Notebook: Willis atones for Wednesday’s late-game mishaps

After 7-turnover performance at BYU, junior guard takes charge for Rebels

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Justin M. Bowen

UNLV guard Tre’Von Willis argues a call during the game against New Mexico on Jan. 9 at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rebels beat the 15th-ranked Lobos, 74-62.

UNLV vs #15 New Mexico

Led by Kendall Wallace's seven 3-pointers, UNLV takes care of 15th-ranked New Mexico at The Pit, 74-62.

UNLV-New Mexico Basketball

UNLV players run up the ramp to their locker room after defeating the Lobos on Jan. 9 at The Pit in Albuquerque, N.M. The Rebels beat the 15th-ranked Lobos, 74-62. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

NEW MEXICO POSTGAME: The Kendall Wallace Show

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Ryan Greene and Christine Killimayer reflect on what turned out to be The Kendall Wallace Show in Albuquerque on Saturday, as UNLV took down No. 15 New Mexico, 74-62, behind the junior guard's seven 3-pointers. Plus, a look back at what was the first week of Mountain West play.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Following UNLV losses, it's a safe bet that junior guard Tre'Von Willis will be the last player — the last human, actually — out of the Rebels' locker room.

Following a 77-73 loss Wednesday at BYU, that was the case, and when he spoke with the media, one could sense in his words a feeling of responsibility for UNLV losing a late six-point lead on the road.

Willis had seven turnovers on the night, with three coming during that collapse down the stretch.

He was silent and efficient in two practices in the aftermath of that loss and felt vindicated following Saturday's 74-62 road upset of No. 15 New Mexico.

"I definitely took the BYU game personally," he said. "We had 15 turnovers as a team. I had seven of them. That's almost half. Tonight, I wanted to take care of the ball. I had one turnover on the travel call.

"I want to make plays for this team."

Aside from limiting himself to just one giveaway, Willis provided UNLV with its pulse on offense in the first half, as his steady hand and 13 points led the Rebels into the locker room with a 36-30 lead.

Once everything was all said and done in The Pit, Willis found no need to linger and reflect in the visitor's dressing room. He finished the day with 20 points on 6-of-13 shooting with four assists, two rebounds and two steals.

"We wanted to start aggressive and take the fight to them," Willis said. "We knew we were in their building, a hostile environment where they were undefeated so far. It was a hard game, but we fought, fought, fought and got the result we wanted."

Inside the numbers

A look inside the box score from Saturday's game in Albuquerque.

• Aided largely by the game-high 21 points from Kendall Wallace, UNLV's bench outscored New Mexico's, 25-4.

• Despite losing his luster when he came out of the game midway through the second half, New Mexico star Darington Hobson still got his numbers. Hobson, who played his freshman season of prep ball in Las Vegas at Western High, tallied 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

• For the second game in a row, UNLV's defense was able to take a transition-happy opponent out of its comfort zone. New Mexico scored only three fast-break points, just a game after BYU tallied only four points in transition against the Rebels.

• Kendall Wallace's seven 3-pointers were the most that New Mexico has allowed to an individual opponent since UNLV's Kevin Kruger went 7-of-9 from long range in an 85-83 victory at The Pit in 2007.

• The loss for New Mexico was its first in The Pit this season. The game also gave Lon Kruger a 2-4 record in Albuquerque in his five-plus seasons at UNLV.

Marshall provides defensive spark

Freshman guard Anthony Marshall's nine minutes tied a career low, but the Mojave High grad contributed two of his most memorable plays of the season.

The first came late in the first half, as he capped a 6-0 run for the Rebels after New Mexico tied things up, 24-24. On that play, he swiped a pass near the sideline at mid-court and soared uncontested for a two-handed jam — his only bucket of the night.

His second steal helped finish UNLV's crucial 11-0 second half run which, in essence, sealed the victory.

Squaring up in the left corner on the defensive end, New Mexico's Dairese Gary lobbed an entry pass into the post, but Marshall quickly sprung up off of the floor, extended his long arms in the air and picked off the pass. That ultimately led to a Chace Stanback 3-pointer.

What's on tap?

While UNLV ended its first week of Mountain West Conference play with a boost, its upcoming opponent — San Diego State — ended with a thud.

The Aztecs were the first team this week to upset New Mexico, doing so at home Tuesday, 74-64.

They did so for the most part without star junior forward and Green Valley High grad Billy White.

The momentum didn't count for much, apparently, as the Aztecs fell to Wyoming on the road Saturday, 85-83.

Steve Fisher's club (12-4, 1-1) will take on the Rebels at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

What they'll bring to the table is the great unknown, as SDSU has been one the league's most up-and-down teams this season.

At their best, the Aztecs can beat anyone. At their worst, the Aztecs can lose to anyone.

After sweeping all three games against UNLV last season, SDSU advanced to the semifinals of the NIT, then graduated four of its five starters.

Fisher reloaded with a hefty class of freshmen and transfers, highlighted by frosh forward Kawhi Leonard.

A high ankle sprain likely will keep White out of his homecoming game.

Typically, the Aztecs are as consistent as point guard D.J. Gay plays. They don't have a true point guard, but the junior fits the bill better than anyone else they have.

The final word

Chace Stanback on his 14-point, nine-rebound performance: "That's what I like to do — I love to rebound. Coach has been pushing me to be an offensive threat. I knew I had to step up in this game and come through for us."

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  1. UNLV is in the driver's seat for the conference race.

    UNLV +1
    BYU 0
    SDSU 0
    UNM -1

    BAM to all the haters like soccerfan. I thought we were supposed to get routed? I thought we weren't supposed to have a chance to win in the almighty pit.

    And then you climb out of your hole to say the win is not a bid deal. Which is it? If UNM is indeed a "lock" for the ncaa tournament like YOU stated they were. Shouldn't we be a little happy about a double digit win in their place?

    And to lobo69:

    "OUTCOACHED=LOSS"

    Streak=over

  2. Nice.

  3. Congrats to the Rebels and their coaching staff!!! Thats all a fan can ask for is a split on that road trip...Now its time to hold serve at home against SDSU without white it must be done. Lets hope that all of the fans turn out and pack the MACK!!

  4. K, if everyone didn't know already that the basketball ranking system is flawed because of those who participate in them, today's evidence is all you need to know.

    We beat New Mexico thoroughly in their own place and they are still ranked ahead of us in both polls. Just shows you how little coaches and journalists actually pay attention to the Mountain West or (most likely) how incredibly stupid and incompetent they really are. MORONS!!

    Yeah, yeah....I know everyone says don't worry about the polls and that they don't matter. While that is somewhat true in regards to deciding who is better than who throughout the season, I mostly disagree. It matters to recruits, fans, box offices and most importantly.....seeding for the big dance.