LIVE GAME BLOG — Final:

Rebels’ comeback effort falls short, Utes prevail 66-61 in Salt Lake City

Willis scores 32 but misses key late shot as Rebels drop third straight

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Steve C. Wilson / AP

UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield (0) drives around Utah guard Marshall Henderson (3) on his way to the basket during the first half of Wednesday’s game in Salt Lake City.

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2010 | 9:04 p.m.

UNLV vs Utah

The NCAA Tournament hopes for UNLV took a major hit Wednesday, with the Rebels falling at Utah, 66-61.

UNLV-Utah Basketball

Utah guard Carlon Brown (15) drives around UNLV forward Darris Santee (44) during the Utes' 66-61 upset victory over the Rebels in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17. Launch slideshow »

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Final, Utah wins 66-61

SALT LAKE CITY — UNLV never led in a must-win game, and now finds itself firmly on the NCAA tournament bubble after falling to Utah in Salt Lake City, 66-61

Tre'Von Willis missed a 3-pointer from the left wing after getting a defender off the ground with a shot fake with 20 seconds to play, and three Ute free throws sealed the deal as UNLV dropped its third straight and is now 19-7 overall and 7-5 in the Mountain West.

Willis was the biggest reason the Rebels even had a chance to go ahead late, scoring 32 points, including 20 in the second half.

Instead, UNLV now is in fourth in the Mountain West with four games remaining, beginning with a home tilt at 3 p.m. on Saturday against Colorado State.

Carlon Brown led Utah with 18 points, while Marshall Henderson had 10, including two key free throws in the closing seconds.

For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.

4:08, second half, Utah leads 59-57

SALT LAKE CITY — Tre'Von Willis earlier in the second half missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the free throw line with a chance to pull the Rebels to within one point.

The result was a 3-point play on the other end for Utah, putting the Utes back up by six.

Willis has since responded in a big way, scoring 11 of UNLV's last 13 points as the Rebels are back to within two points of the Utes late in a must-win game.

Willis now has 30 points and has crossed the 30-point threshold for the third time this season.

UNLV's highest scorer behind him is Chace Stanback with nine.

11:07, second half, Utah leads 48-42

SALT LAKE CITY — UNLV opened the second half on a 6-0 run to close to within two points with both a pair of jumpers from Oscar Bellfield and strong defense.

And since then, it's simply been a game of run after run.

Utah expanded its lead back out to as many as eight points, but spotty free throw shooting and UNLV's back-court traps of Luka Drca have cut short a few possessions.

Meanwhile, Tre'Von Willis is UNLV's offensive rock.

He just hit a huge third-chance 3-pointer after Anthony Marshall had two layup attempts blocked by Kim Tillie, and UNLV trails 48-42 with 11:07 to go. He has a game-high 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting.

Now someone else needs to step up alongside him. Chace Stanback, who has six points but has been relatively quiet, would be the likely candidate.

Halftime, Utah leads 35-27

SALT LAKE CITY — UNLV's Tre'Von Willis for a bit put his entire team on his back and brought the Rebels back to within a point at 28-27, but in a blink, Utah went on a 7-0 run to close out the first half.

The Utes lead at the break, 35-27, behind a buzzer 3-pointer by freshman guard Marshall Henderson, who hit five treys against the Rebels the first time around.

UNLV is getting some strong contributions off of the bench after Matt Shaw — who was going to start in place of Brice Massamba — sprained his ankle in pregame warmups.

But Willis scored 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting in the first half to keep UNLV within range in a must-win game.

Here are some other numbers of note from the first half ...

— UNLV was out-rebounded 17-14, with both teams grabbing five offensive rebounds. The most costly board allowed, though, was a Shawn Glover offensive carom which set up Henderson's 3-pointer to close out the half.

— UNLV is just 1-of-6 from 3-point range, and again, Kendall Wallace has been completely bottled up outside. After going 0-for-1 from deep in the San Diego State loss, he hasn't gotten off a shot attempt in seven minutes on the floor.

— Utah is not very pretty on offense, but the Utes are efficient, going 15-of-28 so far.

— Both teams have committed five turnovers.

— Utah has outscored UNLV in the paint, 18-8. However, the Rebels have not let 7-foot-3 David Foster be a difference-maker this time around. The Utah sophomore is scoreless on a pair of shot attempts, has only two rebounds and one blocked shot.

7:49, first half, Utah leads 24-15

SALT LAKE CITY — It was confirmed by UNLV media relations director Andy Grossman that Matt Shaw's sprained ankle was suffered during pregame warm-ups.

That means it's the kind of night where reserve guards Justin Hawkins and Kendall Wallace could be leaned on heavily to help UNLV dig out of an early hole with only a nine-man rotation at Lon Kruger's disposal.

Hawkins hit a mid-range pull-up jumper in his first minute in the game, then earned a trip to the free throw line just before the TV timeout with the Rebels trailing, 24-15.

A good sign early at the moment, however, is that the nerves on the offensive end which appeared present early on are now apparently gone. It's going to come down to defense, with that said.

11:57, 1st half, Utah leads 19-10

SALT LAKE CITY — Matt Shaw was going to start tonight in the front court for the Rebels, but a late injury has him shelved, and UNLV is struggling to keep pace in front of a thin crowd at the Huntsman Center.

The Utes are 8-of-14 from the floor so far, and hold a 19-10 lead on UNLV, who is 4-of-8, but a bit timid on the offensive end.

After an Oscar Bellfield bank shot made it 9-8, Utah, the Utes ripped off a 10-2 run, including a pair of outside jumpers from Chris Hines to send the game into its current full break.

Meanwhile, with Shaw out, Darris Santee has picked up the extra minutes, and has looked a bit off on defense so far.

Still, a positive for the Rebels is that they're attacking the glass well and haven't let Utah's 7-foot-3 David Foster get anything so far.

But UNLV is still getting spread out and has allowed 10 points in the paint.

The Rebels are thin tonight and cannot afford any foul trouble, and Chace Stanback, who is 2-of-3 from the floor so far, has two already.

Pregame

SALT LAKE CITY — It's a much different story this time around, you can say that much.

When Utah defeated UNLV on Jan. 16 at the Thomas & Mack Center, 73-69 in what at the time was considered an upset, the Utes hoped that would be a turning point for their season. That win made Utah 9-8 overall, but 2-1 in Mountain West play, with a young team appearing to click.

Since then, the Utes are 2-5. Entering tonight's 8 p.m. contest at the Huntsman Center at 11-13 overall and 4-6 in the league, barring some kind of miraculous run through the MWC tourney, their postseason appearance du jour will probably come with the initials CBI.

Meanwhile, this game means a lot more this time around for UNLV. Last time, the meaning was equal, but this time ... not so much.

The Rebels (19-6, 7-4), will still be in contention for an NCAA tourney bid no matter what happens tonight. But if they want to cement those at-large hopes significantly, they need to win.

The rest of Las Vegas seems to know it, too. Even on my way to SLC today at McCarran Airport, two guys working the TSA security line were in a debate over tonight's game. If the Rebels want to keep that buzz going with a win tonight, here are the three keys to making that happen.

1) Chace Stanback needs to play like ... Chace Stanback. He's shot awfully in the Rebels last two games — both 10-point losses at home against New Mexico and at San Diego State — and, in turn, it's made UNLV more and more predictable on the offensive end. If UNLV wants an effective way to attack 7-foot-3 David Foster and spread Utah out, Stanback's mid-range game working would be a nice place to start.

2) UNLV has to shoot better than it has of late across the board — plain and simple. Lon Kruger even said that UNLV is going to look to shoot outside early and often in this one. The last thing they want is a slugfest with Utah. We saw what that produced last time.

3) Anthony Marshall needs to play as a member of UNLV's first team how he did on Saturday in San Diego. He scored 12 points, but was the only one who repeatedly attacked SDSU's size and, in turn, got himself to the free throw line. It was actually a bit of a Wink Adams-like performance. He'll be vital in that role tonight.

As for my pick to click and score prediction, I'm saying Tre'Von Willis has a big night. He hasn't shot well of late, either, and I love the matchup with him against Marshall Henderson. I think he was offended with the way Henderson acted after the game in Las Vegas, and no one can carry out revenge on a grudge like Willis. I'm saying UNLV wins, 74-66.

Talk to you after tip-off.

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  1. shaw out with ankle injury... awesome. how do you get hurt in warmups.

  2. You can turn an ankle getting out of bed. Stuff happens.

  3. we are flat... again.. .. hope i'm wrong. another 10 point loss.

  4. It's way too early to predict an outcome either way, but I agree that the Rebels are not exactly lighting the court on fire.

  5. Biggest game of the year to date, and we come out like this? Our offense looks like crap.

  6. 9 turnovers, 0 fast break points, 16.7% from the 3, 40% overall and only 25 field goal attempts. Way to go Walking Rebels! Maybe they "just are not on the same page".

  7. Well, gumby, they have no fast break points, but have 11 points off of those nine Utah turnovers. However, the offensive rebound allowed to Glover there in the closing seconds to set up that Henderson three was crucial.

  8. Weak and pathetic. Too many mediocre players on this team.

    Don't see how some of them end up at UNLV.

    I'm sick of watching this type of "basketball."

    How many of our players were falling down or looking for the refs to bail them out on that last posession?

    It's too bad. Wheels come off at the end of the season AGAIN!!!!

    There's just something missing from this team. No mental toughness. No fight. We make a run, we give it right back.

    Looks like we'll get the 2:30 Thursday game for the tournament. OH BOY! the 4/5 game. 7,000 fans get to witness another 1st round loss. YIPEE!

  9. So much for all the "lock in the tournament talk". If we get a loss tonight, its all over.

  10. Yeah, anyone who thinks this is an ncaa tournament team is out of their minds.

    We will have to win the mwc tournament and there's no way that's going to happen.

    But I'm sure the writers for the Sun will tell us to relax. LOL

  11. P.S. 1st play of 2nd half, Santee again proves his worthlessness. Just great.

  12. This sucks

  13. NO REBOUNDING!!!!

    WHY CAN'T ANYONE REBOUND????!??!?!?!

    THIS SUCKS!!!!!!

    KILL ME!!!!

  14. I'm OK with playing Chop the rest of the game. It's not going to matter.

  15. All Massamba can do is foul out there. That is all he does.

    That and looked perplexed after they call the foul.

    Pathetic.

  16. 2 things. Utah would win the national championship if they played UNLV all the time. Second, according to UNLV, Carlin Brown for Utah is the best guard in the nation.

  17. Looks like Willis is the only one who has showed up tonight.

  18. Take this game over Tre.

  19. Santee is so weak.

    How do you not finish that play?

    He better hit his free throws.

    No one is playing any defense either.

  20. You were right bigfish. Comment removed. I guess you cant state the obvious. They wont let readers read the truth.

  21. I'm almost ready to post something positive. Stay tune.

  22. Any chance we could have the rest of the team besides Tre actually start playing in these last few minutes?

  23. Offensive Rebound Daris Santee. Holy Cow

  24. Sorry Rebel fans too little too late. Utah owns you admit it!

  25. Great coaching there Lon let's call 2 timeouts in a row to get a contested 3, lol!

  26. I'm sorry make that 3 timeouts in a row to get off 2 contested 3's in a row.

  27. could see it happening the first 5 min out of the gate.... FLAT... makes my stomach sick.

  28. I would like to here from all the homers about how everything is OK. I need a hug.

  29. Time to get the ol fork out.

  30. say hello to the NIT boys and girls. just like last year UNLV collapsed down the stretch after such a good start to the season.

  31. what the hell dude.. sooo bummed

  32. BOYCOTT THE MACK until Kruger goes away.

  33. I could see this coming from when we got our a$$ kicked by SD St. As other teams in the conference seem to be improving, the rebs are regressing. Willis is the only player we have right now. Pathetic.

    I would like to see how the homers are going to slap lipstick on this pig.

  34. So how is everyone going to spin this loss? The Walking Rebels do it again 66, 58, and 61 points. Great offensive display. Could this year be any more similar to last year???? The Walking Rebels absolutely suck PERIOD!!!!!

  35. No heart.

    Too many mediocre players.

    HORRIBLE "big men"

    Another year where the wheels come off at the end of the year.

    Can't wait to hear coach's "coach speak" and excuses.

    Chop and Santee didn't deserve to see the ncaa tournament in their college careers anyway.

  36. All the ESPN 1100 guys were sayin' the mountain west will get three bids. With UNLV outta the mix like this I don't see how we can pull three bids. The only way that will happen now is if we win the conf, tourney. Hate to say I told them so.

  37. Oh well unlv will be better next year.bring on football season now,The rebels will go bowling this year fosho.As for the basketball team nit here we come..lol

  38. Oh great, there's something to look forward to, UNLV Football.

  39. Pathetic display of basketball, how the hell can a team regress this much? Where are all those hustle plays, defensive blocks on layups, players cutting and driving, and a 2nd/3rd player stepping up like earlier this year. This is disgusting, no spinning this one. Rebels look absolutely lost maybe even more so than last year. Kruger has to take the blame for this. No excuses.

  40. Hello bubble!

    Wow swept by Utah. Utah.

    yikes maybe we should cut our losses and save the embarrassment should we make the tournament by some miracle and just focus on next year. Insane three pointer at the halftime buzzer was the harbinger of what my beloved Rebels face now. Forget the at-large bid, only way we get in is automatic bid. Very sad and dramatic turnaround after the BYU victory.

  41. Lon will spin this one. He'll say, we gotta make shots and we gotta make plays and we gotta attack the basket. He will pin all of this on the players, he won't take one ounce of responsibility.

    BOYCOTT THE MACK

  42. Tre is the only good player we have.
    The rest of these guys suck.
    We don't deserve to go to the NCAA's this year.

  43. "TRUE_FAN", How are you going to dog Santee tonight? He played way better than Massamba AND didn't hurt himself in warm ups.

  44. on the road, without two starters.....still you gotta win these games. our big men are just not good defenders or defensive rebounders. if we win ONE of these last 3 we're in fine shape. but no. we run the table AND win our first two conf. tourney games, we'll be ok. otherwise--let's not talk about it.

  45. A 12 year old girl could push Santee around under the basket.

    Also, he might have the worst hands of any UNLV player in history.

    Massamba, Santee, and Shaw are worthless.

    We need a big who is not allergic to rebounds.

  46. This one really hurts.

    Bright side is maybe I'll have the T&M to myself like in the Massimino and Bayno years next few games?

  47. UNLV must win the MWC tournament now.

    Don't kid yourself.

  48. Whatever you do Rebels slow it down. Grind it out. Maybe start running the Princeton offense. I think we could win the national title if we just make sure to make 8 passes before we shoot. Swing that ball. Way to go Walking Rebels! Lets all go to Colorado Springs in two weeks and watch us lose to Air Force 24-22.

  49. @kenns ... Can't really defend anything after that one.

  50. Sufferin, no one would know if you had a good point in your diatribes because it's not worth reading your retaliatory attacks on the guy that fired YOU.

  51. You know i read every single article and comment on this website and have for the last few years, but I never ever post. But I just have to say...Sufferin is right and has been right this whole time. I want UNLV to win as much as anyone and it is obvious that Sufferin does too. I chose to disregard his negative comments about our coach because I too was blinded by the shine off of one sweet 16 appearance. Most of the other commenters on here think he has some personal vendetta against Kruger because of some "supposed" incident between the two that most likely is made up.

    Face the facts this team regresses every year and its when we get to conference for the exact reasons sufferin stated. The coaches know Kruger too well and he is too stubborn to change his offense or defensive schemes no matter if its working or not. We lose close games, we lose to teams we should not, we are inconsistent, and we very rarely blow out bad teams. That points to one thing..coaching. If you dont think its the coaches fault then its the players fault who Kruger has brought in. No one to blame for our mediocre team but Kruger.

  52. The team does not regress "every" year.

    They did last year and this year.

  53. These next 4 games don't even matter.

    Not even a little.

    MWC tournament champs or nit.

    That's it.

  54. Our post season chances aren't gone yet. Last year we went 21-9 (9-7) and a first round loss in the tourny and we still were one of the last teams the commitee was discussing to put in march madness. So this year if we finish 23-7 (11-5) which is by winning our last 4 we are almost certainly in since our rpi will be better then last years 69 ranked team. and if we win a game in the mwc tourny its a lock

  55. In case it was not rough enough to watch it once the Mtn is replaying it right now...

  56. NIT here we come. But look on the bright side. We will not face Kentucky this year!

  57. I think all coaches come here to retire, not to win. The lack of effort and laid back never get a T coaching effort is the same effort our kids play with. Perhaps if Kruger would light a fire under the ref's once in a while, maybe the team would get fired up. Plus the minute I saw Chop Jones play for this team I knew Kruger had no judgement of talent. He is without a doubt the worst player in the MWC. I totally disagree with Suc my sacitash, because we have talent, but noone to teach them. This coaching staff has demonstrated the ability to let players get worse during the season instead of improving. Watch one practice and you we see everything is taught as a team. There is no individual development, therefore noone to teach them how to improve. Tark had Gurg. These kids have noone. When the attendance drops below 10K next year maybe Livingood will wake up and realize Lon is not a good coach. He has been fortunate to have overacheivers in the past, now they are playing up to what he has taught them, nothing. Classic example, Joel Anthony, Lou Amundsen, NBA. At UNLV they rarely played until their senior year and then it was limited minutes. Kruger has no clue how to develop big men. These two could have been stars by their junior year if they had Gurg. Like I said time to hire a coach not looking to retire. Spoon, Kruger, Rollie. Pay a talented young coach half that money and make him earn the rest. Thanks Kruger for saving me several thousand dollars I won't be donating to the loser fund next year.

  58. Brutal loss. When will someone on this team play with emotion. When will Kruger really get pissed off at someone? Open threes with NOBODY charging them. They literally stood around and watched the last shot before half. If you charge him, granted you'll never reach him, but at least charge him and he'll have to think about the shot. Watch it and you'll see. Kruger will come out and say "we were outplayed." WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO TEACH A DIVISION ONE PLAYER TO GO AFTER THE BALL AND GET A REBOUND? For years now we've been outrebounded, not because we don't have players but because we don't have the nads to go get the ball. We stand and jump and stand and jump and stand and jump. We don't MOVE. Man that's a frustrating loss. NO heart. NO passion. We're a bunch of girls playing against men we're playing so scared. Chace looked like he was lost all night. God knows what happened with Wallace. NIT boys for sure. Another season down the drain.

  59. This team is done.....sorry to say, And I hope I am worng but the way we have been playing at home, I would not be suprised to see them lose again before the conference tourny. TreVon had a open lane with 20 seconds left I don't know what he was thinking by pulling back and shooting that 3. But in no way should he be held responsible because he had at one time more points then the hole team combined. PATHETIC!!!! kinda excitied for football

  60. We were not one the first ones left out of last year's NCAA tournament. I guarantee the selection committee didn't have to think long and hard about that one. We were given a 5 seed in the NIT bracket, so we were about the 20th team left out.

    The bottom line is...this team is not that good. Last year's team was not that good. People can try to analyze "chemistry" issues like a bunch of little girls, but the bottom line is that Tre' is the only good player this team has. EVERY other player on this roster has some major hole in their game. I'm starting to hate small ball with a passion. I knew the run two years ago was a fluke; three years ago was legit, but KK facilitated that by that silly transfer rule. We need long athletes. Kruger really blew it not going after players like Billy White and Darrington Hobson.

    Don't worry about that last schollie folks. Polee and Joseph don't want to come here. I hope Kruger "hangs onto it" so that when Reggie comes in, he can bring in some long athletes that can ball!

    This is what happens when you build a team around a bunch of guards that can't shoot.

  61. I'm just going to adjust my expectations (solid NIT team) and enjoy the rest of the season. Not looking for any magical run in the MWC tournament, though I do expect them to 1 game.

  62. I'll defend the players. Without Jasper, this team just isn't very good. They played real hard with the deck stacked against them. The only reason this game was close is because Boylen is such a bad coach. Carlon Brown was having his way with whoever was on him, he should of had a least 20 touches, he scored every time he got the ball it seemed.
    You don't realize how bad Santee and Masamba are until you see them play in person. Masamba tries hard without the talent and Santee doesn't try with a little more talent. If they could at least jump and contest shots, we would have a chance, I have more game above the rim then they do and I stand at 5'8" These guys struggle at setting picks, You would think, just maybe, if you see tre driving to the basket, pick his man or don't let Foster rush at him, and if he does be ready for the rebound. The only thing they know how to do is set the high pick, but they didnt do that well either, Kim Tillie was getting through the pick and causing the guard to actually run into their own big man.
    In defense of Kruger, I think the other coaches realize UNLV has no inside game, so they cheat on all the outside shooters, it effects Wallace, Chace and Bellfield the most. They try to drop it off to the big guys because they have two players rushing at them, and the big guys fumble it away.
    I have never watched a game where the refs had no idea what they were doing like in this one. Tre was being fouled all the way down the floor by watkins on that last steal by chace. That was the icing on so many poor calls that were never made. I had to laugh when AM got laid out and they called an offensive foul on him. He almost got knocked into the first row, thats about where I was sitting. The reason Foster has so many blocks is because they refuse to call any fouls on him.
    The Rebels played good enough to win with a one demesional team to beat a poor Utah team but the refs would not let it happen. Every time UNLV got it close, the refs would make a call or lack thereof that would allow UTah to take control again. I'm not sure the Rebels will be able to beat CSU and TCU, it might be the home floor that does it. They should beat AFA and Wyo. I think they will go 3-1 in the last four, but win the tourney with Jasper back in the line up.

  63. FOR WHATEVER REASON(S), THE TEAM ON BOTH ENDS OF THE COURT LOOKS ABSOLUTELY CONFUSED. REGARDLESS OF TALENT, PLAYERS ARE OUT OF POSITION AND SOMETIMES LOOK LIKE THE KEYSTONE COPS. EXCUSES CAN BE MADE-LOSS OF JASPER, LOSS OF SHAW ETC. BUT AT THE END OF THE DAY IT ALL COMES DOWN TO COACHING AND THE ABILITY TO TEACH AND MOTIVATE. AT THIS JUNCTURE, I TRULY BELIEVE IT IS MORE A MATTER OF COACHING AND PREPARATION THAN TALENT.

  64. Finally, everyone is on my page. Kruger isn't the right coach for UNLV. Ryan, can you print the details on Kruger's contract and find out what it will take to buy him out. He's a state employee so his contract has to be public right? I doubt UNLV can afford it but if the fans stop going to games maybe he will get the message and quit.

  65. BOYCOTT THE MACK

  66. I don't care what anybody here says this is still my team all you bandwagon jumpers quit commenting in here. One day you kissing they're butt now that they're down you keep kickin them. True Rebel fans we got here
    REEEEEEEEEEEEEBBBBBBBBBBEEELLLLLLSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!

  67. Let's face it. The Rebels are just an average team. They have nobody besides Trevon Willis. Santee and Masamba both suck. Kedal Wallace is a joke. Stanback and Jasper have both been huge dissapointments. Bellfield is overrated. This team has no other go to guys besides Willis. We area weak team when it comes to big men and will struggle against any team with big men. The rebels now need to sweep the rest of the regular season and at least get two wins in the MWC tourny to get in. Any other losses in conference to the scrub teams the rest of the way and we are out. Say hi to the NIT.

  68. @dviousrebel ...

    That pinkish hue you are seeing ... ROSE-COLORED GLASSES! Take them off and admit the reality, fool!

    Constructive criticism does not equal hate.

    We would like the jokers, Coach included, to pull it together and earn their keep! They represent the whole community and are accountable.

  69. This team is not ncaa bound right now and for anyone to think that they cannot see reality. UNLV was swept by a "horrible" sub .500 Utah team and that is enough right there to keep them out. The only way they make the tourney is to win the MWC tourney. I have been saying all along that Lonnie is not a good coach or recruiter, I have had his style pegged a long time ago. He recruits average 24hr fitness style of pick up players that he can mind control and not athletes that can run, jump, shoot, dunk, and get their swerve on come game time with a nasty attitude. I am like this cat makes over 1 mill a year and this is the garbage he puts on the floor for UNLV. Tre', Marshall & maybe J-Hawk are the only ones worthy of throwing on the Rebel jersey the rest of this team is garbage. A lot of you love Kruger, I know he is "Sorry", a lot of you love his players, I have seen better at my local gym in Cali. Here's a novel concept why not try recruiting players that have played basketball their whole lives in rough inner city neighborhoods in America's mega cities instead of pansies from the suburbs who have no heart or skill? The standard here should be nothing short of excellence and Kruger isn't getting it done!