REBELS BASKETBALL:

UNLV works out some kinks in 72-50 rout of Southern Utah

In tune-up for Tuesday’s showdown with No. 6 Kansas State, No. 22 Rebels get back on track

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall stares down Southern Utah guard Damon Heuir during Saturday’s game at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels won 72-50.

UNLV vs. Southern Utah

UNLV forward Carlos Lopez takes a shot over Southern Utah forward Matt Hodgson during Saturday's game at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Rebels won 72-50. Launch slideshow »

UNLV vs. Southern Utah

UNLV vs. Southern Utah

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As expected, UNLV hardly broke a sweat in building an insurmountable double-digit lead against Southern Utah on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

But even though there was less energy than normal from the home crowd and, well, just not as much general buzz about the game as is typically the case, the 72-50 whipping the Rebels (10-2) put on the Thunderbirds (3-8) was just what Lon Kruger's team needed.

UNLV snapped an unsightly two-game losing skid and got a little bit of its swagger back in time for Tuesday's game against No. 6 Kansas State, which is the unquestioned highlight on this year's non-conference slate.

"We needed this. We needed to bounce back," UNLV redshirt freshman center Carlos Lopez said. "There's still a lot of room to improve, but we did a good job. Tomorrow, we'll work more and try to improve a little bit more."

As they did in many several games before getting a notch in the loss column for the first time last Saturday, the Rebels set the tone early on defense and were efficient on the other end, maintaining good energy all the while.

UNLV got out to a double-digit lead just over 10 minutes into the game, led 37-18 at the break and led by 20 or more for the game's last 16 minutes.

But two guys who gained maybe the most from the experience were Lopez and sophomore guard Anthony Marshall.

The potential gain for Marshall was known coming in, as he started in place of senior Derrick Jasper on the wing as a "point forward" of sorts.

Jasper, who suffered a mild right knee hyperextension in the second half of Wednesday's loss to UC Santa Barbara, will be back for the K-State game, but in his absence, Marshall rediscovered his strengths.

Scoring a game-high 17 points, Marshall was efficient by using his athletic ability to slash to the hoop and both finish and create for others as Jasper normally does. He was 6-of-9 from the floor, even mixing in a pair of outside jumpers in the effort.

Marshall's struggles in shooting from the outside were well-documented during his freshman season, and since then, he's worked tirelessly on that area of his game.

While the shot has improved some in appearance, he's been streaky with it as a sophomore. By filling in for Jasper, Marshall got back to his roots on Saturday night in a role that he thrived in late last season.

"I just tried to be more active, get into seams and create for others," he said. "It turned out that the defense was respecting my teammates so much that I was able to get easy layups and stuff like that."

Added Kruger: "He was balanced tonight when he was attacking, which was good. He drove the ball to the bucket, gave himself opportunities to finish plays instead of committing to a play. He's been doing a better job of that and tonight I thought he looked really sharp.."

Marshall recorded a pair of steals, too, while registering three assists and no turnovers. He also spelled junior Oscar Bellfield a bit at the point.

It was a nice reset for Marshall, while Lopez hopes that his big night can be something he launches from moving forward.

Lopez got a boost by producing career highs in points (12) and rebounds (11) against a Southern Utah front line that he was able to overpower physically.

Wanting to impress his mother, Gladys, who was visiting for the week from Puerto Rico, Lopez's confidence visibly grew the more his teammates turned to him in the second half. He executed several nice post moves and even threw down a vicious two-handed slam.

The Rebels' big men have been inconsistent for much of the season, but maybe more than any group on the roster needed a strong night leading up to the trip to face the Wildcats.

Kansas State, with a corps led by senior Curtis Kelly and junior Jamar Samuels, features the deepest, most rugged frontcourt UNLV will face this season behind only San Diego State.

"It's good to have a double-double, but it feels good to see teammates come together for the game," Lopez said of the group effort. "I'm more happy about that."

Fellow big Quintrell Thomas played 19 minutes and wound up with six points and seven rebounds, while on the perimeter, Bellfield ran the show cleanly with six points, three steals and five assists across from just one turnover.

Getting a good amount of the night off, Chace Stanback scored nine points in 20 minutes, and Tre'Von Willis added eight in 17 minutes.

UNLV's top producer off of the bench was sophomore guard Justin Hawkins, who in 23 minutes had eight points, three assists, no turnovers and a game-high four steals.

Defensively, the Rebels forced 22 turnovers and held the Thunderbirds to 34.7 percent shooting, including a 6-of-24 showing in the first half.

But K-State will provide a whole different type of challenge, to say the least.

On Saturday, the Wildcats suffered a 57-44 loss on the road against Florida that was eerily similar to UNLV's setback against UCSB. K-State shot just 27.3 percent from the floor, was 3-of-19 from long range and 11-of-19 at the line.

Still, they'll enter the game at 9-2 and, despite the location two hours east of their Manhattan, Kan., campus, will be playing in front of a home crowd.

Aside from attacking that powerful frontcourt, UNLV will have to try and contain senior Jacob Pullen, who lit the Rebels up for 28 points in last year's meeting at the Orleans Arena and is one of the nation's top backcourt talents.

In that 95-80 Wildcat win that wasn't even as close as the final score indicated, K-State couldn't seem to miss a shot and pushed UNLV around from start to finish with its physical style.

The Rebels believe that this time around, they're better equipped to bang around with the Wildcats.

Now they have a little added confidence heading in, too.

"I actually watched the game at home after shoot-around," Marshall said of K-State's setback. "We've just got to make it tough for them, make them compete for shots on offense and work on defense."

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  1. Great opportunity and experience for Lopez last night. Good for his confidence moving forward.

  2. Marshall had a good night because he went back to doing what made him famous. Game changing dunks early, athletic steals, and huge blocks and lay ups. I really think that is the only reason why stanback is having a hard time. He stopped doing the things that made him famous. I bet you read this chase and you just have to get back to the 15-17 foot jumper that you hit every time. You were 1-1 in yesterdays game. We like an occasional 3 mixed in with the amazing ability to take one step in off the dribble and hit a 17 footer. Oh yeah don't forget about the dunks too. Last is Willis. I think he forgot that he made his name by being a driver who could force the foul. I'm telling you guys, if you guys get back to your strenghts, we are unbeatable. It's good to refine new strengths but not at the expense of the established strengths. That being said, great job last night.

  3. Seem like they were still struggling to hit the outside shot though. Hopefully it gets better next game.

  4. We really need to work on the 3-pt shots. Haven't shot well from downtown in awhile, and we REALLY gonna need it with K-state because they have good bigs in the post.

    If (when) they come out with a zone D, we have to find a way to drive and get the ball in the paint and then kick it out. K-state beat our guys up last year, and Pullen couldn't miss a shot. I hope they play like they did vs. USC, but I think their bigs are going to dominate ours.

  5. You have to drive to the bucket with the thought of scoring. Not kicking it back out. That's been the problem with the turn overs. Not to mention the fact that we forgot how to hit the three. If we want improvement from the bigs then we have to give them a chance. Look at Lopez when he is given a chance.

  6. Black uniforms at home?

  7. It's ashame our bigs are not better. Having seen Kansas State play a few times this year their bigs haven't demonstrated much of an offensive skill set. Curtis Kelly seems to have regressed some from a year ago and the others look great in the lay-up line but do not do much offensively when they have the ball.

    Where they are still scary though is rebounding. As of today KSU is 18th in the nation in rebounding while UNLV is 191st.

    I see a few people have mentioned the importance of hitting the 3 which I agree. Likewise though, I am hopeful Lon really lets the kids press KSU as their point guard situation is shakey at best. So far they seem to really miss Clemente. That could be an area where we could take advantage of them.