REBELS BASKETBALL:

UNLV gains ground in MWC ranks with 78-62 pounding of TCU

Rebels again turn stellar defense into wealth of offense, take advantage of SDSU loss at BYU

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UNLV’s Brice Massamba, right, and Justin Hawkins swarm TCU’s Ronnie Moss on Wednesday during the Rebels 78-62 victory against the Horned Frogs at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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.

UNLV played Wednesday night like a team trying to seize an opportunity that was at its fingertips.

That's because there was one, as the Rebels' 78-62 trouncing of TCU at the Thomas & Mack Center, combined with an 82-68 BYU victory over San Diego State moments earlier in Provo, put Lon Kruger's club in third place in the Mountain West Standings via tiebreaker over the Aztecs.

Did the Rebels take the floor actually knowing about the Cougars' triumph up north, though? Even if they did, they'll never tell.

"I don't even know — what happened?" freshman guard Justin Hawkins said with a smile after scoring four points and dishing out five assists for UNLV. "We just worry about our game, that's all. (The coaching staff) didn't tell us anything about what happened up there. We just focused on TCU tonight."

And with those blinders on, combined with never-ending defensive pressure and some more hot shooting out of the gates, the Rebels ran away in what equated to their second laugher in five days.

The Rebels (21-7 overall, 9-5 Mountain West) were 31-of-59 from the floor, with Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis leading the way, scoring 16 points apiece. Led by Oscar Bellfield's seven dishes with no turnovers, UNLV registered 25 assists on those 31 field goals made.

On the flip side, TCU (12-16, 4-9) turned the ball over 21 times — including seven giveaways in the first four minutes — and looked like a mess for much of the evening.

After leading comfortably at the half, 40-25, UNLV didn't let up, applying consistent full-court pressure early in the second half to expand the margin to as wide as 31 points. In fact, for a good stretch, TCU had problems simply inbounding the ball under its own hoop, as the Horned Frogs were out of timeouts with more than 11 minutes to play.

"I thought our pressure in the full-court was good. It was solid, it was active; there wasn't a lot of risk in terms of giving up a lot on the other end in terms of taking too many chances," Kruger said. "I thought the five guys were pretty engaged and played with pretty good awareness defensively."

While Kruger saw TCU's frustrations from the bench, his players could sense it in an up-close-and-personal fashion.

"I could tell by the facial expressions," Stanback said.

The reason for the excessive pressure was TCU's lack of adept ball-handlers outside of bullish sophomore point guard Ronnie Moss.

Moss led all scorers with 25 points, but was forced into four turnovers.

"We wanted to get up there and bother him, make him tired and fluster him a little bit," said Willis, who finished with three of UNLV's 13 steals. "It worked out for us."

Meanwhile, just like it did early and often in Saturday's 70-39 thrashing of Colorado State, stellar defensive pressure turned into crisp — and sometimes easy — offense for the Rebels.

UNLV scored 24 points off of TCU foibles, and everyone got into the act.

In the first half, while TCU was frantically recovering from a bevy of miscues, Kendall Wallace hit a trio of 3-pointers to help create the initial separation on the scoreboard.

In the second half, it resulted in offensive opportunities for guys off of the bench, such as Brice Massamba and Anthony Marshall.

"We're just having fun out there, that's all," Hawkins said. "We like playing defense as a team. We try to see who gets the most steals or causes the most pressure turnovers or stuff like that.

"When that happens, it's just fun for us."

More important than anything is that the Rebels seem to have regained a significant chunk of their confidence and swagger after a three-game skid that had them on the ropes just a week ago following a 66-61 upset loss at Utah.

Now come two more opportunity to build up some confidence as the regular season draws to a close. The team's final two games before the conference tournament are against the two teams currently buried in the basement of the league standings.

That swing begins with a 12:30 p.m. tip at Air Force (9-17, 1-12) on Saturday. Then comes a mid-week stretch without game action, followed by a finale at home against Wyoming (9-18, 2-11) next Saturday at the Mack.

Whereas just a week ago things looked to be growing somewhat bleak, now momentum is right back in the Rebels' corner, as San Diego State's loss also only helped UNLV's case for a potential at-large bid into the NCAA tournament's field of 65.

In hindsight, the three-game losing streak might not have been the worst thing in the world, because while the UNLV players admit they still haven't completely forgotten about it, they use the memory of how they felt just seven days ago as motivation moving forward.

"It's still in the back of our minds," Hawkins said. "We just don't want to feel like that ever again. That second (loss, at SDSU), it was a bad loss. The third one (at Utah), we were demoralized. We just said, 'No more losses.'

"That's why it picked up the last two games, and we're just going to keep doing it the next game."

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  1. Another solid effort from UNLV.. It was nice to see Coach let Hawkins run the team for a bit there near the end as well as switch the defense to zone. It didn't necessarily work out score wise but it's always nice to get some experience doing new things. This isn't the BCS, and scoring margin against a team like TCU won't make or break us in the eyes of the committee.

    Massamba, again, showed us some of that potential that we have been expecting from him all along. I hope he continues to gain confidence and improve.. We could really use a consistent 10 and 10 guy inside come tournament time.

  2. I heard you on the radio last night Ryan. As the beat writer for the Rebels you might want to look up exactly what day the MWC championship game is on. I would hate for you to show up on Sunday and be the only one at the arena. Here comes the Air Force game and I'm on pins and needles waiting for your prediction.

  3. Massamba seems to be finding his stride as of late. Let's hope he keeps it up not only for the rest of this season, but also working on it this summer since he doesn't have to focus on losing weight this summer.

    He can focus mainly on his basketball skills. Most big men under Kruger usually begin to flourish in their junior and senior years. I don't see Brice being any different from his progression so far.

  4. Good game, Rebels. Keep the focus. Air Force is going to be a challenge. U-N-L-V!!!

  5. Hardly a pounding of The Frogs just a good win.

    Air Force will be dangerous in Colorado Springs

  6. UNLV played great defense before an anemic crowd of about 11,000 or so. Die hard Rebel fans like me had an opportunity to see firsthand the increasing ability of Brice Massamba, Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall. Also on display was Chace Stanback's ability to dominate games when he desires to. He scored 16 along with Willis to lead the Rebels. We saw potential coming to fruition. Kendall Wallace was having an "on" night as well. One wonders if he can keep the switch in the on position until he graduates. He is fun to watch when he is "feeling it". We looked good. However we usually look good when we play teams like this. I still have doubts that we will look good when we play SDSU or New Mexico. If you match us up with teams like them along with teams like Baylor, K-State, Tennessee and even Texas A & M, all tall and athletic teams, we are unable to play with them. When Massamba, Santee, Shaw, Stanback, Willis and the whole gang can hang with these clubs, then we will have started to make the grade and move into a position to really develop. This is the standard. This is where we want to be. This is where we must be in order to avoid crowds like the one we saw last night. UNLV needs to learn that "Marketing" is not what we want. UNLV should take opportunities to reduce expectations. (Jim Boeheim of Syracuse is still saying his team is not that good. He knows how to understate and over deliver.) Stop all the marketing nonsense. Remember the "Rebelution"? This year it's "The Place to Be". Instead, just focus on building a strong program by recruiting strong players and playing strong non conference games (we have seen improvement here, but can we replace Pittsburgh State with say Georgetown or Duke? Consider replacing USC Upstate with Gonzaga or Saint Mary's). If you do that and play run and gun exciting basketball, you will once again be "The best show in town". You will be able to reduce your marketing expenses and increase your revenue. You will have created a demand that will far exceed your capacity.

  7. The defense we had at the beginning of the year is back! Pressure the opposing team, you have the depth if you get tired!

    Great to watch Buljan's face every time we made a basket and how frustrated he was getting.

    Santee played very well also, especially at the beginning of the second half. Was awesome to see the rebels running again. Only criticism I have is in the 1st half, nobody was moving and TCU was easily disrupting passing lanes. After a quick timeout though, I think Kruger put a bug in their ear and after that, there was a lot of movement (shows in the amount of assists as well).

    Great game, good luck vs. Air Force!

  8. Guess you didn't watch the game william. That was a blowout no doubt about it. With 10 minutes (or so) remaining UNLV led 64-33. Kruger took out Willis and Bellfield for the rest of the game and the Rebs went to a an inexperienced 3-2 zone to take pressure off of TCU. It was only then that they made a run. Until that point, TCU had 19 turnovers but committed only 2 the rest of the way. Believe me, it was an annihilation, the final score only looks respectable because of the irritating mercy of Lon Kruger.

  9. And a stupid last minute pick-pocketing by TCU to give them a bogus extra two points.

  10. Irritating mercy of Lon Kruger? What would you be saying if Tre would have rolled an ankle in those closing minutes with us up 30 or so? You would likely say there was no reason for him to be in the game and now our season is over.

  11. That last minute steal was garbage. Just shows the type of players TCU is dealing with. And yes, I want to see Lon Kruger pull the starters and play the "2nd team" when a game is out of hand like that. No need to risk injury, or even push Trevon or Bellfield (who is still playing through an injury) to play an extra 25 minutes. Plus, gets our younger guys more experience for next year. Still wish Massamba would have gotten one more rebound for his double-double

  12. It was a smart move by LK to pull O & Tre due to many factors. For one the game was in hand(up by 30+). Secondly, rest is key at this point in the season. Third, both of them have had some bumps and bruises this year and an injury to either could put our tourny hopes on hold yet again.

    As much as I want to beat at team like TCU by 40+ it just makes more sense to save your guys. We unfortunately don't have the luxury that the Kentucky's and say North Carolina's(of past years) to win big with a bench full of studs.

    Our Bench maybe part of our future but we are still missing a few pieces.

    Come on Cory Joseph you could take this team to another level, and Dwayne Polee you surely would be a crowd favorite. CJ starting the break and Polee finishing now we would be back to Runnin Rebel basketball!!

  13. Oh brother......why don't you read and comprehend a little closer before you comment john. I didn't say that it wasn't necessary for Lon to take out our guys. I was using that as one example to william as to why the score was closer than it should have been. Taking them out with 10 minutes left seems a litte early but keeping our guys healthy and fresh is legitimate.

    I said that his mercy was irritating. Did he have to go into a zone? Does he have to slow the game down with 10 minutes left so that freakin' TCU can go running up and down the floor with highlight reel dunks? A 31 point lead cut to 13 with 2 minutes left and you weren't throwing your shoe at the TV? Sorry guys, take the big dogs out, but those that are in....pedal to the metal!

    Holy crap guys, so quick to jump on a fellow Reb fan.

  14. BTW, I'm with you derm, that pickpocket was performed by a thug. Moss is a freakin' joke.

  15. DEAD WRONG

    Play to the final whistle. Coaches love players like that. I thought it was a great play and I think Moss is a stud and will be for the next 2 years. If the Rebs showed fight like that we may have 1-3 more wins!

    Keep the wins coming and we will be dancing in March!

  16. Yeah, play to the final whistle even when your down by 18 points with 15 seconds left and the team that just beat the crap out of you is trying to be generous by running out the clock instead of running up the floor and shooting to pad their stats.

    Yeah, we need more players like Moss who whine, moan, roll their eyes and have terrible body language when things don't go their way. We'd have 1-3 more wins!

    Good observations sufferin'...I mean born. Ah what heck, it's the same guy anyway.

  17. the steal at the end was only annoying because it was done to us. I would have called it heart if Tre or chase did it in the opposite situation.

  18. There are other ways to make a point then calling out coach for being merciful and no I didn't throw my shoes at the tv since I was actually at the game. Why not spend the $10 for a balcony seat, or whatever they cost up there and show up and support the team rather than sitting at home second guessing a coach completely out of your league.

  19. Suuferin huh? Been posting on here for a while now and thats the 1st time I have been accused of being that guy!

    If you watched that game and wouldn't want him on your team then that speaks for itself. The guy can play and he plays hard with not much support from anyone but a basket case Euro that could score 30 and pull down 12 or score 4 and get thrown out of the gym for a dirty play. Im born in LV, a UNLV Grad, and a season ticket holder who calls it as I see it and that was hustle plain and simple!

    Sufferin I am not but if I was him that previous post would be the smartest thing I ever said!

  20. Rest your best players when the game is out of reach. The bench players need experience just don't take your foot off the gas, keep playing as if the starters are in....

    Who cares about the steal, that happens when you get careless, you always play until the final whistle. Moss would look real nice in a Rebel jersey. I love players with attitude, swagger, heart, a chip on their shoulder, & a never quit mentality. Who cares if he isn't the politically correct baller that corporate America wants?

  21. Rest your best players when the game is out of reach. The bench players need experience just don't take your foot off the gas, keep playing as if the starters are in....

    Who cares about the steal, that happens when you get careless, you always play until the final whistle. Moss would look real nice in a Rebel jersey. I love players with attitude, swagger, heart, a chip on their shoulder, & a never quit mentality. Who cares if he isn't the politically correct baller that corporate America wants?

  22. Born and Bet,

    Both solid points, kudos.

    John, I am a season ticket holder, I don't need to spend money on a balcony ticket. Way to assume though. Kruger is way out of all of our league, so don't try and single me out as if your someone special to coaching at a high level.

  23. I thought the steal at the end was pointless and a little classless. It would be like diving over the line when you're down 17 points in a football game just to get a shot at the QB while he is taking a knee.
    That being said, Moss is a very good player and I would love to have someone like him on our team. He's a good shooter and he can get to the rim really well.

  24. I think Moss is an ok player, not a great one, he just doesn't have other great players on his team which makes him look better. Buljan is pretty good though. I'd take him over Moss.

  25. nice to see that everybody is watching the entire game eventhough it was a laugher by halftime! Lets take care of airforce (not going to be easy)...try to get healthy and make a serious run this post season, if & when we get hot like i know we can, we can go deep! Lets do this!!! REBELS B!@tche$!!!!!!!!!