UNLV zaps Holy Cross, 80-59

Willis-to-Jasper alley-oop highlights Rebels improving to 4-0

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Derrick Jasper finds an open lane against Holy Cross during the second half of their game Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 80-59 and will face 16th-ranked Louisville on Saturday.

Holy Cross vs UNLV

Tre'Von Willis dropped 14 points on 7-11 shooting and UNLV scored 32 points off 24 turnovers as the Rebels beat Holy Cross 80-59 Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV vs. Holy Cross

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins glides in for a basket against Holy Cross during the second half of the team's Nov. 25 game at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won, 80-59, as Hawkins tallied 12 points. Launch slideshow »

They had tried it earlier in the second half, but UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis overthrew Derrick Jasper on an alley-oop attempt. The second time, it knocked Holy Cross for a loop.

After passing the ball to Willis at the top of the key, Jasper drifted around the right side of the Crusaders’ 2-3 zone defense inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

Jasper caught Willis’s lob in perfect position for the throw-down and a 22-point advantage, and UNLV kept cruising to an 80-59 victory over Holy Cross.

Rebels coach Lon Kruger slipped the play into the game plan Monday.

“Tre threw a great pass,” Jasper said. “We have a lot of athleticism on this team and we need to use a lot more, but we’re playing real well. We have to prepare well for Louisville.”

The 16th-ranked Cardinals (4-0) visit Las Vegas on Saturday afternoon, but the Rebels (4-0) showed Wednesday that they did not overlook the Crusaders (0-5) of the Patriot League.

“We could have easily been down by five points and regretted looking past them,” said sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield. “That’s something we shouldn’t do, and I don’t think anyone did that. We focused on Holy Cross.

“Now it’s the time we can really think about Louisville.”

UNLV pressed and trapped and hounded Holy Cross into committing 24 turnovers, which the Rebels turned into 32 points. The Crusaders collected only 7 points off 10 miscues by the Rebels.

“We want to be able to hurry teams up,” said UNLV junior guard Kendall Wallace, “make them play a little faster than they’re comfortable with. We were able to do that tonight and take advantage of the turnovers we force.”

Jasper disrupted the most, with four of the Rebels’ dozen steals, and sophomore forward Chace Stanback had three.

Willis (7-of-11 shooting) and freshman guard Anthony Marshall (6-for-9) scored 14 points apiece, and Bellfield (13 points) and freshman guard Justin Hawkins (12 points) contributed well.

Two of Holy Cross’s defeats were tight, a two-point defeat at St. Joe’s and a three-point loss to Loyola of Illinois.

“We knew they’ve had some close losses,” Wallace said. “We knew they were a solid team. We were told they were picked to win the Patriot League, so we knew we had to come out ready to play.”

New Crusaders coach Sean Kearney, Mike Brey’s former top assistant at Notre Dame, was left to call many timeouts to stop the bleeding.

Bellfield’s 3-pointer from the right corner, reserve center Darris Santee's steal and ensuing break-away jam and his strong layin on the right side on UNLV’s next possession gave the Rebels a 16-8 lead.

Near the end of the first half, starting center Brice Massamba's strong rebound of Bellfield’s miss and powerful put-back gave UNLV a 31-20 cushion.

The three-headed combo of Massamba, Santee and Matt Shaw combined to score 14 points and grab 9 rebounds, solid if unspectacular figures that Kruger will take after last season’s doughnut season.

(That’s nothing in the middle.)

Holy Cross didn’t threaten to cut its deficit to single digits the rest of the way.

UNLV held a 47-33 edge about four minutes into the second half when Willis first tried to zip that lob to Jasper for the alley-oop exclamation point.

“Tre passed it a little too high, and I didn’t jump a little high enough,” Jasper said.

Since practice opened, the Rebels have been talking about how they’re so much deeper and so much more athletic than in recent seasons, and they vowed to produce such highlight plays.

A few players missing dunks in the first few games didn’t promote that desire very well, then came Willis tossing that pass into the stands.

“I don’t know how you overthrow Derrick, with his long arms and leaping ability,” Wallace said. “But Tre managed to. He was able to improve his second pass for a good dunk by Derrick.

“We definitely like to hype up the fans a little bit, give them what they want to see. It was good to see that and we’d like to do more of that.”

It was not good timing for Holy Cross, which had crept to within 15 points, at 61-46, of UNLV. But after a free throw by Hawkins, Kruger unleashed his trapping press with his starters.

It flustered the Crusaders, and Willis sliced in for an easy layup. Then Bellfield sank a 3-point shot from the left corner. Kearney called timeout. Then came a media timeout.

With 7 1/2 minutes left, Willis brought the hammer down. Jasper curled around the right side and Holy Cross forgot about him. Willis’s pass was perfect.

Jasper’s jam, his only basket of the game, gave UNLV a 69-47 lead.

“No, that wasn’t just two points,” said R.J. Evans, who led Holy Cross with 13 points. “That was a demoralizing play. It was miscommunication by us. That dunk really hurt us at the end.”

It coaxed a mostly quiet crowd of 10,946 into the “Rebbbbb-elllllls!” chant. Soon enough, Kearney was calling for another timeout.

“If it doesn’t work, just keep trying it until you get it,” Bellfield said of the Willis-to-Jasper hookup. “We made a couple of changes and waited a little while to run it again, and they forgot about it.

“And we executed it to perfection. This is just a start. We’ll keep it going.”

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  1. 10.9K fans? Damn I wish I could've made it (this swing shift sucks this season) but gonna be there saturday! I have a feeling it's gonna be roucus! mabey 16k...Tre'von is the man and will set the tone. We'll be ready! Louisville has no idea!!!! Happy Thanksgiving Y'all!!!!

  2. Defensively solid but a little sloppy at times on offense. Better tighten it up for Louisville.

  3. I agree bigfish. One thing that needs to tighten up is the free-throw shooting. 50% last night? I don't think we'll have the luxury of throwing away 8-12 points against Louisville, or anyone in the Mtn West for that matter.

  4. Anyone else ready for Saturday already? Gonna be a tough one. But should be fun.

    This team is fun to watch. They will surely have some challenges, but enjoying the depth, youth and athleticism. Go Rebels! And Happy Thanksgiving.

  5. loo ville won't be like playing Holy Cross

  6. Nope, william... Louisville will be NOTHING like Holy Cross haha. I think if we work as hard on D and execute better (free throws!) then we definitely have a shot. Should be fun!

  7. Great observation toomanybongs but UNLV won't be playing like App State.

  8. One thing I noticed at my first Rebels game in a couple of years... they're counting the crowd more legitimately. A few years ago that crowd would have been reported in the 12-13k range.

    That seemed like a solid 11,000. Wish I could be there for Saturday.

  9. Go Rebels!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. The perimeter shooting was atrocious, as was our attempts from the charity stripe. That's not going to cut it come Saturday against the Cardinals.

    That being said, I still thought the Rebels did a good job last night. A young team like that could've easily overlooked Holy Cross in anticipation of Louisville, but they didn't. Our defense was solid throughout, and for brief stretches looked downright spectacular. Our deep bench and athleticism once again overcame our shortcomings.

    The Rebels are at their best when they penetrate and drive the lane. There were times last night when they lapsed back into their lethargic "settle for jump shots and three's" style of play. They simply can't afford to do that against many teams this season.

    But, all in all, it was a solid effort by the Rebs. Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and I'll see you on Saturday to boo Pitino and his Cardinals out of the T&M.

  11. vizbowl, that is a worry ... against UNR, the Rebels missed no fewer than a dozen point-blank shots. Layups. Follows. Can't give away any points, like you said, to the Cards... four games in, that stuff shouldn't exist. One or two a game? Maybe tops. On the flip side, they're connecting on their dunks now! And that Willis-to-Jasper Oop is a thing of beauty...
    no doubt southern, got to drive and dish from the start Saturday ... and that game Wed night could have easily gone another direction, taking HCross likely, as you say. They've done well their first four. Now ... for a mid-term exam. Welcome, Louisville.
    Happy turkey day to all...

  12. Great game and I also agree on the free throw line. I was getting a little anxious, and kept saying they can't do this the next game. Glad they came out with the win, and it looks like the RPI dropped to #3, so it wasn't as bad as I was expecting! See everyone Saturday!