Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010 | 1:30 a.m.
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — To most ballplayers of Chace Stanback's generation, the mid-range jump-shot rarely is considered sexy.
But for the UNLV sophomore forward, who at 6-foot-8 is blessed with a soft shooting touch and the ability to elevate off of the dribble in a hurry, it's an oldie-but-goodie.
Call it "old school" or call it whatever you will, but Wednesday against Colorado State, Stanback's teammates never thought it was more appealing.
The UCLA transfer produced 15 of his career-high 19 points in the second half, including a handful of jumpers from no-man's land, leading the Rebels through a treacherous second half against the Rams and ultimately to an 80-72 victory at Moby Arena.
"It's kind of fading away as years go on, but I've been shooting that all my life, and it's been successful for me," Stanback said with a grin. "Every time I put the ball on the floor, they back off a little bit, so I just pull up, shoot the jumper."
He was an efficient 7-of-11 from the floor, scoring those 19 points in just 21 minutes on the court, and added five defensive rebounds.
But what made Stanback's offensive presence even more key was his timing.
UNLV (15-4 overall, 3-2 MWC) trailed in the first half by as many as seven points, but went into the half with a 38-33 lead thanks to a nine-point spark by reserve freshman guard Justin Hawkins. Thanks to two key 3-pointers — on one of which he was fouled and then hit the ensuing free throw — the Rebels pieced together two 8-0 scoring runs before the break.
But Colorado State (11-7, 2-2) never stopped charging, aided by what seemed like a never-ending string of 3-pointers from the likes of freshman Dorian Green and junior Adam Nigon.
The Rams' last lead of the night came when they were up 62-61 with eight minutes to play and a crowd of 4,353 still very much alive.
Stanback, who to that point in the second frame already had hit three mid-range shots and put away a swooping two-handed baseline jam, then busted up CSU's zone defense and gave UNLV the lead for good.
First came a shot from the right baseline off of a feed from Kendall Wallace, and moments later an identical score with the assist going to Oscar Bellfield.
"They went to the zone, we put our (center) in the middle and just ran Chace in the short corner," junior guard Tre'Von Willis said. "It was open, he stepped up and knocked some shots down.
"It's hard to really get a feel for him because he can drive the ball, he can shoot the ball, so you really have to pick your poison with him. He loves that one-dribble, two-dribble pull-up, that's his game. That's what we work on all the time and he steps up in the games and knocks them down."
For Stanback, it was just another in a recent string of solid performances, which began with his 14-point, nine-rebound effort Jan. 9 at New Mexico. Over the last four games, he's averaging 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per outing.
While Stanback put the Rebels in prime position heading into the game's final minutes, Willis largely was responsible for slamming the door shut.
The Mountain West's leading conference scorer (23.0 ppg) went 7-of-8 from the free throw line in the final three minutes, finishing with 21 points on 6-of-11 shooting.
"We finally buckled down and got some stops, and that's what it came down to," Willis said. "We definitely didn't play like we wanted to at all, but at the same time, we got the win.
"We've been letting teams hanging around. What we've been trying to do is put teams away when we have their backs against the wall. We're still learning as a team to play as best as we can."
The efforts of Stanback and Willis certainly helped the Rebels late in the second half, but the Rams also didn't do themselves any favors — specifically Travis Franklin.
The junior forward had 17 points, nine rebounds and five assists, but it was hard for him to puff his chest out too much after hitting just 3 of 14 shots from the charity stripe.
"We knew he wasn't comfortable at the free throw line, and that's one thing we said — If he does get a layup and beat somebody, just foul him and put him on the line, make him sink both of them," Willis said of Franklin, who entered the night as just a 62.4 percent foul shooter. "(We knew it) going in and as the game progressed. It didn't even look like he was comfortable at the free throw line. But you've got to take your hat off to Colorado State, and Franklin is a good player."
The strongest defensive achievement for UNLV was quieting senior forward Andy Ogide, who came in averaging 11.9 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. He was held to four points on 2-of-5 shooting and only two boards in 28 minutes.
UNLV also got nice contributions from Bellfield and Derrick Jasper.
Bellfield had eight points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals, while Jasper's night — six points, nine rebounds and three dishes — was highlighted by an alley-oop jam on a lob toss from Bellfield early in the second half.
The Rebels also won the rebounding battle, 36-35, with 33 of their caroms coming on the defensive glass, and hit 19 of 23 free throw attempts.
All in all, a nice start to an extended road trip, which sendt the team to Fort Worth this morning to prepare for Saturday's contest at TCU. That game tips at 3 p.m. PST.
"Huge road win," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "This team hadn't lost all year in here and has a lot of confidence playing in here. The crowd got into it, they made big three after big three in the second half and they're tough.
"There at a critical time, they kept making critical threes to get it back to even or take the lead a time or two, and I thought our guys made big plays when they needed to."