UNLV BASKETBALL:

Notebook: Rebels rookies Hawkins and Marshall look like veterans

The duo combines for a dozen points in decisive 23-4 run in second half

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins celebrates a turnover 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 ...

Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins came to UNLV because they wanted the chance to play right away.

They were promised nothing but were told by Rebels coach Lon Kruger that they would earn what game-time minutes they deserved based on how they practiced.

“That was real big,” Hawkins said. “Anywhere else, I’d sit down a lot. That’s NOT what I do. My pride won’t let me sit down. Coming here, I might play a little but I’d have to work for what I get.

“That’s what I do in practice. We work hard to do what we do, and we’re pushed by ‘Chop,’ Kendall, Tre, Derrick … everybody. All the guards push us to the extreme.”

So it was poetic that UNLV coach Lon Kruger’s reserves pushed the Rebels (2-0) to a stirring second-half comeback in an 88-75 victory over UNR.

“An all-out group effort,” Marshall said. “We were down, and the first team was kind of fatigued. We felt we had to put it all out there on the floor and try to exert ourselves as much as we could.

“We’ve got to have that every night early in the season. We’re trying to find our identity. We could have easily rolled over and let them beat us, but we tried to find our identity. We want to be a team that fights.”

That’s what Kruger said to his players during the critical timeout he called early in the second half, when UNR had just taken a 54-42 lead.

In the decisive 23-4 run that followed, Hawkins scored eight points and Marshall added four.

Hawkins, who scored 11 points in his college debut Saturday night against Pittsburg State, tallied 13 on Wednesday. He’s the lone Rebel to hit double figures in scoring in both of the Rebels’ games.

“We just banded together,” he said. “We knew we had to get together as a family, as a team, and dig down deep, like we aren’t losing this game. No one beats us in our house. That’s exactly what we did.”

A basketball player

Since when did a walk-on achieve such status?

Asked about Steve “Chopper” Jones, Hawkins didn’t hesitate. How about Rene Rougeau last season?

Told that Rougeau was rewarded with a scholarship as a senior, Hawkins, again, didn’t hesitate. Rougeau earned that as a walk-on, with the desire and hustle he showed in practice and games.

Jones almost looks manic on the court. He’s always moving, always looking left or right, always fidgeting and always talking.

He was the first reserve that Kruger put into Saturday’s opener against Pittsburg State. With Hawkins and Marshall, Jones was part of Kruger’s second move to his bench Wednesday night.

“I don’t look at him like a walk-on,” Hawkins said of Jones. “I look at him as a basketball player. He pushes us every day in practice. He brings energy, and he’s one of the most talkative players on the team.

“He gets us started on the defensive end. With him, we just keep on pushing.”

Jones acquired his nickname from Kevin Kruger, when both played at Arizona State. UNLV coach Lon Kruger’s son, of course, wound up coming to Las Vegas and leading the Rebels to a Sweet 16.

Early on in Tempe, Ariz., the younger Kruger yelled “Pork Chop!” to Jones, who was carrying a few extra pounds. They laughed. The name, shortened to “Chop” at UNLV, stuck.

Centers push back

Once again, UNLV’s combination of big men played solid, and some of their rebounds and inside shots were decisive and powerful.

Darris Santee, Brice Massamba and Matt Shaw combined to score 16 points and grab 15 boards against the Wolf Pack.

Saturday, the trio had 20 points and 11 rebounds.

“Between us three, we’ll work hard every day, do what we have to do,” Shaw said. “We’ll blend well together, make some shots, play defense and rebound.”

Shaw said a main point of Kruger’s at halftime was converting at close range. The Rebels missed no fewer than eight close shots in the first half. In the second, they missed four before clicking and putting UNR away.

“(Kruger) said they’d start falling,” Shaw said. “In the second half, they started falling. We got more layups. We still missed some here and there, but we hit more than we did in the first half.”

Kruger had one other major message at the half.

“We got pushed around a little bit,” Shaw said. “We talked about that at the half, how we got pushed around and how we have to come back and fight. In the second half, I think that’s what we did.”

Free throws

UNLV dominated UNR in a few areas Wednesday night. The Rebels had decisive edges in points in the paint (52-24), points off turnovers (22-2) and bench production (35 points to 8) … he didn’t have many looks, because the Wolf Pack obviously scouted him well, but UNLV junior guard Kendall Wallace made the most of his one 3-point attempt. With 7:50 left, Wallace drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Rebels a 68-60 lead. Wallace poured in a career-best 16 points, on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc, in Saturday’s opener. He only had the three points against UNR … after shooting 35 percent in the first half, UNLV bounced back with a 53-percent touch in the second on a slew of high-percentage conversions … at one point, Dr. Neal Smatresk, the new president of the university, walked by press row wearing a proud smile. Look at the scoreboard, he said. “It says ‘Reno,’ ” Smatresk said of the visitors’ area on the board. Apparently, it had read “Nevada” early in the game. Who changed that? Smatresk broke out a sly smile, then he walked away.

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  1. all ive got to say is:
    this program is in good hands. the return to supremacy is very well in progress

  2. Great game by the freshmen, looks like we will have good guard play for a few years at least. Everybody knew that Marshall was a good recruit, but Hawkins looks like a "sleeper". With Buckley coming in next year and Lopez returning (hopefully) after the redshirt year, I have to agree that the program is on the way back. Our big guys had a decent night, save for a few bad fouls late in the game. I think we have an upgrade in the opponent this Saturday in SIU. Let's see how we do against them. Great job guys, great comeback!

  3. Definitely got pushed around quite a bit. On more than a handful of occassions, UNR would drive without hesitation and UNLV guys would back up. Before they knew it, they were under the basket for an easy lay-up. In the 2nd half, they switched that around, and drew some much-needed offensive penalties from UNR.

    When UNLV drives to the hoop, good things happen. Either they get the foul, they kick it out for a 3, or pound it in. KEEP DRIVING! It keeps the defense on their toes and breaks their stride.

  4. "Smatresk broke out a sly smile, then he walked away."

    HAHAHAHA!

  5. I know it's early on in the season, so I will refrain from saying anything too brash. The freshman stepped it up tonight and played their hearts out. I loved their effort. Joe31, in regards to his recruiting, yes he would be a sleeper. BUT I knew with his arrival, we were getting a baller. He's got this video on youtube that made me a believer.

    On the other hand, I must say I did sleep on Chopper a little bit. He does the intangibles and his attitude will definitely provide a boost for our team this year.

    And I would agree that our interior defense was a little weak. The guys need to work on that in practice. Reno did a good job kicking it out after drawing the defender (something I think we should probably do to get more open looks). But yeah, this team attacks the basket WAY more than last years, and that was something I was happy to see.

    Not sure how the Salukis measure up this year? I do know that they were picked fourth in the MVC in the preseason polls. If we came out like we did in the last 14 or so minutes of the second half, I think we should be fine. Hopefully, we DO see more production from Chace though. We're gonna need him

  6. Oh yeah snyderm, I'm LOVING the enthusiasm of Smatresk. Don't know much about him, but I'm glad he cares about this basketball program.

  7. I'm loving UNLV's new president! Smatresk is the man! That's totally funny.

  8. Am I the only one that thinks that Sufferin' is a UNR fan posing as a Rebel to get us all riled up? That's the only thing that could explain all of the STUPID statements he makes....

    "I'm a fan, but I hate this team"
    "I wish I had friends that liked me"
    "Waaa, Kruger is a horrible coach, even if he wins a national championship it won't prove anything. He got lucky"

    IDIOT!!!

  9. Good win but we have a long way to go. Should have never been down by 12 to this team at any point in the game. UNR has no depth whatsoever and I believe that's what helped us overcome the terrible situation we were in at the beginning of the 2nd half. Somebody please let me know if Trevon Willis knew we had a game yesterday or what happened because he sure didn't show up to play. Oscar Bellfield had a wonderful game, I am happy to see that after seeing him score only 1 point in the opener.

  10. The Rebs definitely have their work cut out for them, but they showed the kind of fortitude last night that championship caliber teams need in the face of adversity. Lon coached a helluva game, and UNLV's depth, athleticism, and commitment to defense (mostly) showed it can overcome almost anything.

    The Rebels are Runnin' again.

  11. Smatresk is shaping up to be the polar opposite of Maxson. Awesome.

    That's 4 in-a-row, Reno. Looks like we have our own little streak going. And yes, it's JUST AS IMPORTANT as football.

  12. jerseyreb,
    i think every person in the Mack these last 2 games has slept on Chop! but im happy with his production! and Tre'von was the first victim of the whistle parade..got caled for 2 fouls in first 2 min of 1st half..so he sat entire first half and scored 8 in 2nd half so i think he did alright!

  13. I hate to feed the troll, but Sufferin'....

    Post after post still makes you dildo.

  14. feed the troll. now everytime i see his name next to a past i imagine a troll crawlin around or whatever the hell a troll does!

  15. I hope Lon keeps the rotation the way it is and doesn't shorten it at all. We have to much talent and depth at guard to screw with it, let'em all keep playing. We will wear teams down with our speed, tenacity, hustle, and athleticism by running fresh bodies at them the whole game. Hawkins & Marshall are ballers and have been playing at a high level for a couple of years now, I knew they would contribute right away when they got here.

  16. The play of Marshall, Hawkins and Chop should allow the Rebels the luxury of utilizing two "lines", kinda like hockey. This wasn't evident until they went up against a decent opponent like UNR and the young guys proved they could play and compete. It is amazing to be able to put 11 players on the floor without a significant drop-off. I look forward to a lot of agressive defense and offense from this group. The Rebels should really be Runnin'!

  17. *Starters: O, Tre, Jasp, Chace, Brice.
    *16 min mark or so: Jhawk, AntMars, Chop, Chace, Santee
    *12 min: O, Jhawk, Jasp, KW, Shaw
    *8 min: O, AM, Tre, Chace, Brice
    *4 min(finish half): KW, Jasp, Chop, Jhawk, Shaw

    Its hard to divide the playing time out! i probably didnt too well, b/c Kruger is the only one that can do it the right way, but that is just an opinion!