    Just kidding, I love being able to watch these games as a senior. =)

  31. yo

  32. This could be a very dangerous team, 4 guys can always bring the ball up the court and score off the drbll, looks like our 3 big rotation can run well, even massamba wen fresh they all can clean up, we got a sniper off the bench and moters that run for dayz!!! we,ll see how they handle adversity later in the season..but games like this give u confidence that ther never out of a game esp wenu can run!! Dont think we'll be intimidated in any game this season...WOW We got big heart dnt thnk that chopper will ever let us get down he's seriuoly nut's...nastyness for other teams to contend...We may have a real "runnin rebel" team!!!! guess i mite hav to stop callin them the "walkin rebels" lol!!!!!!

  33. Rob, I was thinking about this last night. When Marshall, Hawkins, and Chop Jones came in the game, defensively, they picked it up. The defense drives the offense. So, I think these guys should have a nickname like,

    THE KILLER D'S.....they swarm all over you with Defense.

  34. Rob, "Triple Threat" is too generic, and even the name of a basketball camp in Cali. Has to be something original.

    Maybe "the Trilogy" or "triptych"

  35. is like 20 hours after the game and i'm still fired up. i wish i could drop the f bomb on here and tell a certain poster to go the f away. what are we going to have to do to get that dude banned? im all for free speech but NOT for killing our buzz. whatever, great article rob so fun last night. to me that win was better then the zona win last year. hate reno, that win was for sandford.

  36. Lon ur da man!!! way to beat renosazz again 4 in a row baby!!!

  37. viz, not bad at all ... yeah sofa, I thought that was a tad vanilla. Just wanted to generate something, though. Plus, I didn't want to come up with something so great that nobody else wanted to chime in! :-) (Riiiiiiiight) Nah, wanted you guys to come up with something. Concoct something outstanding and I'll run it by the cats...
    Killer Ds is good ... let's get something great. Make it catchy.
    runrebs -- total and complete ignoring ... all should follow ... best way for now.

  38. Now comes the test. Can they make their grades?

  39. mr Miech.. how bout the "tenacious D x's 3"

  40. Jerhig,
    Won't be a problem for AntMars, the kid was a straight A kid and had scholly offer from Harvarrd!