Thursday, Jan. 14, 2010 | 12:32 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss what again was a tale of two halves for UNLV, as the Rebels used a second half surge keyed by defense and the offensive precision of Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback to down San Diego State, 76-66. Plus, a look at a recurring issue for the Rebels and why the team is set up for a nice run coming up.
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Whether he was serious or not, UNLV coach Lon Kruger is right about one thing — his team's rebounding production must improve soon.
The Rebels fell behind early in the first half of Wednesday's 76-66 victory against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center thanks to the Aztecs outrebounding the Rebels, 23-16, and outscoring them in the paint, 24-10, thanks largely to second-chance baskets before the break.
That prompted Kruger to say in his postgame press conference that he'd open up the floor to suggestions from his players for ways to improve.
"Sixteen points off of offensive boards, that's a big chunk, and you just can't afford to keep giving that up," he said. "They'll come back to nip us if we don't improve that. We've got to focus on that.
"I told the guys, they've got to come up with drills now, because mine in practice aren't working. We've got to do a better job of being more creative in practice, because we know what our problem is, we just haven't taken care of it."
In three Mountain West Conference games so far, UNLV is allowing 15.3 offensive rebounds per game and being outrebounded by nine boards per contest.
The Rebels are, however, 2-1. In the two wins, those struggles down low were covered by outstanding offensive efficiency in the second half.
The fact that SDSU committed 20 turnovers and was 2-of-16 from 3-point range didn't hurt, either.
"We're very much aware of our deficit in almost every ball game (on the glass)," Kruger said. "We can't continue to be comfortable with that. Obviously we got it back on the turnover differential (against SDSU), but it's not always going to be that way. We've got to do a better job on the boards."
Quality minutes from Marshall
Oscar Bellfield was relegated to only six minutes on the floor in the first half thanks to foul trouble.
Picking up the slack was freshman Anthony Marshall, who put in a good night's work in 23 minutes.
The Mojave High grad grabbed five defensive rebounds, had an assist and two steals. His only two points on the night came on a drive down the right baseline, as he hammered home a dunk over a surprised SDSU defender.
The 6-foot-3 guard also displayed his combination of excellent reach thanks to his long arms and leaping ability when making the crowd collectively grin on a blocked shot that didn't even count.
A foul was whistled against UNLV in the paint in the first half. After action semi-stopped, 6-foot-8 Aztec forward Billy White went up to shoot the ball, with Marshall going up from a still position to stuff the attempt underneath.
Inside the numbers
• San Diego State showed enormous potential with its young front-court. Junior Malcolm Thomas was aggressive in finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds, while preseason MWC Freshman of the Year Kawhi Leonard had team-highs with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
• Consistent, steady play from junior point guard D.J. Gay held the key to SDSU's potential success at the Mack. He played 32 minutes, finishing with five points, two assists and five turnovers.
• UNLV junior guard Kendall Wallace, fresh off of a 7-of-10 3-point performance on Saturday at New Mexico, forced the crowd to erupt when he nailed his first deep ball of the night in the first half. However, he couldn't find consistent touch from long range the rest of the night, finishing 2-of-8.
Faces in the crowd
On hand were a few recognizable figures, including future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, former UNLV golfer and current PGA pro Charley Hoffman and Mirage resident entertainer Terry Fator.
Fator sang the national anthem, while former UNLV quarterback and current ESPN personality Kenny Mayne delivered the "Lights, please" intro to the player introductions on the video board. He recorded the segment from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., and sent the tape to UNLV via FedEx.
What's on tap?
The Rebels welcome 8-8 Utah to town for a 7 p.m. Saturday game. UNLV split the regular season series with the Utes last season, with each team winning on its home floor.
Jim Boylen's club was smacked by New Mexico on Wednesday night in Albuquerque, 74-57.
The Utes have struggled in much the same way as the Aztecs this season, yearning for consistent point guard play.
High-flying junior guard Carlon Brown leads the Utes in scoring, averaging 12.7 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists an outing.
The final word
SDSU coach Steve Fisher, comparing last year's UNLV team — which his team beat three times — to this year's club: "They are significantly better than they were last year. They are really good and they go 10 or 11 deep."