Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
- Box Score: UNLV 75, Boise State 72
- Instant Analysis: Smothering UNLV defense again gives Rebels an edge
- Live Game Blog: No. 20 UNLV remains unbeaten, escapes Boise State scare, 75-72
- UNLV moves up four spots in both polls, now No. 20 in AP Top 25 (12-6-2010)
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
Just as it did in its last game played in Las Vegas on Nov. 20, the UNLV men's basketball notched a 3-point win on Wednesday night.
But this one had much more of a bitter aftertaste than the Rebels' 68-65 victory over Wisconsin that led into their five-game road swing.
No. 20 UNLV escaped its annual outing in the Orleans Arena with a 75-72 triumph over Boise State that may end up turning out to be a wake-up call before the team travels to take on No. 24 Louisville on Saturday.
"It was disappointing," junior forward Chace Stanback said. "That's why we have to come out for 40 minutes instead of 20. I felt like we played a decent 20, then a terrible second half."
Stanback was a driving force behind the good 20, as his hot start helped UNLV (9-0) race out to 28-7 lead by the game's second media timeout.
In that opening stretch, the Rebels were a model of offensive efficiency. Stanback was 5-of-8 from the floor and 3-of-4 from 3-point range, tallying 14 points before taking a breather. To that point, they also had eight assists compared to just three turnovers. It appeared that the Rebels were primed to shake free of their trend in recent years of playing so-so basketball at the Orleans.
Meanwhile, their defensive pressure in that same time frame forced 10 Boise State turnovers, as the Broncos (6-2) were clearly flustered in a cold arena and in front of a noisy sell-out crowd.
"That's a really good basketball team. I've watched almost all of their games and I couldn't be more impressed," said first-year Broncos coach Leon Rice. "That's a hard situation, though, and you're fighting human nature when you get up by 20 (points) and it's easy to let your guard down a little bit. It's hard to be on that bench."
Rice credited his team's continued fight, despite the massive early deficit and the mountain of momentum it was up against.
After missing its first nine shot attempts and looking visibly rattled, the Broncos slowly worked their way back into the game upon settling down. As UNLV grew a bit complacent and sloppy late in the first half, Boise State never went away.
To open the second half, the Broncos began applying the same backcourt and full-court pressure that the Rebels have made a living off of against opponents all season. It forced UNLV to play sped-up and at times out of control in a situation where it might have been better served by slowing things down and working the clock with a big lead.
"They started to put the pressure on and we kind of weren't prepared for that, played a little lackadaisical, made a lot of mental errors that we have to pick up on," Stanback added. "Nobody likes to be rushed like that, nobody likes to be pressed. We just have to execute better."
After building that 28-7 advantage, the Rebels were forced into 19 turnovers, and the Broncos, who feature a guard-heavy attack similar to UNLV's, feasted.
They hovered right around the 15-point spread put on the game until making their strongest advance in the final 3:32.
At that point, UNLV led 69-54, but in the next two minutes, as the Rebels turned the ball over five times, Boise State constructed a 17-4 run, getting to within two points at 73-71 with 23 seconds to play.
It woke up what had been a subdued crowd for a large chunk of the game, and after Tre'Von Willis hit two free throws to ice the win moments later, the late letdown was all the buzz as the 8,320 in attendance filed out.
It was eerily similar to Saturday's result in Reno, when the Rebels got off to more than a 20-point first half lead, then let the Wolf Pack turn it into a competitive track meet before UNLV left with a 12-point win.
"Disappointed to be so sloppy, so sloppy with the ball," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Careless turnovers really put the game in doubt at the end, and you really can't afford to do that.
"Getting off to a good start's good, but then you can't back off."
Still, it was a win and kept the Rebels unbeaten on the young season, continuing to build on the program's best start since the 1990-91 campaign.
After his hot start, Stanback was offensively quiet the rest of the way but still finished with a team-high 16 points.
Willis's late free throws capped off a 14-point performance that was accented by five rebounds, four assists and three steals. He also had four turnovers. Also scoring 14 was Derrick Jasper, who was 7-of-9 from the field and had several key second half buckets. Anthony Marshall tallied 11, but also committed five turnovers in his 15 minutes.
Boise State's top two offensive threats — seniors La'Shard Anderson and Robert Arnold — each scored 18.
After allowing 45 points to the Broncos in the second half, UNLV is sure to have an interesting practice on Thursday afternoon.
Kruger and his staff might not have to harp on the recent pattern of sloppy second halves, though, as several players afterward seemed to have a pretty firm grasp on what has to change before taking on Louisville.
"It was a reality check going into playing a good ball club like Louisville," Marshall said. "You don't want to go in on a down game like this, but we got the win, so that's the positive thing."
• On Wednesday afternoon, the field for the 2011 Las Vegas Invitational, to be played at the Orleans on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, was finalized. It will include UNLV, North Carolina, South Carolina and Southern Cal.
• Earlier in the night, Louisville improved to 7-0 with a dominating-yet-ugly 61-35 victory at home over San Francisco. The Cardinals have yet to play a game away from the KFC Yum! Center, which is their brand new home.
• Other stats of note: UNLV's 22 turnovers were its most in a single game this season. The previous high was 16 against Murray State on Nov. 26. … UNLV was 26-of-53 from the floor and 7-of-15 from deep … After an offensive explosion on Saturday in Reno, Rebels point guard Oscar Bellfield was just 1-of-8 from the floor against the Broncos, finishing with five points in 35 minutes … UNLV's 14 steals were also a season-high, having previously registered eight on two occasions.
• Rebels junior walk-on forward Todd Hanni was not with the team at the Orleans on Wednesday, as he's battling the flu.