Published Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 | 6:48 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010 | 9:09 p.m.
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Final, UNLV wins 76-66
Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback are developing into quite the reliable one-two scoring punch for UNLV as the 2009-10 season progresses, and the duo hit a new peak in the second half of Wednesday night's 76-66 victory over San Diego State.
In UNLV's first game back at the Thomas & Mack Center since Dec. 19, the duo combined for 41 points, leading a second half charge.
Stanback scored UNLV's first six points out of the halftime locker room, while Willis, during one second half stretch, scored 14 of the team's 16 points. Stanback finished with 18, while Willis had 23
Meanwhile. Oscar Bellfield steered the ship in efficient fashion for the third consecutive time. The league's assist leader in conference games had six helpers as opposed to just one assist. He also chimed in with 12 points.
Malcolm Thomas and Kawhi Leonard combined inside for SDSU to tally 25 points and 17 rebounds, while leading scorer Billy White — a Green Valley High grad who missed Saturday's loss to Wyoming with an ankle sprain — fouled out with five points in 16 minutes played.
UNLV is now 14-3 overall and 2-1 in MWC play, while SDSU drops to 12-5 and 1-2, respectively. The Rebels are back at the Mack on Saturday for a 7 p.m. tip against Utah.
For full coverage, including stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:35, second half, UNLV leads 67-62
No one seemed to take last season's three-game sweep at the hands of San Diego State more personal than Tre'Von Willis, and he's certainly exorcising those demons in the second half.
At one point, he scored 14 points in a 16-point UNLV spurt, and behind his 21 for the night, the Rebels hold a late 67-62 edge on the Aztecs.
Billy White fouled out at the 4:12 mark after a non-descript five-point performance in 16 minutes. Meanwhile, UNLV has held its owon on the boards in the second half, and for the game trails 40-33 in that department.
9:18, second half, UNLV leads 55-50
Tre'Von Willis has picked up right where Chace Stanback left off earlier in the second half. The UNLV junior guard has scored 10 of the Rebels' last 10 points, including a second-chance 3-pointer just moments ago to put UNLV ahead of SDSU, 55-50.
Willis, who was silent in the first half for the most part, now has a game-high 15 points.
Making a big difference so far this half for UNLV is Derrick Jasper and Anthony Marshall showing great activity on the defensive glass.
15:44, second half, game tied 43-43
Chace Stanback hit a long two from the left corner to open the second half with a nice shooter's roll, pumped his fist, and it was on for the Rebels.
The 6-foot-8 forward scored UNLV's first six points out of the break, and the Rebels have manned-up physically inside against the Aztecs. The game is now tied, 43-43, just over four minutes into the second half.
Stanback now has 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting and has without question been UNLV's most aggressive offensive force tonight, with Tre'Von Willis coming in a close second.
Brice Massamba has also scored twice early in the second half off of Oscar Bellfield assists. Bellfield, who is the conference's assist leader through two games, now has six assists and only one turnover.
Halftime, SDSU leads 39-33
San Diego State has found a comfort zone at the Thomas & Mack Center, and that entails playing its patented frantic brand of ball. The Aztecs have hardly slowed down tonight, haven't allowed the Rebels to slow things down to their desired pace, and in turn have a 39-33 halftime lead.
SDSU is spreading the wealth, as eight players have already scored, with Tyrone Shelley scoring seven consecutive to bridge a four-minute offensive drought for just about everyone else on the floor.
Billy White has been pretty much ineffective in eight minutes played, but several others are stepping up for Steve Fisher. Meanwhile, UNLV's shooting is spotty and the inside presence hasn't been there yet. Here is a closer look inside the halftime box score ...
— SDSU leads the rebounding battle, 23-16. Three players have four apiece for the Aztecs, led by freshman Kawhi Leonard, who has three offensive boards and eight points.
— UNLV's three-headed center — Massamba, Shaw and Santee — has a combined four boards so far.
— UNLV is 12-of-33 from the floor. Chace Stanback is 3-of-8, but leads all scorers with eight points. Meanwhile, SDSU is getting several high-percentage looks and is 14-of-27 from the floor.
— What's keeping this one close still for the Rebels? The Aztecs can't shoot free throw, as per usual. The fellas are 9-of-17 from the stripe.
— The Aztecs have only five assists compared to nine turnovers, but are finishing on the break, which has been the key.
— UNLV needs to establish a presence inside, as the Rebels have been outscored so far in the paint, 24-10.
UNLV's only chance in this one, really, is by slowing down the pace and not allowing San Diego State to get numbers in the open floor. Oh, well, that and establishing some muscle inside wouldn't hurt, either.
7:00, first half, SDSU leads 24-20
UNLV wants to play the half-court game. San Diego State wants to run up and down non-stop. The Aztecs' so far is ruling, as the visitors lead the Rebels mid-way through the first half at the Thomas & Mack Center, 24-20.
Tyrone Shelley scored seven consecutive points for SDSU during a four-minute offensive drought for both sides. By the time UNLV woke up, San Diego State was ready to trade buckets.
Between a layup off of a steal by Chase Tapley and a soaring dunk by Kawhi Leonard, SDSU is keeping the crowd at the Mack out of this one for the most part. Shelley then drew a foul while taking a 3-point shot heading into the recent T.V. timeout.
UNLV is active on the glass and getting second chances on offense, but 8-of-22 shooting so far has been marred by the Rebels not taking the ball up strong inside and missing a bevy of mid-range jumpers. Tre'Von Willis — the Rebels' leading scorer — just scored his first bucket of the game on an 18-foot jumper.
So far, SDSU is controlling the pace, and UNLV would need to hit an incredible hot streak to win a game that is played at this tempo. If the Rebels can stay within at least six points by halftime, the odds of them executing on adjustments is good. But first, the Rebels have to survive the final stretch of the opening stanza.
As for Billy White, he's only played four mintues so far, picking up two fouls, one rebound and committing one turnover.
15:35, first half, UNLV leads 11-9
Kawhi Leonard, who is hands-down the league's top freshman and maybe its finest pro prospect behind New Mexico's Darington Hobson, is making his presence felt early in UNLV's home MWC opener.
The Rebels lead 11-9 thanks to some crisp execution on the offensive end, but the Leonard and fellow frosh Chase Tapley are keeping San Diego State within range.
Leonard has already drawn two UNLV fouls, has six points and two of the team's three offensive rebounds. The bad, though? He's 0-for-3 from the free throw line.
UNLV, meanwhile, is 5-of-6 from the floor and 1-of-1 from deep. One thing to keep an eye on, though, is the foul situation. The refs will clearly call it pretty touchy in this physical battle. The Rebels took only 18 seconds to pick up their first foul, and have already been whistled for three.
Well, an already tough task appears like it'll get tougher right off the bat tonight for UNLV, who returns to the Thomas & Mack for its first home game since Dec. 19.
San Diego State (12-4 overall, 1-1 MWC) rolls into town for the first of two regular season meetings this season. Last season, behind a veteran-laden starting five, the Aztecs swept three meetings with the Rebels (13-3, 1-1).
It was thought that SDSU would be without leading scorer and Green Valley High grad Billy White, who sprained his ankle last Tuesday in a 74-64 upset win over then-No. 15 New Mexico. However, White is warming up and looks as healthy as ever. Word around the campfire from around the SDSU bench is that White will get a shot to play in the first half, and coach Steve Fisher will judge how he's holding up from there.
Even before it was known that White would give it a go, the Rebels were going to already have their hands full up front.
Between junior Malcolm Thomas and freshman Kawhi Leonard, the Aztecs have been very productive up front. The two are combining to average 22 points and 17.2 rebounds a game, and we all know how much UNLV has struggled this season against bigger teams, such as Kansas State and Southern Cal.
However, those teams had more than above average point guard play. That area may be where UNLV thinks it can get a leg up on the Aztecs, who have given the reins to the offense to junior guard D.J. Gay.
If UNLV's pressure defense is in the backcourt is as stifling as it was last week in road contests at BYU and New Mexico, the Rebels could find themselves in phenomenal position.
The atmosphere is going to be great here at the Mack tonight. Kenny Mayne will do the 'Lights, please' honors before pregame introductions, Mirage resident entertainer Terry Fator will sing the national anthem, and the stands are filling up quick.
Now onto tonight's three keys to UNLV victory
1) Derrick Jasper and Chace Stanback need to be as active and aggressive as they were on Saturday in Albuquerque, especially on the offensive end. The two combined for 20 points and 16 rebounds, and with the way those two can spread opposing defenses out, when their motors are alive and kicking, UNLV is that much better.
2) UNLV doesn't necessarily need to out-rebound San Diego State. But the Rebels do need to be as active on the glass as they were on Saturday, when they were out-boarded by New Mexico by 11, but were able to keep the Lobos from getting clean second looks. Are you noticing a theme here, yet, with the word 'active'?
3) The Rebels need to win the turnover battle, plain and simple. If the pressure defense in the back-court is there again, the Rebels can force plenty of mistakes on the SDSU side. The Aztecs are more than prone to those. If UNLV can compound that by executing quality possessions and not giving it away, SDSU could find itself working out of a hole all night.
Finally, the prediction and 'Pick to Click' I'll take the Rebels, 72-61. As for a 'Pick to Click,' I'll take Oscar Bellfield, who will be largely responsible for leading the defensive charge against Gay and the SDSU back-court.