REBELS BASKETBALL:

Utah trips up surging UNLV, 73-69

UNLV struggles to create offense, hit free throws in home loss

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall battles Utah forward Kim Tillie during the second half of a Mountain West Conference game Saturday. Utah won the game 73-69.

Utah vs UNLV

Despite a career-high 27 points from Tre'Von WIllis and a double-double from Chace Stanback, UNLV fell at home to Utah, 73-69, on Saturday night.

UNLV-Utah Basketball

UNLV players, from left, Steve Jones, Mychal Martinez, Brice Massamba and Matt Shaw react during the closing seconds of Saturday's game against Utah. UNLV lost the game 73-69. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

UTAH POSTGAME: Utes party like it's 2005

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss just what went wrong for UNLV in a 73-69 loss to Utah on Saturday night at the Mack, which was the Utes' first victory over the Rebels on their home floor since 2005. Plus, how will the Rebels fare in an upcoming four-game stretch and who is most likely to emerge as the much-needed third consistent offensive threat?

In winning back-to-back Mountain West Conference games following a tough road loss at BYU, UNLV's Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback proved they could develop into the league's premier one-two scoring punch.

But in the aftermath of a disappointing 73-69 loss Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center to up-and-down Utah, it's clear that a third consistent, reliable offensive producer needs to emerge.

The duo combined for more than 40 points for the second consecutive game, but no one else was able to step up and provide offense late as the Rebels sputtered down the stretch against a strong defensive ball club. Instead, UNLV (14-4 overall, 2-2 MWC) watched the Utes ice it from the free-throw line.

"These guys, they've been carrying us on their backs the whole season, and it just can't be those two," freshman guard Anthony Marshall said of Stanback and Willis. "It has to be a team effort. Somebody else has got to step up."

Willis, who at one point scored 13 consecutive first-half points, finished with a game-high 27 along with six rebounds and four assists. He's now averaging a league-best 23.5 points in Mountain West games.

Stanback had 14 points and 10 rebounds, giving him the team's first double-double of the season.

But other than those two, offensive prowess was sparse.

Derrick Jasper scored four quick points, but the rest of his night was thrown for a loop because of foul trouble. He ultimately fouled out after playing a season-low 15 minutes.

As for 3-point gunner Kendall Wallace, the Utes were onto his act, shadowing him for almost every second of the 16 minutes he played. He was scoreless and only got off one long-range attempt. In fact, the Rebels were just 1-of-12 from deep.

On top of that, Oscar Bellfield also saw heavy defensive pressure in the backcourt, and none of the Rebels' big men were able to create for themselves against Utah's mammoth front line.

"They're a good club defensively," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "They're long and rangy, even on the perimeter. They're a good defensive club that gets to shooters, and they did a great job."

For a moment in the second half, it appeared as if Marshall was ready to fill the team's need for at third option on offense.

With 7:43 left in the game and UNLV trailing, 55-51, the Utah defense once again successfully had taken the Rebels out of their set, thanks to a combination of 7-foot-3 center David Foster's overall presence and the perimeter defenders' abilities to rotate and switch consistently.

But Marshall, with the offense in disarray at the moment and the shot clock dwindling, stormed toward the basket from the right wing.

He weaved under the hoop, rose up and did a 180-degree turn in mid-air, slamming home a two-handed dunk in Foster's face.

A crowd of 16,594 — the largest at the Mack this season — rose to provide a deafening roar, and it only got louder after Marshall grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end and Willis tied it up with a tough layup on the other end.

"I know what my role is on the team. It's to provide energy and give us a spark whenever I can," said Marshall, who finished with seven points, four rebounds and two blocks. "In the first half, I wasn't able to do that, so in the second half, I wanted to come in and be able to be aggressive."

But, as was the case all night long, the Rebels couldn't carry that momentum, and before they knew it they found themselves trailing in the closing minutes.

In a Feb. 6 loss to BYU that opened conference play and a 10-point victory Wednesday over San Diego State, what helped UNLV's opponents keep things close was the Rebels' inability to keep their opponents inactive on the offensive glass.

That problem was taken care of, and it showed right from go. After allowing their first three league opponents to grab an average of 15.3 offensive rebounds, UNLV held Utah (9-8, 2-1) to just eight.

Instead, the Rebels turned out to be their own worst enemy.

The first of UNLV's two big issues Saturday was inconsistency in attacking Utah up front.

As was the case in losses earlier this season to Kansas State and Southern Cal, the Rebels at times shied away from going up against Utah's lengthy front line, which included not only Foster, but 7-foot Jason Washburn and 6-foot-11 Kim Tillie, who played 16 minutes before fouling out in his first game back from arthroscopic knee surgery.

"I thought in the first half, the presence of the big guys bothered us on some drives and some tips," Kruger said. "The second half, we were a little bit better, a little more comfortable."

The Utes also compounded that problem for the Rebels with consistent rotation and switching while defending the perimeter.

"They definitely did what they were supposed to do, and we did some of what we were supposed to do," Willis said. "We didn't do a very good job of dictating the game on both ends of the floor, and that was the difference.

"We were telling each other we can't go inside the paint soft. You have to go finish like Anthony did. You have to dunk on them. We've just got to realize that every possession counts."

UNLV's other major woe Saturday, coincidentally, came as a result of what happened when the Rebels actually did go at the Utes with aggression.

As a team, UNLV shot 34 free throws, which was the most it had attempted since the first game of the season, when the Rebels hoisted 52 charities against Pittsburg State.

But the Rebels were able to connect on only 22 of those 34 attempts. Oddly enough, Willis, who entered the game as the team's top free-throw shooter (88.8 percent), had the most crucial miss of the night.

He came up short on the back end of a two-shot trip to the line with 40 seconds left which would have tied the game at 68. Instead, Utah led for the remainder of the evening, including two huge hits from Foster at the line — he notched a career-high 13 points to go with six blocks and six rebounds — and then the kiss of death from freshman Shawn Glover with five seconds to go, making it a four-point game.

It was Utah's first win over UNLV at the Mack since 2005.

"In one-possession types of games, they take on more significance," Kruger said of the free throws. "We have to bounce back and shoot those better."

Actually, the Rebels just need to bounce back in general.

The next week holds a pair of road contests that cannot be overlooked. Last year's team learned that the hard way on both trips.

UNLV on Wednesday will face Colorado State (11-6, 2-1), which has yet to lose on its home floor this season. That will be followed by a jaunt to Fort Worth, texas, Saturday for an afternoon tilt against TCU (9-9, 202), which played San Diego State to within five points on Saturday night the road.

With some of the parity which already has taken place elsewhere around the league, such as SDSU and New Mexico each already having two conference losses, Saturday's result hardly knocks UNLV to the bottom of the heap.

However, the Rebels now have to make up some ground that was given up in disappointing fashion on the heels of two inspiring victories.

"It's very important to hold serve (on your home floor)," Kruger said. "When you lose one, that knocks you back a step."

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  1. Incredibly disappointing loss. Once again our offense sinks us. Scoring 69 points with 40 coming from two guys aint gonna cut it. Our big guys were horrendous. Shaw and Massamba have no lift and were afraid to even attempt a lay up for fear of getting rejected and Santee cant catch a ball to even be able to attempt to finish. Because of this fact our perimeter guys have all the pressure to score and we are completely one dimensional. Something that Utah understood and took full advantage of. When is Derrick Jasper going to step up? Outside of the late three against Arizona and a couple of alley oops what has he given us? He is so passive offensively that the opposing teams do not even pay attention to him. We now have very little wiggle room to slip into an at large bid for the NCAA's. We still have 6 more road games and tough home games against BYU and New Mexico to go. Becoming increasingly clear that it may take another tourney title to get us to the big dance. Going to the CSU game in Ft. Collins on Wednesday. Playing against a team that lost to BYU by 44pts and has losses to Northern Colorado and Indiana State. We will see if we can pull our heads out.

  2. a perfect assessment g23 but dont fret. we got scorers a plenty, keep battling boys and get youself ready for when it really counts. this team can't just cruise and win, we gotta bring it every night. i really "b-leev" we got what it take's. lets go boys bounce back like we know how!!!!RrEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEBBBBBBBellllllllllllllllsssssssss tell i DIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. This loss just took away the quality win at New Mexico. Major letdown by a team trying to make the tourney. Watching this game really made me realize how small UNLV really is and how badly they need a couple of quality big men. I would say this is a game they can learn from to get better but we are passed that stage. You are who you are and this is a team missing quality big men, a soft team and a team that will live and die by the 3 ball. Unfortunatly this is a NIT team...

  4. can you say N.I.T. same old rebels,good not great no heart

  5. I am trying real hard not to make this into more than it is. It just reminds me too much of last year. In regards to the offense what sucks is, it is not like we are not running. We just can not make shots. Time and time again we pushed the ball and ended up missing an open shot, forcing a bad shot, or getting a shot sent back in our face. Willis and Stanback get a pass as they are the only consistent offensive factors. So far Marshall is the only one that goes to the basket with intent to dunk the ball forcefully(too bad he can barely hit the rim with a jump shot or free throw). I still think that going 13-3 or 12-4 with at least a semi final appearance in the MWC tourney might do it. However after this game I am not confident at all that this team can do that. Every game scares the hell out of me.

  6. These are the type of losses that will haunt us down the line. Though I love Kruger, thought he should of had a better game plan. Utah played D on the three, and let us drive to the hoop knowing in the long run the bigs would give us a problem. This cancels out the win at New Mexico. Thought this was the year we weren't going to lose these type of close games to under average teams.

  7. Marshall blocks shots better than any of our bigs. How is that? We don't have a presence in the front court that is required of a winning team. And, what's with all the fouling? We made unnecessary fouls in many cases, just to apply pressure. Just because we have a deep team doesn't mean we can foul everyone. We've seen that good free throw shooting teams like BYU and Utah can eat our lunch at the free throw line. Why doesn't Kruger see that?

  8. They took Utah to lightly. During timeouts when the team is in a huddle the bench is daydreaming, looking at the crowd, looking at the cheer leaders. Start focusing on the game and your team.

  9. Rebels lost a tough one and I agree that Coach Kruger got out coached again

  10. Massamba will never improve offensively setting picks at the the top of the key all night long. He was fed only one pass near the basket the entire game. He should get 5-7 touches in the post per game. Then you will see some improvement. Plus we might get some of the other teams bigs in foul trouble.

    I remember how Luke Neville sucked his freshman and soph. years. But Boylan kept going to him and developing him. His senior year he was a All-american honorable mention. Which is why Utah signed another 7 footer that kicked our a$$ last night. UNLV will never sign a talented big man as long we don't give them touches in the post. No one with talent wants to be a pick machine.

  11. I am not so sure that he got out coached. Boylen just had a game plan that works against UNLV. They did what USC did to us. Take away the 3 point looks and make the smaller players try to finish over them. The problem is that Coach has not recruited big guys so far that can finish around the rim. Shaw, Massamba, and Santee are completely reliant on the guards feeding them at the rim (or in Shaw's case the three point line). One dimensional teams are pretty easy to defend. Coach also cannot get out there and make shots. Players have to make looks when they are open and finish strong around the rim. I saw alot of open looks that were either passed up or missed. Not sure what adjustments Coach could have made on the floor that would have improved that. On the recruiting trail? That is another story.

  12. This team is now known as the "munchkin squad"...

    Easy game plan against the Rebels. Be physical, attack the paint and rebound. This team doesnt react to anyone who is physical with them. Kstate and USC pushed the Rebs all over. Utah is an average team and smacked UNLV in the mouth at their own place.

    MWC is still a joke. They will probably get two teams in the tourney (BYU and New Mexico). Rebs only chance is to win the tourney at home, which wont happen from what is being shown. They may win one game in the NIT this year.

    Next year is Krugers most important. He has the "munchkin squad" coming back with the addition of 3 new big men. If these new big men are like the one's we have now then you will see people really starting to question the potential of this program.

  13. 1st: Worst officiating I have ever seen at the mack. Utah could commit murder and get away with it while UNLV couldn't even lay a finger on an opponent without the call.

    2nd: Even though the officiating was crap, UNLV did not produce ANY significant plays. Utah completely shut us down on offense with absolutely no open looks.

    3rd: Utah's coach should have gotten thrown out of the game. If you saw him screaming at the refs and walking on the court to MID COURT to call a timeout, you'd see what I was talking about.

    4th and final: We wont the rebound battle, barely, but I'd much rather go to whatever it was we were doing before.

    I was disappointed by the BYU game, but this one takes the cake.

  14. The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling! Run for cover!

    We are still in good shape. Obviously we don't have a final four team and have our weakness. But every team has their weakness as well. SDSU are poor shooters, no PG. BYU is slow and doesn't play defense and Utah is even slower. I don't see BYU winning at the Mack, in San Diego or New Mexico, and would not be surprised if they drop one at home. Utah was lucky last night. Foster had what 2-3 free throws that bounced straight up and fell back trough. And the freshman had a Wallace type game from the 3 point line. Don't see that happening again. There is a reason they get beat by double digits on most nights. All and all, we are coming around ok, although our bigs are a lost cause, but we know that. I like AM aggressiveness and Jasper will be fine. He knows what he has to do.
    Point is: we know we don't have a perfect team, they are young and will drop some games unexplainablely, but they are still playing hard. And if your a true Rebels fan, you'll stay with them. I wouldn't be suprised if we blow Ut out in SLC. Anyways, lets keep it coming.

  15. Run-n I like your positive attitude. I get too pissed when we lose but it does get old watching your team continue a disturbing trend of stepping on their units. I will be at the CSU game and hopefully we take care of that crappy team. Otherwise I might take a swan dive off the top of Moby Gym.

  16. I'm ashamed to say I predicted Jasper would be the best point guard since Greg Anthony. Mainly because of his size and athletic ability. Turns out I wasn't even right about what position he would play.

    I never seen a player so scared to shoot a wide open jump shot. Utah left him open all night long. As far as going to the basket, as soon as he feels a little contact he crumbles and finishes like a wet noodle. The only shot he can make is an alley oop. I hope he studies hard in school because his basketball career will end next year.

    Chace had a nice 10 rebounds last night along with his 14 points. If he gets physically stronger over the next few years, he could be something special.

  17. Agreed patticus. Stanback has been great. That one dribble pull up jumper he has is money. He has been easily our best rebounder and gets some timely blocks as well. Alot of us thought Jasper would be important. Even if he does not score he should at least be able to create for others but he does not even do that well. He has so far been a waste on offense. Hopefully the light will come on soon. I would not be averse to having Marshall start in his place. Marshall is becoming more confident each game(except his j)and whether it is good or bad when he is in the game things happen. He certainly makes his presence known.

  18. Its a shame about Jasper. I wonder if has second thoughts about coming to UNLV. Seems like he is out of place... and would be a better fit on a bigger/more athletic team where he can run point, distribute the ball, and where there is no pressure to create his own offense/shot.

  19. Ah, once again, more room in the wagon. 4 loses and we see who the fair weather fans are.

    That was a strange game to watch live. The refs, whether right or wrong, and the media, with their badly timed media time outs, really set a slow pace to the game. It gave the oafs of Utah plenty of time to rest, cut the crowd off every time it could have helped and prevented the Rebs from getting into any sort of a rhythm. Plus, Utah obviously played fairly well.

    Games like this will happen periodically. UNLV improved a lot in every area except 3 points. All of us real fans just need to hope we don't let this cause a slide on our upcoming road games. I don't think it will, these guys have responded pretty well to loses thus far. Go Rebs.

  20. The reason we state our opinions is because we bleed runnin' rebel red. For me that has been since my Dad took me to games at the convention center. To observe and state the obvious does not make one a fair weather fan. It just means one is in reality.

  21. Ken,

    You have it all wrong. Losing at home to a MWC team with an 8-8 record and a 126 RPI is no big deal. But you know what? It's ok because Kruger made the Sweet 16 three years ago and none of us have coached so we shouldn't criticize him. He gets a lifetime pass, remember? It's ok that an Arizona St reject is part of our rotation too and that none of our big men have improved or are capable of doing anything productive. Lon Kruger is beyond reproach by some for some f'in reason as if he was Phil Jackson or something.

  22. I agree with your critiques, but I tend to hold mine until the end of the season. We can't change what we have. I don't like chop in there, I don't like anything the bigs have given us. Jasper has the talent to make a change and a difference, the others don't. I'll support him until he does.
    But with 12 games left, I don't see UNLV doing any worse then 8-4. That puts us at 22-8, squarely on the bubble, with wins against two teams in the top 20 and two loses to top 20 teams. BYU has yet to beat a top 20 team, SDSU and New Mexico both have wins against top 20 teams, but we have the wins against them. We win against the lesser teams and win our two home games against BYU and UNM, were in. Not at all unlikely, considering we controlled the game against both those teams on the road. I think we go 10-2 with two wins in the tourney that puts us at 26-7, an easy at large bid. But I am an optimist until things are obvious.

  23. Everytime Jones enters the game I will boo!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  24. We have to win the next 4 to have any shot at an automatic bid. We can do that since we play CSU,TCU,Wyo,AF. That would put us at 18-4

  25. Never thought I would say this: Sufferin might be right.

    While this team looks a lot like last years team in terms of records (great OoC, mediocre Conference), I am holding out hope that they will rebound (figuratively) and elevate their play.

    I have to hold out hope. I love the Rebels.

  26. If Kruger doesnt get this team to the NCAA tourney they should fire him.

  27. Too bad the new wide reciever the Rebels football team signed doesnt want to play basketball. He is 6'5'' 205 and physical. Kruger would love to have him as the starting center lol. Go munchkin squad!

  28. I'm with marylandpkwy; you guys are getting way too negative. Fine we had a bad game, but that is no reason to write off the team. If you keep predicting losses like our shin pad wearing pessimist friend, then eventually you are going to get something right. Utah is not a bad team and even if they have had some bad losses, they have also had some big wins against good teams. We need to respect every team we play and remember even our sweet sixteen team had hicups along the way. Even with our latest loss I still think we are improving and this very young team is doing better than expected.

  29. I gotta say I am with Maryland on this... The stoppages in this game were terrible... The whole crowd would be on there feet yelling and then boom ticky-tack foul... TV timeout... crowd would sit back down... and quiet again, during Utah free throws... Which BTW a team like Utah goes to the free throw line that much of course they are going to win... Utah does not miss...

    The ref we saw calling that game so bad was the on bald headed ref... He was out of position for calls... Then if the Rebs were even in the vicinity of a Ute, the whistle would blow... It got so bad I swear I actually starting hearing whistles every Utah possession... Apparently defense means let them run by you every possession to that guy... I mean it was really bad... Like BYU in Provo bad... It is very difficult for a Rebel team like this to maintain their tenacity when the clock is stopping every few minutes... It basically took the home court away... And why was Utahs coach allowed to practically run on the court... At one point the guy was pretty much standing on the V...

    I will say on a positive, the Rebels actually looked pretty good on the inside... They were battling, and also not afraid to take it inside...That dunk Marshall had was bada$$...Considering the was a 7 footer down low, we still attacked Utah pretty well...

  30. The officiating was terrible in the last 10 minutes, but as far as the TV timeouts go, they are set at any dead ball 4 times a half. For example, any dead ball below the 16:00 minute mark will result in a tv timeout. Coaches will purposely call a timeout above this mark when the opposing team is on a run to take away their momentum knowing on the next dead ball there would be another timeout. Good strategy.

    @Rebelsteve, you're really Steve "Chop" Jones aern't you. C'mon come clean.

    No ones being negative here, just calling them the way things are. We all want the team to win. But facts are the facts, which frustrates us, like playing 11 man rotation, Jasper afraid to take open jump shot, Jasper finishing like a wet noodle when bumped, and never feeding the post. These are glaring issues that should be discussed.

  31. No I'm not Jones (haha) and I'm not against construtive criticism like yours. It's just that the second things go a little off the mark all of the sudden some of those posting here become professional coaches and think they can do it better than Kruger. Let the guys rebound from this and maybe point out some of the positive as well. Rebounding was greatly increased, Chace has become consistant over the last 3 or 4 games and Marshall is growing each game. Yes I pull my hair out when Chop is on the floor and yes I cringe when Jasper decides to make a bad pass inside instead of take an open shot, but did anyone really think we were going to be a final 4 team when this season started? Come on!

  32. Rebels lost the game from the line

  33. Nice take Ksiff.

  34. Blah blah blah blah, there's still a lot of basketball to play.

  35. guys, we're the 2nd or 3rd best team in the conference, but we're not the kinda team that dominates--we just don't have the offensive firepower. small teams that don't shoot the 3 well have limited upsides.

    that said, our next 4 games are against the 4 worst teams in the conference--anything less than 3 wins would surprise me very much.

    I agree with those who say no more Jones and Hawkins. I don't know whether the low minutes given to Santee and Massamba is an indictment of his recruiting or his player development skills--but it's an indictment of something.

    as for Marshall, nice ups, yeah, but he's a 6'2" guy who is 1-21 from 3 for the season. again, small guys who can't shoot from 3--not the recipe for big-time success.

  36. Wow Ksiff, You watch a lot of hoops! Man! You must really know what you are taking about. I stand totally corrected. Like 20 of your last 30 posts state "Jones Sucks". We got it.

  37. Rebelsteve, You are Steve "Chop" Jones. We know your lurking in here. C'mon now.

  38. Patticcus that is funny as hell, but I promise I'm not. I'll also be the first to admit that I probably don't know half as much as you and ksiff about b-ball. I'm just a lowly rebels fan who moved to Vegas durning my teenage years and just missed all the glory years with Tark.
    I hope Jones doesn't read this stuff. He'd have to cry himself to sleep.

  39. kenns29 - I'm glad someone else notices the little things during the game other than just me. I didn't get a chance to watch the game from my hotel room in LA on Saturday, but if Tre & O were arguing it was because O goes away from Tre all the time, just watch it during the next few games. Tre can be wide open at times and O will go on the opposite side and only passes him the ball when it's absolutely necessary or blantantly obvious he'd be dubbed selfish. I read Kruger's mouth several times this year and he said get the ball to Tre. When he does pass it it is after the defense has collapsed on Tre of he floats it half-ass. Not sure what the probelem is but Kruger needs to move him to the 3 and put Jasper at the PG spot. Offensive PROWESS solved! GO REBELLLLSSSSSS!

  40. Lon Kruger is not the right coach for UNLV. I'm convinced that he has taken this university as far as he is going to get it. He is a mediocre coach who recruits mediocre players and expects them to play like the little train that could.

  41. Get over getting a new coach. Kruger is a great coach, we just have to have a breakout season to get kids in here. He knows what he is doing. Also, his contract was just extended if I'm not mistaken, so get used to him for a few more years.

  42. Tough loss, have to move on to the next game.

    Questions to those of you that are all ready calling for an N.I.T finish this year...

    Why do you say that?

    I know that seems like a loaded question, but I am honestly curious that if the Rebels really are your team, why would you be calling for them to go to the N.I.T. this early in the conference season.

    I guess this optimist would just like a peak into the brain of a pessim... (ahem) a realist's brain. (because you're realists right?)

  43. Fact is the glory years of UNLV are long gone and the fans in Vegas can't seem to get over that fact. Until you get a crooked recruiting coach in here like a Calipari, Pitino, or Bob Huggins you will never attract the big time high school All-Americans that you all so covet. Until then, support your team and hope for maybe an NIT Final Four in the Garden.

  44. All I can do is laugh at these posts anymore. We win and we are going to the final four and the pessimists are no where to be found. We loose and Kruger cant coach, recruit and we are NIT bound. Its a long season tough guys!

  45. I think there would be 40+ less comments on this article if The Sun could find a way to limit usernames by IP Address.

  46. @RebelSteve,

    Yeah, it's a complete waste of time arguing the Chop issue and as a matter of fact you'll get daggers thrown at you most of the time. Most people that post here would like to see his minutes dwindle, including me, and have had this opinion for months now.

    Keep your head up homey and keep posting! The more Reb fans the better.