REBELS BASKETBALL:

No. 20 UNLV left standing around in 77-69 loss to No. 24 Louisville

Cardinals wake up in second half, hand Rebels first loss of 2010-11 campaign

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AP Photo/Garry Jones

The Louisville bench welcomes reserve guard Chris Smith in celebration during the final seconds of their NCAA college basketball game against UNLV in Louisville, Ky., Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010. Preston Knowles had 20 points and Smith 17 to help Louisville beat UNLV 77-69.

UNLV vs. Louisville

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. Launch slideshow »

Rebels fall to Cardinals

Highlights of the UNLV men's basketball team's first loss of the 2010-11 season, a 77-69 defeat at Louisville.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — UNLV didn't exactly stand by on the defensive end and simply let Louisville erase a 9-point second-half deficit en route to a 77-69 victory on Saturday.

But what seemed to irk the No. 20 Rebels more than anything was that they stood around a lot on the other end of the floor.

UNLV's offense went stale after the intermission at the noisy, brand new KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville. Meanwhile, the No. 24 Cardinals got stronger, handing the Rebels their first loss of the 2010-11 season behind an inspired performance in the game's final 20 minutes.

"Kind of at a point, yeah, we were just standing around, waiting for somebody to do something," UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield said. "It's something we've got to learn from."

UNLV (9-1) kept a monster crowd of 22,489 mostly silent in the first half by going 7-of-12 from 3-point range, taking a 38-33 lead into the half. The Rebels even were able to keep the momentum going early in the second stanza, leading 45-36 with just under 17 minutes left to play.

To that point, only one of the five Louisville (8-0) starters had scored a point in a choppy team performance.

All of a sudden, though, everything clicked.

Kick-started by a 3-pointer from reserve guard Kyle Kuric, the Cardinals began a 21-6 run.

Scoring 11 of those 21 points was senior guard Preston Knowles, who wasn't heard from at all in the first half but scored both by driving to the bucket and cashing threes en route to 20 second-half points.

The momentum seeped over and beefed up Louisville's defense. Without being able to use 3-point shooting as such a reliable crutch anymore, UNLV struggled to simply create.

The Cards flexed back and forth between man-to-man defense and a hybrid of a 2-3 zone. Mixed in there, they keyed strongly on UNLV leading scorer Chace Stanback, forcing him to put the ball on the floor instead of spotting up from the outside. Also, they switched several times along the perimeter, with 6-foot-9 forward Terrence Jennings moving over to keep Bellfield from firing away on the perimeter.

Bellfield, who in the last two years has been both heroic and dominant at times in two wins against Louisville, scored 11 points off of 3-of-4 3-point shooting in the first half. He scored five more quick points in the first five minutes of the second but was never heard from again.

"Their zone, they play that zone a lot and they're good with it," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Their zone's active, it's spread, it's wide, with a lot of man thoughts to it. It got us standing a little bit in the second half, and I thought that hurt us a bit."

As Bellfield was quieted as both a scorer and facilitator, UNLV was led into being mostly a one-on-one offensive team, and in many cases, while one guy dribbled around looking to make a play, everyone else on the floor was stagnant.

"We've got to communicate better and we'll be all right," Stanback said.

In the second half, UNLV would finish with just four assists and 10 turnovers, with Louisville scoring 15 points off of those mistakes. The Rebels were also just 9-of-21 from the floor after the break, with three of those baskets coming in the final two minutes and the game already decided.

Even after that 21-6 run, UNLV was able to stay within close enough range for a comeback, but it all fell apart during a crippling stretch starting with 6:23 left to play. At that point, the team went nearly four minutes without a bucket, only getting four shot attempts off and turning it over thrice.

"When you're on the road, you've got to try to curb those runs of the home team," Kruger said. "We didn't do a really good job of slowing down their run and they played it all the way through."

Some might say that UNLV's sloppy second halves in back-to-back wins leading into Saturday over Nevada-Reno and Boise State were a harbinger of things to come. In those games, UNLV looked more like it let off of the gas with a big lead, whereas Louisville imposed its will on the Rebels in a way no one had to this point in the season.

Behind Knowles' huge second half, Kuric and fellow back-up Chris Smith were the team's catalysts, each scoring 17 points. The duo combined to hit eight 3-pointers.

UNLV out-shot Louisville in terms of percentages (46.7 to 41.4), but the Rebels' big men were largely ineffective on the boards, as the Cards racked up 12 offensive caroms.

Thought it never showed, if the Rebels were starting to get even a little bit complacent while moving up the national rankings, Kruger thinks that Saturday will ultimately help reset the focus altogether.

Their next chance to show it will come on Wednesday, when the team plays its first game at the Thomas & Mack Center since a 68-65 victory over Wisconsin on Nov. 20. The Rebels will host UC Santa Barbara (4-3), which hasn't played since winning at Santa Clara, 80-69, last Saturday.

"This group's made consistently pretty good progress, even with the wins," Kruger said. "When you lose, it gets their attention a little bit more, typically. Time will tell. I would imagine we'll come back even a little bit more focused.

"When you lose, it is kind of a jolt, a little bit humbling."

Notes

• Louisville's win came without a single point contributed by sophomore guard Mike Marra, who entered the game as the team's leading scorer (11.6 ppg). Marra was 0-for-9 from the floor and 0-for-5 from long range. He played 13 minutes in the first half, but was benched to start the second half and only played three minutes after the intermission. Without him on the floor for most of it, Louisville was an efficient and impressive 13-of-24 from the field in the second half.

• Other UNLV stats of note: In his first game back in Kentucky since transferring to UNLV from UK three years ago, Derrick Jasper had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, but also committed a game-high six turnovers … UNLV's trio of big men - Quintrell Thomas, Carlos Lopez and Brice Massamba - combined for only one point and eight rebounds. Thomas left the game 26 seconds in after picking up his first foul, and only played five minutes total … Anthony Marshall had a game-high 11 rebounds.

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  1. Okay first off the loss isn't the end of the season or all that bad. That being said I am very concerned as I see a pattern of Stanbeck and Oscar being tired then making sloppy plays when they are. They need to utilize their depth better, even if its Mashour for 2 minutes each half to spell Jasper/ Stanbeck. Try letting Jasper run more point so Oscar can sit. They are also using the wrong people in the wrong spots for breaking preasure, leading to turnovers.

  2. P.S.

    Maybe a bit more get back and play half court trapping d versus full court press to save the knees of Oscar, Tre, Jasper and Stanbeck, They all have past knee trouble and looked rather slow, worn down, and hobbled today

  3. I listened to the game while driving back to Vegas and it sounded like when L'ville had their momentum shift we didn't compensate enough and allowed frustration/desperation to set in. Learn the lesson and move on.

    I am a bit confused about the negative remarks concerning the program. Did I miss something by leaving town for the day, is UNLV's record actually 9-111. Very sad. People love to see the negative and can't stand to see a program that was decimated during the nineties rebuild.

    Go Rebels!!

  4. Every dog has its day, today it was Louisville, last couple years, it was UNLV.

  5. @ AJ, I disagree with everything you said. I thought the first half was the strongest we have had all season. Massamba also looked the best I had ever seen him. If you watched the game, you understand now why Jasper is not the point. He gets a little flashy and tries to juke, but ends up traveling a lot, and his passing is not equal to Bellfield at all. A good PG disperses first, but can also be a threat. Not sure about the whole Thomas out most of the game, but I'm sure it was some kind of agreement with Kruger that if he fouled early he was done. Lopez did not look aggressive at all, and in the 2nd half, someone needed to step up, but to no avail.

    Kruger coached a great game, and our guys were explosive but sloppy. Credit to Louisville, and it's not the end of the world.

  6. Good game. These kids will bounce back. 9-1 is pretty dang good. Just learn from it and kick butt.

  7. I haven't watched Louisville this year but saw Cal demolish them for the Sweet 16 last year.

    Louisville better enjoy its victories now because nearby rival Indiana has the best 2012 recruiting class and they are solid for 2011 and also lead for 2013 and 2014. Whats best is they are doing it with bright young kids not thugs.

    Good luck to UNLV

  8. One good thing they can take away going forward is that Tre looked like Tre. He had some great finishes around the hoop, one of which was taken away by a terrible traveling call and a couple where the foul was called on the floor instead of in the act of shooting. But he looked like himself and that is a good sign. I think UNLV was mentally, if not just physically tired and I think this loss will reignite this team and they will be even more prepared for K State. In the long run, this loss may pay off.

  9. The one thing i see with this team is what i've seen the last three years is lack of inside presence and no rebounding. The sad thing is we have a big in Q. Thomas who could be dominant but 2 things hold him back: Kruger substituting every 2 minutes and our guards not looking to get our bigs involved. I understand we have the depth down low but let's face it, Lopez is still a good 1 to 2 years a way and we have already seen for the last three years what Massamba gives us, 18 minutes and 2 rebounds. If you don't believe me look at the stats. I think Kruger needs to quit obsessing small ball and turn Thomas loose for about 25 minutes in one game and see what happens. He can't be any worse than what we've had the last three years.

  10. I agree toonkee...this was a winnable game, but Kruger needs to get it together with the line-up. Taking Q out the game really really hurt UNLV as did Stanback's no show. Sofaking I disagree with your comment about Jas at point. Bellfield is looking to score more often than facilitating and plays keep away at times with open players..go back and look at film. Alot of those calls were bogus when even the commentators said the travel on Tre was wrong, but missed calls and wrong calls somehow balances themselves out. What??? Lopez is scary, hides behind the defense, runs from the ball and needs some stick-em on his hands. Massamba still don't have his feet under him and needs to improve his footwork(after 3yrs it might be a lost cause) We won't even go there with hitting the boards it's been our achilies since only forever. We'll get better only when Kruger stops putting all his confidence in the younger inexperienced players and go with what gave him the W's last season and the season before that, etc. Still rooting for you guys learn from this and move on! GO REBELS!

  11. Reading some of these is just hilarious. Everyone has an opinion. Best thing is most are not even worth commenting on, like when your crazy uncle at Christmas is rambling on. Just smile and let him ramble. So fellas keep dropping these nuggets of insight that make most of us smile!

    Trolls and XBOX/PS3 coaches!

  12. Certainly not the end of the world but hopefully a wake-up call for everyone. I'll personally be very surprised if Louisville finishes in the top 7 of the Big East. Watching them a couple of times before Saturday they didn't seem very impressive.

    The game was certainly winnable. The two frustrating things for me watching the game, in particular the second half: one, in the second half we saw the old Kruger offense return where it is all one-on-one or pass it around the perimeter and someone jacks a contested shot. The good ball movement which appeared in the first half unfortunately remained in the locker room.

    The other problem compounding the offensive woes is the ONE point from the three bigs. Hate to beat a dead horse, but the program will continue to have a difficult time beating better competition on the schedule until someone steps up down low and can do something offensively.

  13. Ryan,

    Any word on why QT only logged 5 minutes in that game and they had O on the court for 36... Looking at the minutes, there was not this even distribution that we have been seeing, and they looks really tired toward the end of the game... Especially O... I think that really contributed to some of the turnovers... O has been averaging 32 minutes and in this game he was at 36 and QT has been averaging 14 and he only had 5...

    Even Carlos has been averaging almost 14 and only had 6...

    It is the QT stat that really sticks out though... He only had one foul early, when there was a lot of ticky tack stuff being called and was taken out.. It just seemed like he could have helped a lot in this game... Especially during that run Louisville made...

  14. Where was "Q"? Guy has one good game and everybody jumps my case because I said he was like Richie Robinson. The guy is invisible. When is Kruger going to recruit a big guy that can actually play? This team has a world of talent on the perimeter but nothing inside.

  15. Hey ocean2026 - not sure where you get your info but Indiana & Louisville are not rivals. We haven't even played them since 2003. Indiana does have a great recruiting class coming in, but Louisville isn't "a bunch of thugs". The other Rebels fans here seem to know their basketball & make their point in a respectful way. Maybe you should follow their lead...