Cathleen Allison / AP
Sunday, Dec. 5, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
Whatever the reason is for his annual offensive explosions against the Wolf Pack, he struck again on cue Saturday night.
In an 82-70 victory over UNR at the Lawlor Events Center, Bellfield blew up for a career-high 24 points, helping No. 24 UNLV win its fifth straight against its in-state rival and improve to 8-0 for the first time since the 1990-91 season.
"I have no idea," he said when prodded on just why he regularly delivers against UNR. "I'd say I have a lot of confidence. Just knowing I've played well against this team, I had a lot of confidence."
When Bellfield first played against UNR as a freshman, he scored a then-career-high 17 points, including 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range, in a 64-57 victory in Reno on Dec. 6, 2008. It was just his ninth collegiate game.
Then, on Nov. 18, 2009, he set another career best with 22 points in an 88-75 win at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Behind his 24 points on Saturday night was a 5-of-6 performance from beyond the arc, four assists, no turnovers and two steals.
That means that in two career games on UNR's home floor, he's 10-of-13 from deep.
"I guess it's the rims," he said with a grin.
Bellfield's big night masked some other deficiencies in what was far from the Rebels' best night so far during the season's scorching start.
However, he led the attack on both ends of the floor in the game's first 15 minutes, which ultimately decided the outcome.
While UNLV dealt with what have been regular foul troubles out of the gates, the Rebels played constant sweltering defense, no matter who coach Lon Kruger had to put on the floor as fouls piled up quickly. The Rebels' signature pressure made the young Wolf Pack guards look that much more inexperienced.
UNR missed its first 13 field goal attempts of the night, finally converting one when the game was roughly 11 minutes old on a Deonte Burton layup. But that bucket, which brought a frustrated crowd of 5,967 to a roar, only made it a 22-6 game, as UNLV scored in multiple ways early on.
"I wouldn't say they were panicking, but they knew they had to get something going," said sophomore guard Justin Hawkins, who stepped up to play 13 crucial first-half minutes and a career-high 29 on the night. "But then, at the same time, we just had to keep on the gas pedal and keep playing hard."
Following its first bucket, the Wolf Pack woke up momentarily, closing back to within 13 points at 36-23 following a pair of Dario Hunt free throws with 1:58 left in the half.
But Bellfield then sparked a 10-2 run to close out the half by hitting a 3-pointer and sinking two late free throws. That spurt again sucked the life out of the partisan crowd.
"Oscar was fantastic," Kruger said. "Anytime we needed a bucket to kind of keep that margin, Oscar stepped up and made a play."
Bellfield would have to do the same thing a couple more times in the second half, which was sort of unexpected, considering the Rebels appeared to have the Wolf Pack buried at the break, leading 46-25.
UNLV had trouble asserting itself on the defensive end after halftime and still couldn't avoid foul trouble, as the Rebels would end up committing a season-high 24 personal fouls.
UNR opened the second half on a quick 8-2 run before Bellfield assisted a Derrick Jasper layup, then hit a trey two minutes later to push UNLV's lead back up to 16 points. After the hosts closed back to within 10 points off of a Burton three with 8:07 left, Bellfield struck again from downtown just 23 seconds later.
The Rebels cruised on home from there but were far from happy with their second-half showing. The Wolf Pack was 18-of-31 (58.1 percent) from the floor in the final 20 minutes and turned what started out as an atrocious night offensively into a somewhat respectable one.
But the general feeling among the visitors afterward was a pretty good one.
UNLV remained unscathed at the end of a brutal stretch in which it played five games on the road in nine days. In that time, the team traveled nearly 5,000 miles across three time zones. The players, who this week will have final exams to deal with, have only spent about 72 hours in Las Vegas since last Tuesday.
"It's satisfying, just being on the road with these five games, but we have a lot of work to do, because today, we're not really happy with our performance," Hawkins said.
UNLV remained consistent on Saturday in that its scoring was quite balanced, scoring 82 points without getting a single tally from junior forward Chace Stanback, who entered the game averaging a team-high 16.4 ppg. Instead, he was limited to 14 minutes, finishing with four fouls, two rebounds and only two shot attempts.
As a team, UNLV was 29-of-54 (53.7 percent) from the floor. Jasper scored 12 points, capping several second-half swoops to the bucket with layups. Tre'Von Willis scored 11 in 23 minutes to go with his five rebounds, also bumping his rough shooting percentage with a 5-of-7 performance. Hawkins was the only other Rebel in double figures with 10, while redshirt freshman forward Carlos Lopez was big in the first half, scoring all nine of his points while Stanback sat the brunt of it after picking up two early fouls.
Hunt finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds for the Wolf Pack, while Burton and Malik Story each scored 15.
UNLV will play its first game in Las Vegas since Nov. 20 on Wednesday night, when it will take on Boise State at the Orleans Arena. While the Broncos' football team has made national headlines of late, they are 6-0 on the hardwood, and could come to town at 7-0. They'll play host to Long Beach State on Sunday afternoon.
The Rebels will likely get a bump in the Top 25 polls on Monday, too, after surviving a road trip that didn't always see them play the most efficient ball but was productive in many ways.
"We grew a lot; traveling far, we were with each other basically every day," Bellfield said. "Our chemistry is just getting better and better."