UNLV BASKETBALL:

Thursday’s focus: Rebounding … and more rebounding

Rebels show fire during practice as rebounding woes continue

San Diego State vs UNLV

Led by the scoring duo of Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback, UNLV avenged three 2009 losses to San Diego State, beating the Aztecs, 76-66.

UNLV-SDSU Basketball

UNLV's Tre'Von Willis and Matt Shaw celebrate after Willis scored and drew a foul during the game against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday. The Rebels won, 76-66. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: Another second half surge, another UNLV win

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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.

UNLV coach Lon Kruger doubled as both a hoops instructor and an offensive-line coach Thursday afternoon.

During a 3-on-3 rebounding drill, Kruger had three of his rotation players match up with their backs facing the basket against three redshirts.

As assistants Greg Grensing and Lew Hill threw shots up from the wing, the goal was to extend with the arms to create separation against the redshirts — who were simulating opposing players on the offensive end — and crash the glass.

The intense drill only added fuel to the competitive fire the Rebels displayed throughout the 90-minute practice, which came a day after San Diego State's inside presence and activity on the offensive glass kept the Aztecs around until the closing moments of a 76-66 UNLV win at the Thomas & Mack Center.

"That combined with an edit tape that shows it pretty clearly," Kruger said of his team getting the message again. "They know. They know we got whipped on the boards. They know to accomplish what we want to in terms of progress, we have to improve that area.

"We do it every day, but it seemed like today, the guys took ownership of the need to improve it. I think they were aware of that."

Thursday's practice had some guys chatting louder, sweating more and breathing harder than normal.

And until UNLV gets a chance to reverse its rebounding fortunes Saturday in a 7 p.m. contest against Utah, practicing hard is about all the Rebels can do.

Granted, the Rebels are only three games into the Mountain West Conference schedule, but so far in league play UNLV ranks last in the conference in rebounds allowed per game (43) and average rebounding margin (-9). The Rebels, in those three games, have allowed 15.3 offensive boards a game.

Meanwhile, the Utes (8-8 overall, 1-1 MWC) are seeing similar struggles in controlling the battle on the boards after the graduation of center Luke Nevill.

So far in league competition, Utah ranks eighth in both rebounds per game (31) and rebounds allowed per game (39).

Overall this season, Utah's average rebounding margin of -2.1 ranks last in the league, right behind UNLV's -1.5.

Offensive explosions in Wednesday's second half against SDSU from Tre'Von Willis (23 points) and Chace Stanback (18) helped cover up the rebounding troubles, which included the Aztecs pulling down 15 offensive boards and scoring 16 second-chance points.

In a 74-62 victory Saturday at New Mexico, doing the cover-up job, in large part, was Kendall Wallace's 6-of-7 showing from 3-point range in the second half.

However, the Rebels know that they can't keep winning consistently if they continue to rely on compensating elsewhere for their rebounding deficiencies.

"That's an area that keeps teams battling with us, because they get a lot of offensive rebounds, create more possessions and shots because of that," junior forward Matt Shaw said. "That's what we have to eliminate. A lot of teams think we're not a good rebounding team and it kind of brings that to their attention, so that's the area we have to work on."

There's no better time than the present to keep a reputation from forming.

"We're definitely trying to change that so that doesn't happen," Shaw added. "A team can think that way.

"If we can do what we're supposed to do, hopefully we can eliminate all of those thoughts."

That's where the use of contact-heavy, competition-filled drills in practice comes into play.

Kruger said he believes that while there are some players who instinctually constantly go to the glass with ferocity, developing that mindset is not impossible.

"Typically, competitive drills enhance the learning," said Kruger, who was also quite vocal during the exercises on Thursday. "If you just kind of walk through it, it doesn't sink in quite as well, I don't think."

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  1. I believe in coach Kruger!!! we will fix our problems...some of you were saying put Massamba@5, & Shaw@4 with stanback@3 and tre & jasper up top. That would be nasty for about a 5-7m run. (big line-up very big)

  2. I agree fkg319...that is an ideal line-up for at least a 10m run. Simply IDEAL !!!!

  3. Hopefully the only rebounding Chop will be doing is in practice!

  4. Not a big deal, but in one paragraph, it says UNLV is last in average rebounding margin (-9). In another, it says Utah is last in average rebounding margin (-2.1) behind UNLV (-1.5)

  5. The 1st one is conference play (3 games) and the 2nd is for the season.

  6. We should break out the shoulder pads and helmets like Oklahoma State used to do to make them more physical.

  7. fkg, that would be great for a short spurt, or at the last few minutes of a game if it's close, but then who's gonna substitute. The other team may just get ALL the rebounds after the sub.

    The team knows where they are weak right now, and the other teams in the conference know as well. If we keep doing what we are doing and improve even a little bit on the rebounds, we should be alright. Can't forget to work on 3pt plays as well, wasn't too great last game.

  8. Coach Kruger knows what he is doing. If UNLV can shore up its rebounding they can be conference champions. Their offense continues to improve and defense is always a staple. Next step is to take what Coach preaches and bring it to the floor. With games against Utah, CSU, Air Force, Wyoming and TCU we can not afford to stub our toe against anyone if we want to keep pace. Runnin' Rebels!

  9. I watched the game on TV this week and one of the commentators was making a good point, we aren't boxing out players. Instead of looking to grab the ball they need to feel for opposing players and put a body on them. Massamba was definitely the most physical player down low. He was an essential player on the boards and he had some good back door layups as well. Time to get physical Rebs!

  10. @LV-Born-N-Raised Got it. Thanks.

    Looking forward to seeing the results tomorrow!

  11. Suff we missed you sunshine... LOL...

    I actually mentioned that at the game the other night... That it would be interesting to see a Shaw, Brice 4-5 minute run... They both move well, but with Brice you get a big body, and Shaw some finesse...

    I will say I like seeing the heart in these games... They got behind and fought back... In San Diego a hack-a-Shaq strategy may work out pretty well for them, especially in the post... San Diego has some high fliers that just come over you... So put a body into, get called and make em shoot...

  12. Welcome back Suff, I hope you stick around when we get to the tourney with our talentless team who seems to beat up on ranked teams.

  13. Kruger needs to play Chopper more if he wants to improve on rebounding. Chop had a great game against SDSU. He only played 5 minutes and had two rebounds. At that rate, if he had played the entire game, he would have led the team in rebounding with 16 rebounds.

  14. Bellfield almost never boxes out. Love ya O, but you gotta put a body on em. Stanback seems to be getting better at rebounding every game. Rebels should be 7-1 in conference when BYU comes to town, no excuse losing to Wyoming this year. This team has shown marked improvement since the USC game, better decisions and much better passing. If they continue to improve like this it could end up being Kruger's finest coaching performance since coming to UNLV

  15. "You can't fix small and talentless"

    Suff you shouldn't talk about your self that way!

  16. your right lv born....case in point Joel Anthony

  17. yo suff get the hate out of your heart...your missing one hell-of-a season

  18. you could substitute Stanback and Santee for Shaw and Massamba. You really wouldn't loose much. Stanback is a perimiter player like Shaw and Santee rolls to the basket like Massamba on the pick and roll. I would like to see this once, just to see what would happen. Coach has experimented with a lot of different lineups but never this one.

    I hope byu comes to town with a lot of confidence and we just spank 'em back to provo.