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September 22, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

ray brewer:

Instant analysis: UNLV keeps firing from long range in another lopsided win

TCU vs UNLV

Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis combine for 32 points as UNLV moves into third place in the Mountain West Conference standings with a 78-62 win over TCU.

UNLV-TCU Basketball

UNLV guard Tre'Von Willis shoots a jumper over the outstretched arms of the TCU defense Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.  The Rebels won the second straight, 78-62. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

TCU POSTGAME: Rebels back on the rise

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer break down yet another blowout win for the suddenly-surging Rebels, who easily dispatched of TCU on Wednesday night, 78-62. UNLV was again well-rounded on the offensive end, hounding on the defensive end and now finds itself in third place in the Mountain West Conference as a result.

The UNLV basketball team at times has become predictable on offense, even though it didn't appear that way during most of Wednesday's 78-62 victory against TCU.

It's not that the Rebels' grind-it-out style and excessive 3-point shooting necessarily is a bad thing, especially when the Rebels are hitting their shots and playing their trademark tough-as-nails defense.

It's just that type of play could present matchup problems against the more athletic teams in the Mountain West Conference who have the players to attack the rim and play close to the basket. See losses against New Mexico and San Diego State this month as an example of the pitfalls.

Sure, a 3-pointer here and there, especially when sharpshooter Kendall Wallace lines up from long range, generates a little buzz in the arena and gives UNLV a boost.

But what the Rebels have been missing most of the season is the inside presence that puts the opposition on warning.

A slam-dunk. An alley-oop. A blocked shot with authority. A drive to the basket for an easy two points.

The Rebels were victorious in the second of four must-win games to close the season Wednesday, receiving a team-high 16 points from Tre'Von Willis in a convincing victory against TCU. The Rebels' defense was suffocating in forcing 21 turnovers, including 13 in the first half, to show a three-game losing streak early in the month is a distant memory.

TCU (12-16) doesn't have the personnel to keep pace with UNLV, or most teams in the league, and the Rebels flexed their muscles in their second straight impressive win.

While UNLV didn't force any of its long-range shots, the lack of an inside-out balance still was present. They were 8-of-23 on 3-pointers, attempting 16 from beyond the arc in the first half, which could be considered excessive.

UNLV would be better off with a few of those highlight-reel plays and trying to establish an inside game. It's the kind of balance that will be required to beat the two teams ahead of them in the league standings, nationally ranked BYU and New Mexico.

Willis, a junior guard, consistently has led the way all season. He is UNLV's leading scorer at 18 points per game and averages 6.3 foul shots per contest — the result of driving to the basket.

With two games remaining — Saturday at Air Force and March 6 at home against Wyoming — the Rebels need to find more options to compliment Willis.

Fortunately for UNLV, they have several capable players.

Chace Stanback finished with 16 points Wednesday and has been a reliable sidekick for a majority of the season. Matt Shaw (ankle) and Derrick Jasper (knee) were shelved with injuries but are expected back in time for the league tournament and will provide a much-needed spark.

Oscar Bellfield, who had seven assists against TCU, has been more a facilitator of late, but has the ability to get to the basket — remember his game-winner at Louisville last year? Anthony Marshall is just a freshman but arguably the most athletic player on the team.

What's been encouraging about the past two games is the offensive balance.

In a 70-39 win Saturday against Colorado State, four Rebels scored in double figures and all nine in the regular rotation had significant contributions. Against TCU, four scored in double figures and several had flashes of good play — center Brice Massamba had an impressive would-be block late but was whistled for a foul.

The rest of the league, however, isn't as weak as Colorado State and TCU. That's when UNLV's predictable style of play could be problematic.

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