Photos by Ed Reinke/Associated Press
Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
UNLV vs. Louisville
No. 16 Louisville Cardinals (4-0) at UNLV Rebels (4-0)
Where: Thomas & Mack Center
When: 1 p.m.
Coaches: Lon Kruger is 116-53 in six seasons at UNLV and 434-286 in 24 overall seasons; Rick Pitino is 204-73 in nine seasons at Louisville and 556-197 in 24 overall seasons.
Series: Louisville leads, 5-4
Last time: The Rebels won, 56-55, in Louisville on Dec. 31, 2008
Line: Louisville by 4
TV/Radio: Versus/ESPN Radio 1100-AM
G Edgar Sosa (6-2, 175) 12.8 ppg, 3.8 apg
G Preston Knowles (6-1, 190) 11 ppg, 4 apg, 3.5 rpg
G Jerry Smith (6-2, 200) 8 ppg, 3.3 apg
F Samardo Samuels (6-9, 260) 17.5 ppg, 8 rpg
F Jared Swopshire (6-8, 205) 7.8 ppg, 7.8 rpg
Bench: G Reginald Delk (6-1, 190) 8.8 ppg, 4 rpg; G Peyton Siva (5-11, 180) 5 ppg; F Rakeem Buckles (6-8, 200) 4.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg; F Terrence Jennings (6-9, 220) 4 ppg, 3 rpg.
What to watch: The Cards belted Arkansas by 30 points in their opener in St. Louis. Samuels (56.8%) and Delk (56.5%) are pacing Louisville. Delk has been lights-out from 3-point land, too, at 58.3%. Samuels lives at the line, where he’s 67%. Sosa has made all 10 of his freebies.
G Tre’Von Willis (6-4, 195) 16 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg
G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 180) 9.5 ppg, 3.8 apg, 3.3 rpg
G Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215) 6.8 ppg, 3.5 apg, 3.3 rpg
F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210) 7.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg
C Brice Massamba (6-10, 240) 6.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg
Bench: G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 7.3 ppg; F Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 5.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190) 9 ppg, 3.3 rpg; G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200) 7 ppg; C Matt Shaw (6-8, 240) 5.5 ppg; G Steve Jones (6-1, 220) 3.3 ppg.
What to watch: That top RPI took a hit vs. Holy Cross, didn’t it? UNLV is third, at .7583. Its record is 3-0 because that D-II tilt vs. Pittsburg State doesn’t count. Duke (.8025) and St. John’s (.7701) are 1-2. Louisville is No. 18, at .6929.
Derrick Jasper sat in Dave Mendoza’s chair inside the 13th Street Barbershop last New Year’s Eve, got his usual trim and stayed awhile to watch an unusual game unfold.
On a TV screen in the Paso Robles, Calif., establishment, not far from where 24-year-old actor James Dean was killed in an auto accident in September 1955, Jasper saw UNLV score the first 10 points at Louisville.
Several photographs of Jasper, a former Paso Robles High star, hung on a wall, but Jasper’s eyes were fixed on the flat screen. The Rebels, without lead guard Wink Adams, had a 20-6 advantage before the Cardinals woke up.
Jasper remained in his home away from home to see Oscar Bellfield drop in the game winner of a 56-55 victory.
“We came out and hand a great start,” said Jasper, UNLV’s new point guard. “Rene (Rougeau) played well. Oscar played well. Everyone played well.”
With Louisville coming into the Thomas & Mack Center this afternoon, Jasper, Bellfield and others remembered the Rebels’ close shave in Kentucky on the last day of 2008.
“Yeah, of course, that was a huge shot,” Bellfield said. “All of us came together and fought through it. We got through not having (Adams) and really competed.”
Jasper easily recalled Bellfield finishing strong on the right side with a shot over 6-foot-9, 260-pound Louisville freshman Samardo Samuels, who now leads the Cards with 17.5 points a game.
“Oscar played a great game, especially for being a freshman in a hostile atmosphere,” Jasper said. “I played there a couple of times, and it’s tough to win there. It was a big win for us.”
The 6-6 Kentucky transfer will try to duplicate that stellar start today for the Rebels, who have not gotten out of the gate well in games this season.
On the other side, Louisville coach Rick Pitino has an idea about what awaits his Cardinals today at the Mack.
“We’re playing a team that is very well-drilled, defensively,” he said before leaving Louisville for Las Vegas. “They will do things to us, on the defensive end, that we haven’t seen. Some of our younger players have to be prepared for that.
“We wanted to go into an environment, before Kentucky, that is very hostile and has a very strong home-court advantage, and UNLV was a great (choice).”
Louisville plays home games against Stetson, Charlotte, Western Carolina, Oral Roberts, Louisiana-Lafayette, Radford and San Francisco – and goes up against Western Kentucky in New York City – before it gets Kentucky in Lexington on Jan. 2.
“That was a huge win for us last year, but it doesn’t give us any points for this year,” said sixth-year Rebels coach Lon Kruger. “We have a lot of respect for Louisville’s program. Rick always does a great job.”
Kruger expects Pitino to shift between zone and man-to-man defense, with some pressing, especially after the Cardinals make a basket.
Pitino brought his charges into the Mack two years ago and thumped the Rebels, 68-48.
“We’ll prepare for a lot of different things,” Kruger said, “which is always good early in the season, in terms of getting things in in practice for later on. They lost some really good players, but they have a lot of good players back.”
Earl Clark declined to play as a senior and jumped into the NBA draft, where Phoenix picked him in the middle of the first round.
Fellow first-round selection Terrence Williams helped Clark and the Cardinals rebound from the defeat to the Rebels to get to within a game of the Final Four.
UNLV might have an edge in how Jasper, and junior Tre'Von Willis and Bellfield, like to crash the boards.
“They’ll try to take you out of everything you want to do,” Pitino said. “They’ll front the low post. They put four guys around Samuels last year and didn’t allow him to catch it. They converged in the lane and denied on the wings.
“I don’t think we scored, other than free throws, in the first nine minutes last year.”
The Cardinals missed their first 11 shots and turned it over twice by the time Sosa converted a layup 8 1/2 minutes into the game, cutting his team’s deficit to 14-6.
“Lon Kruger’s defense is a lot like Villanova’s,” Pitino said of Wildcats coach Jay Wright. “That’s why we enjoy playing them. You’re not going to face any better man-to-man defense than Las Vegas. Villanova plays the same way.
“(The Rebels) prepare you well for some Big East wars coming up down the road.”
Willis laughed when asked about his New Year’s Eve memories. He wasn’t about to divulge what he was thinking about.
“I can’t say,” he said with a sly smile. “But I saw a team that came out ready to fight. We brought the fight to Louisville. In that game we got out to a nice, fast start, and we stayed in the game the rest of the way.
“We fought and fought, and came up with the ‘W.’ ”