LIVE GAME BLOG: Final:

Louisville’s big second half leads to UNLV’s first loss of season, 77-69

Rebels stall offensively against Cards’ second half zone defense, drop to 9-1

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AP Photo/Garry Jones

Louisville’s Kyle Kuric, right, grabs a rebound away from UNLV’s Anthony Marshall (3) in their NCAA college basketball game in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010. Kuric finished with 17 points and 5 rebounds as No. 24 Louisville beat No. 20 UNLV 77-69.

Updated Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010 | 11:14 a.m.

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Final, Louisville wins 77-69

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — There would be no heroics from Oscar Bellfield this time around, and thanks to an outstanding performance to start the second half, Louisville made it known with roughly seven minutes still to go.

The Cards rallied in front of more than 22,000 fans at the beautiful KFC Yum! Center for a 77-69 win.

After No. 20 UNLV took a 38-33 halftime lead behind hot 3-point shooting, the No. 24 Cardinals took that tool away in the second half with a 2-3 zone defense that threw the Rebels for a major loop.

UNLV (9-1) went 7-of-12 from deep in the first 20 minutes, then only 1-of-5 in the second, while Louisville woke up across the board.

The Cards (8-0) had only one starter - Peyton Siva - score in the first half, but everyone else around him stepped up in the second. The most notable was senior guard Preston Knowles, who did a bit of everything and scored a game-high 20 points all after the break. Reserve guards Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric accounted for 33 points on the night, including eight 3-pointers.

For UNLV, Bellfield scored 16 points, while Tre'Von Willis had a team-high 17 and Derrick Jasper tallied 10. Chace Stanback had only two points in the first half off of a pair of bonus free throws, and never really got going, finishing with eight points on 2-of-10 shooting.

UNLV will next play its first game in the Thomas & Mack Center since Nov. 20 on Wednesday night, welcoming UC Santa Barbara to town.

For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos and much more, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.

3:40, Second Half, Louisville leads 68-57

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — UNLV's offense still hasn't found any groove against Louisville's zone defense, and it's getting too late for the Rebels, who appear to be on their way to their first loss of the season.

Louisville hasn't slowed down, getting contributions from almost everyone in the second half and leads 68-57 heading into the game's final TV timeout.

UNLV has not run great offense all night, but a lot of that was masked in the first half by seven 3-pointers. Now, the Rebels have been completely shut down, and have only scored 19 points this half.

Meanwhile, Preston Knowles continues to impress and has 16 second half points. Junior big man Terrence Jennings finally showed up and has six points to go with seven rebounds.

UNLV only has two assists in the second half, and has only attempted 18 shots after the break compared to Louisville's 33.

11:05, Second Half, Louisville leads 54-51

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville finally had enough.

After falling down behind UNLV's continued hot 3-point shooting, the Cardinals have rode senior Preston Knowles to a 3-point lead at 54-51 as the second half hits its mid-way point.

Knowles, who was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting in the first half, has 11 points this half, and has helped the UL offense push the pace while sophomore point guard Peyton Siva gets an extended breather.

Meanwhile, UNLV is struggling to move against Louisville's 2-3 zone defense, and Lon Kruger continues to urge his team to be stronger with the ball on the interior.

15:37, Second Half, UNLV leads 45-39

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — UNLV showed no rust in the second half, and has come out of the locker room aggressive, showing no desire to let up following a late first half surge.

Oscar Bellfield continues to go wild on Louisville, and hit a big 3-pointer early in the second half, giving him 14 points. UNLV's lead currently sits at 45-39.

Also getting involved was Chace Stanback, who 2:30 into the stanza scored his first bucket of the game with a trey in front of the UNLV bench.

An interesting moment occurred just over a minute into the half, as Kentucky transfer went to the free throw line for UNLV. The Louisville students changed 'U-K-Re-Ject' at him, but he calmly hit both, as UNLV has been continuously unflappable in front of 22,000 fans.

Halftime, UNLV leads 38-33

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Oscar Bellfield is well on his way so far to making it three games to remember against Louisville.

The Rebels' resident Cardinal-killer has a team-high 11 points and five rebounds in the first half, including two late 3-pointers that helped spur UNLV to a 38-33 halftime lead at the KFC Yum! Center.

Derrick Jasper, in his first trip back to Kentucky after transferring from UK three years ago, has six points and also hit a late trey as UNLV surged just before the break.

As a team, UNLV is 7-of-12 from 3-point range, with Justin Hawkins and Tre'Von Willis each hitting one so far. Hawkins played 14 huge minutes off of the bench in relief of Willis after the senior picked up his second foul.

Willis has seven points, while Hawkins has six.

As for Louisville, without reserve guard Chris Smith and point guard Peyton Siva, the Cards would be sunk by now. Siva has seven points and five assists, while Smith has a game-high 13 minutes in 14 minutes. He's responsible for two of UL's five 3-pointers. Meanwhile, leading scorer Mike Marra has looked rough, going scoreless on 0-for-8 shooting in 13 minutes, including an 0-for-5 showing from three.

UNLV probably would prefer to keep the pace of this game going, but has to cut down from its eight first half turnovers. Another thing to watch for early in the second half is Chace Stanback, who hit two free throws with three minutes left in the half for his first points of the game. He has two fouls, but is 0-for-4 from the floor in 13 minutes.

7:50, First Half, game tied 17-17

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — UNLV's early lead was a result of both strong leadership from Tre'Von Willis and some sluggishness out of the gates by Louisville.

But Willis has since picked up two fouls, and the Cardinals have come alive behind point guard Peyton Siva breaking UNLV's press and bench contributions from Chris Smith and Kyle Kuric.

Smith and Kuric have each hit 3-pointers, while the Rebels have gone cold from the field Louisville has ratcheted up its defensive intensity.

Early foul problems continue to be an issue for UNLV, who put Louisville in the bonus with 8:53 left in the first half.

After a 1-of-10 start from the floor, Louisville is a more respectable 5-of-12. UNLV is 6-of-15, with Willis having a game-high seven points.

15:41, First Half, UNLV leads 6-2

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The fact that Louisville averaged 26.7 3-point attempts per game coming into today suggested that it's not a shy team offensively.

So far, that's proving to be true.

The Cards are 1-of-10 from the floor in the early going, including 0-for-5 from deep, as UNLV has scrapped its way to an early 6-2 lead at the KFC Yum! Center.

UL gunner Mike Marra, who was 1-of-10 from three on Wednesday night against San Francisco, so far is 0-for-4.

Meanwhile, Tre'Von Willis and Anthony Marshall each have early buckets for UNLV, who has quieted a crowd that, as is, is not very active or loud. It's surprising, considering that all 22,000 seats in the new downtown arena are full.

Pregame

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Take a quick walk through the brand new KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville, and a few things stand out.

- It's a legitimate NBA-caliber facility, without question. It sets Louisville apart from other Big East programs without question.

- It's still got that new arena smell.

- Everywhere you look, there's somewhere to score a drink.

Combine that final note with the fact that every seat in the 22,000-seat building is expected to be full for today's noon tip — 9 a.m. Las Vegas time — between No. 20 UNLV (9-0) and No. 24 Louisville (7-0), and the Rebels might be really up against it.

This is the Rebels' third true road game of the year, but the 5,000-and-change crowds at Illinois State and Nevada-Reno pale in comparison to this.

UNLV is also tipping off the earliest it has all seasons by quite a wide margin. Before today, the Rebels' have only played one day game, taking on Wisconsin back at the Thomas & Mack Center at 4 p.m. on Nov. 20.

Now, lets get to the nuts and bolts, and the three things I'll be watching for today.

1) I'm brutally intrigued to see how UNLV performs in the first half of this game. The team didn't finish its dinner last night until almost 10:30 p.m., and I'd have to imagine that the players' body clocks are all kinds of messed up today. For example: They ate their pre-game meal at 8 a.m., which on their body clocks is 5 a.m. That's tough to ignore. And can the Rebels adjust in front of the most hostile crowd they've seen yet. Also, shooting will be interesting. The layout in here is like a true NBA arena, which the team hasn't experienced since last year's NCAA tournament first round loss to Northern Iowa in Oklahoma City's Ford Center.

2) If there was ever a day for UNLV's trio of big men to stay out of foul trouble, this would be it. Louisville isn't exactly deep up front, but between junior Terrence Jennings and sophomore Rakeem Buckles, the Cardinals have the most athletic front line the Rebels have confronted yet. In essense, they're two guys who closely resemble what San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard and Malcolm Thomas will show UNLV twice later this season. Given UNLV's struggles against SDSU's front line last year, this will be crucial to the outcome.

3) Louisville will play at the same up-and-down pace that UNLV prefers, but seeing that the Cards are chucking up an average of 26.7 3-pointers a game makes me think that UNLV could get sucked into the get-a-shot-as-quick-as-possible style. So will the Rebels be able to fight off the urge that wound up cursing them in the second half of Wednesday's game at Boise State? Lon Kruger the last two days has preached the importance of playing smarter. Time to see if his team got the message.

As a bonus 'Thing to watch,' I'm interested in watching Louisville sophomore guard Peyton Siva. The 5-foot-11 former McDonald's All-American is speedy and explosive, but last year was raw and struggled in the team's 76-71 loss at the Mack. He could be very dangerous against the Rebels' pressure defense, and the Cards' hopes against it could hinge on him.

For my Pick to Click today, I'm going with Derrick Jasper. I have to think he has more motivation than any of his teammates today having played two years of college ball down the road at Kentucky. You can tell he's been looking forward to this trip back to the state, even if he wont out-right admit it.

Finally, a prediction. I'm actually picking Louisville in a close one today: 77-72. Can't pick the Rebels every time, and this seems like a very tough spot, and I'd expect the Cards to be craving some revenge from the last two meetings.

Don't forget, if you want to join the in-game conversation with me on Twitter, either find me at twitter.com/ryanmgreene or add the #unlvmbb hashtag to your UNLV-UL tweets.

Talk to you again after tip-off.

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  1. Black Uniforms!!! YES!!!

  2. Lock them down.... Smack the floor baby... Lets go.

  3. These refs are out of control.

  4. Refs won't let us win this one, but thats expected on the road. We can't be committing unforced turnovers, thats what we can control.

  5. Here we go typical Rebel fans. When they win they are a top ten team in the country when they lose the refs were the worst ever! Hilarious!

  6. How about the fact that UNLV couldn't shoot it in an ocean in the 2nd half! Live by the jumper die by it! Where's the mighty "Q" Thomas, who all off-season Rebel fans were hyping like he was some kind of beast on the inside. He can't even get any burn, guess it's time to transfer again, lol!

  7. @Canes, hey I know you hate UNLV, but layoff, go back to the rock you came from down in south beach. It's guys like you who come here and ruin Vegas. You act like UNLV is NJIT and has never accomplished anything.

    I'm sure if UNLV could play there first 10-15 games at home like Louisville, they'd be undefeated as well. Quite honestly, both teams lived and died by the 3. And no, it isn't the refs who lost it for the Rebels. The Rebs should know that they won't get the calls on the road.

  8. Disturbing trend is the last three games we have truned it over way too much and given up +40 points in the second half. No the sky is not falling but this has to get much better or teams like K State and the top teams in the MWC will be licking their chops. 9-1 and ranked 19(not for long however)is pretty good but improvement must come.

  9. What happened to Q. Thomas? He didn't play many minutes today.

  10. I must be overly biased? The Cardinals had the refs in their back pocket the whole game. Even the announcers were surprised a few times, and they were pro UL. Although they did miss one call, the block on, was it chace?, was legit.

    I love how these "i told you so" homers pop out after a loss. Get it out now boys, I see maybe one to two more losses the rest of the season.

    I'm not disappointed on the game, sure UL got hot there, or should I say #2 was hot. UNLV was probably the better team as shown in the first half. But It was a tall order to win this game. UL came prepared and UNLV showed the effects of the past two weeks or so. We're in good shape to do really well this season.

  11. Its not that the refs ruined it for anyone ... the rebels style is a bit conducive to lots of fouls if the refs decide to call it tight ... they have to adjust ... they have to find a way to put together 40 full minutes ... thats what theyve been lacking the past 3 games they looked every bit the top 25 program that they are in the first 25 min of this one

  12. I don't want to say this but we don't have a curse of the black jerseys. We have the curse of the second half. We really let them score 77. Awesome. And if this was one lose and we had struggled against good teams then that's one thing. But we have to be worried that we cannt perform in the second half. Once is normal. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern.

  13. Shut up SylvesterReb! You think because UNLV lost to Louisville that makes them bad? You're a joke and a troll and need to get off our boards.

  14. If they are not good why are they 9-1?

  15. @SlyReb,

    What basketball are you watching? If UNLV is cupcake, then what makes Louisville? Take a look @ their schedule if you want to talk about cupcakes. And you're right, Kruger has done a real bad job with UNLV Basketball, but it seems those that get paid to for their opinion seems to think differently. And the 4th or 5th best team in MW? That alone tells me you have no clue about Basketball.

  16. Too many turnovers, missed free throws and some of those calls were downright ridiculous. Can't blame the refs for losing the game but they made some terrible calls, especially the traveling calls. BS. Stanback was non-existent in this game. The road looks like its taking its toll a bit. They kinda gave up in the last 5 minutes, especially when Knowles went on that rampage. Frustrating loss. Bounce back rebels!

  17. @Sly,

    As stated you don't have a clue. UNLV has an RPI Strength of Schedule of 69, Louisville is 161. So back to my original if UNLV is cupcake, what's that make L'Ville schedule?? Your B-Ball cred sucks. Do you homework before spouting off about a program you have no clue about. And we are a 4th or 5th place team in the MW?? Like I said, your opinion stinks. I'd rather hear the experts tell me we suck, but someone with no backing of where our program is going or have sufficient numbers of backing his claims I'm supposed to believe? OK, Bill O'Reily. Keep pushing your buttons & think you'll get a rise out of someone because it definitely has worked with your out-of-your mind comments.

  18. I will never understand the mind of an internet troll. Some of you are obviously not UNLV fans and how no perspective on UNLV basketball so why take the time to read or respond to these articles? Is your life that boring or were you beat up that much that it is easier to be tough online.

    The Rebs will loose a few more games this year so just dont respond to these guys when we do. Their comments are a joke and do not warrant a response.

    As far as the game: Tired legs have shown the past few games. Once the team is back on a normal 2 game a week and travel schedule they will be fine.

  19. It is amazing to me the way these trolls bash Kruger. He is the best thing sports wise to happen to this university since the Tark era. We have the first 9-0 season since 90-91', we get to the NCAA tournament every year and we are a better team than other traditional powerhouses like UCLA, North Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma etc. There is nothing to complain about right now. A real UNLV fan would be worried as hell if our coach left right now.

  20. We also lost the MWC tournament last year on our own home court and still got in to the NCAA Tourney.