Published Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 | 6:15 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2010 | 9:47 p.m.
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Final, UNLV wins 78-62
With an opportunity at hand to take over third place in the Mountain West standings via tiebreaker, the Rebels rose to the occasion in a big way.
After BYU dispatched of San Diego State earlier in the night in Provo, UNLV did its part by slamming TCU, 78-62, on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis led UNLV's effort with 16 points apiece as Lon Kruger's club improved to 21-7 overall and 9-5 in Mountain West Conference play.
The Rebels led the Horned Frogs at the break, 40-25, thanks to three Kendall Wallace treys early on to create the separation. That was followed by a 24-8 run to open the second half, keyed in large part by Willis, as the Rebels now prepare to head to Air Force for a Saturday matinee.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, photos, video, stats and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
10:22, second half, UNLV leads 64-33
UNLV applied more full-court press to start the second half, and TCU looks just as puzzled as it was before the break.
Tre'Von Willis scored eight points in a quick 10-point Rebels spurt, and now leads all scorers with 16 points as UNLV is up on TCU, 64-33.
Expect the Rebels' walk-ons to get a few minutes at the end for the second straight game.
The Rebels so far have 21 assists on 25 made baskets, and on the other end have forced 20 TCU turnovers.
Another note is the presence of Findlay Prep super-guard Cory Joseph, who is seated 10 rows off the floor next to the UNLV bench. The No. 7 prospect in the 2010 class according to Rivals.com is still deciding his collegiate destination between UNLV, Minnesota, UConn, Villanova and Texas.
Halftime, UNLV leads 40-25
UNLV was sloppy at times in the first half, but thanks to heavy defensive pressure, TCU was much sloppier, and the Rebels hold a commanding 40-25 lead on the Horned Frogs at halftime.
Lon Kruger's club appears to be well on its way to taking over third place in the league via tie-breaker, thanks to tonight's performance combined with San Diego State's 82-68 loss at BYU tonight.
UNLV was an efficient 15-of-28 from the floor and forced 13 TCU turnovers in the first 20 minutes.
Here are some other numbers of note from the first half at the Mack ...
— Chace Stanback led UNLV with 10 points in the first half, and is en route to playing maybe his best all-around game of the season tonight. he has five rebounds, four assist, no turnovers and three steals to boot.
— Kendall Wallace hit three of UNLV's five 3-pointers during his 16 minutes on the floor.
— TCU is 10-of-24 from the floor, but has looked pretty disorganized. Not having freshman big man Nikola Cerina isn't helping at all.
— UNLV scored 14 points off of TCU's 13 giveaways.
— 18 of UNLV's 40 points were scored off of the bench. Along with Wallace's nine, Justin Hawkins scored four late, and also had two rebounds and two steals in nine minutes of run.
7:13, first half, UNLV leads 24-16
TCU is staying within range of UNLV thanks to a good amount of hustle plays from Zvonko Buljan and Ronnie Moss, but the equalizer so far has been Kendall Wallace off of the bench for UNLV.
After snapping his two-game three-less streak with a trio of long balls on Saturday against Colorado State, he already has three tonight in helping the Rebels stretch things out early on the scoreboard.
The absence of Nikola Cerina is hurting TCU in the sense that the Horned Frogs don't have a nice, reliable threat inside to dump the ball down to and collapse UNLV's defense with.
It's worth mentioning that tonight's crowd is roughly on-par with that from Saturday's blowout of the Rams. Maybe 8,000 or 9,000 in the stands tonight at the Mack.
15:46, first half, UNLV leads 7-5
TCU's Ronnie Moss hit a 3-pointer from the corner right off of the opening tip, but since then, the Rebels have cranked up the pressure on defense, even applying some full-court press, and have built a 7-5 lead by scraping after loose balls and going hard at the rack.
So far, the Horned Frogs have committed seven turnovers in just over four minutes, while UNLV has six steals, including three by Chace Stanback.
The Horned Frogs are a bit short-handed, as freshman forward Nikola Cerina didn't make the trip due to injury. He suffered an undisclosed injury in practice on Saturday during TCU's eight-day sabbatical from game action.
It's also worth noting that UNLV has a bit more to play for now, as BYU has knocked off San Diego State up in Provo, 82-68. That means that, via tie-breaker, if UNLV wins out, the Rebels finish third in the Mountain West. The Aztecs also suffered a major blow in terms of their potential at-large hopes for the NCAA tournament.
All eyes in the Mountain West Conference will not be on tonight's tilt between UNLV (20-7 overall, 8-5 MWC) and TCU (12-15, 4-8) at the Thomas & Mack Center. Most of them will be fixed on what transpires in Provo between conference kingpin BYU (25-3, 10-2) and San Diego State (20-7, 9-4).
The league's top dog hosts its hottest team, and the outcome will have big-time implications on the Rebels' immediate future.
Now, UNLV is coming off of a 31-point victory over Colorado State on Saturday, and for all intents and purposes should be able to dispatch of TCU tonight on the home floor.
Instead, lets talk about how the outcome of the BYU-SDSU match-up has an impact on UNLV ...
If BYU wins ... UNLV will take over third place in the league with a win of its own tonight via tie-breaker, having a win over BYU to its credit. That means the Rebels are in third place with two very winnable games left in conference play and it all but ends the buzz SDSU has created in terms of pushing for a potential at-large bid. A loss for SDSU truly pushes the Aztecs against a wall and probably forces them to have to win the MWC tourney to get into the field of 65. Also, being a 3-seed probably helps UNLV in the conference tourney. They'd face the 6-seed, which figures to be either Colorado State, who is in fifth right now at 6-7 in the league, or Utah, who entered tonight's game at Air Force at 5-7. With the remaining schedules for each, I'd say CSU is a safer bet than Utah to finish in the six-slot.
If SDSU wins ... Well, in that case, UNLV fans might start hitting the panic button, as SDSU would still be a game up on the Rebels in the league race with two winnable games left after tonight in the league. At that point, it's truly a race between UNLV and SDSU to see who has the better resumé for an at-large spot if neither can win the MWC tourney. If, for argument's sake, both are able to win-out heading into the league tournament, the better at-large case could belong to whoever lasts longer in that 3-day affair. Comparing the resumés with an SDSU win tonight, UNLV would have the much better start to the season and better non-conference showing, while SDSU would have the better overall finish. Those could cancel each other out.
Your head spinning yet?
Well, don't let it. I'm not seeing a San Diego State win tonight. Just can't picture it.
That said, lets move on to tonight's three keys to UNLV victory
1) The Rebels can't allow TCU's Ronnie Moss to gain confidence early on. Despite the Horned Frogs' overall struggles, the sophomore from Fort Worth is having a great season (14.4 ppg, 6.3 apg, 3.2 rpg). He has a history of playing well against the Rebels, though he didn't have a massive impact in UNLV's 79-70 win at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum back on Jan. 23. Last season, he scored 15 points in each meeting with the Rebels and was a huge catalyst for the offense. The Horned Frogs have tons of skilled outside shooters who can have an even greater impact should he be able to penetrate often and be a force, drawing in multiple defenders.
2) Darris Santee scored six impressive points in the first meeting, and the aggression he showed in that game has come and gone in his two seasons at UNLV. But the senior has shown it in each of the Rebels' last two games, and tonight gets his second consecutive start. TCU's Nikola Cerina has been hot of late in the paint, and Santee will not only be needed to score a bit, but his defensive presence will be key.
3) Anthony Marshall doesn't need to get another double-double, necessarily, but he needs to play like he did on Saturday, when he tallied 12 points and 10 rebounds, showing that he truly can fill the role left by Derrick Jasper's absence due to injury. CSU didn't have a defensive answer for the springy 6-foot-3 freshman. Neither does TCU. Marshall must exploit that.
As for tonight's prediction and 'Pick to Click', I'm taking the Rebels, 75-65. I think they'll be comfortably ahead for much of the night, but TCU's ability to score from all over the place will at least keep the Frogs within range. And I'm saying Tre'Von Willis has a big night. He likes going head-to-head with Moss, as the two have developed a healthy, friendly rivalry. He scored 30 in the first meeting. Expect a similar number tonight.
Talk to you after tip-off.