REBELS BASKETBALL:

Willis, Stanback stay hot as UNLV scorches TCU, 79-70

Red-hot duo scores 21 of Rebels’ final 22 points as team improves to 7-1 in true road games

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Ron Jenkins / AP

UNLV’S Tre’Von Willis celebrates after hitting a 3-point basket in the second half of a Jan. 23 game against TCU at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas.

UNLV-TCU Basketball

UNLV's Chace Stanback, top, dunks over TCU players Nikola Cerina and Zvonko Buljan in the first half of UNLV's 79-70 victory on Jan. 23, 2010, at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. Launch slideshow »

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FORT WORTH, Texas — UNLV coach Lon Kruger admits he'd like to see some more consistent scoring threats establish themselves behind junior guard Tre'Von Willis and sophomore forward Chace Stanback.

But in the meantime, boy, are those two becoming pretty fun to watch.

With TCU threatening midway through the second half Saturday, the duo combined to score 21 of the team's UNLV's 22 points, helping the Rebels pull away for a 79-70 victory at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum.

Willis's 30 points went in the books as a new career high, while Stanback's 19 matched his career best, which was set just three days earlier at Colorado State.

"Defenses have to pick their poison a little bit," Willis said. "They've either got to focus on me or they've got to focus on Chace. When they focus on me, Chace steps up and knocks down shots. That's what we need. He's stepping up and playing very well right now."

Added Stanback: "When he gets the ball, I know he's gonna attack, and if he doesn't have anything, I know he's gonna look for me. We kind of feed off of each other out there."

The two showcased their wide array of offensive abilities when things really got tense for the first time all afternoon in front of 4,270 fans in Fort Worth.

UNLV (16-4 overall, 4-2 Mountain West) thoroughly controlled every aspect of the game in the first half, taking a 38-30 lead in the break. It easily could have been much larger, but TCU (10-10, 2-3) kept itself afloat by hitting a handful of timely 3-pointers.

The Horned Frogs were just close enough that one little push completely could have changed things, and that happened roughly five minutes into the second half, when a quick 7-0 spurt made it a one-point game, 53-52.

"We knew we couldn't panic," Willis said. "We did get a little sloppy when they came back. They made that nice little run. They were at home and we knew they were going to make a run at some point. We told each other we had to take the blow, turn it on them, buckle down and finish the game."

Willis and Stanback really kicked it into gear when TCU ultimately came back to tie the game at 60-all with 8:35 left, when Ronnie Moss hit a layup in transition and was fouled in the process.

On the heels of the old-fashioned three-point play, Stanback took TCU's Zvonko Buljan to the rack from the left corner and dropped in a tough bucket.

The next time down, he head-faked, drawing Buljan into mid-air. He took a dribble and a step in, calmly cashing a 17-foot jumper.

"He's a great 16-to-18-foot shooter," TCU coach Jim Christian said. "They ran one screen play for him that we got beat on four times that we ran through 1,000 times. Maybe we should have run through it 1,004 times, I don't know."

Then it was Willis's turn.

On back-to-back possessions, he took advantage of a one-on-one match-up with Moss. First, he backed him down off of the right wing, ultimately turning around and hitting a fading jumper off the glass from 15 feet out. Then, off a steal, he pulled up and hit a 3-pointer in Moss's face from the left wing.

As he ran back down the floor, he skipped a bit, curled his lip to sneer at the crushed TCU bench and threw up three fingers on each of his hands.

"The thing I love about him from watching all the games is that he plays the game simply, and I mean that as a compliment," Christian said. "He understands how to catch the ball, where to catch the ball, what to do with it. He's such a hard matchup because he's got great size, he can post, he can shoot threes, he can drive the ball, he's hard to foul.

"To this point, with what I've seen, he's the best player in the league."

That trey capped a 9-0 run put together by the pair, and in the final four minutes of the game they simply sprinkled on some more.

No other Rebel scored until Derrick Jasper hit a free throw with 1.2 seconds left and the game already in hand.

In all, Willis totaled his 30 points on 9-of-14 shooting, adding six rebounds and four assists. It was the first time in exactly two years since a UNLV player reached the 30-point mark, with Wink Adams having last done it in a 78-71 victory Jan. 23, 2008 over Wyoming, with a 33-point outburst.

Stanback was 8-of-12 from the floor, also grabbing four defensive rebounds in 26 minutes.

In reality, it was just more of the same from what quickly is emerging as the the Mountain West's most deadly one-two combo on the offensive end.

In six conference games, Willis is averaging 24.2 points per game and shooting 51 percent from the floor. He's scored at least 20 points in six consecutive games.

In that same stretch, Stanback is averaging 14.5 points per contest on 50 percent shooting, having clearly found his groove after sitting out a year following his transfer from UCLA.

"They both made big shots, played with great pace and great poise," Kruger said. "And we needed them all, and that's what made them more impressive. They all came at critical times, and they gave us a little bit of a cushion."

Complementing Willis and Stanback were the Rebels' big men, who all responded well to a shuffle in the lineup by Kruger.

Brice Massamba started in place of Matt Shaw inside for the first time since Dec. 12, responding with six points early in the second half. Meanwhile, Shaw, who turned 22 on Saturday, scored 10 points off of the bench, including a pair of first half 3-pointers.

Darris Santee, playing in his home state, scored six first half points and also grabbed two rebounds in 14 minutes of play.

Freshman forward Nikola Cerina led four Horned Frogs in double figures with 14 points, scoring 12 of them in the second half.

The Rebels joyfully left the arena and returned to Las Vegas after spending five days on the extended road trip having improved to 7-1 this season in true road games. They'll play league cellar-dweller Air Force (8-10, 0-5) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center before an eight-day layoff.

Growing more and more confident on the road as the games go by, the Rebels still see areas needing improvement.

But for now, the league's hottest offensive combo is commanding all the attention.

"We're very confident, but we still talk to each other about letting one slip away from us in Provo," Willis said, referring to the team's 77-73 loss Jan. 6 at BYU. "We still think we can grow, though, as a team and get better. We really feel good about that, because we feel we haven't tapped our potential yet."

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  1. Great win. They were cashing 3's all day and we withstood it.

    Next up. Trap game vs. Air Force. Let's head into the 8 day break strong!

    oh yeah, somebody was wrong again about the outcome of this game. Who could that be?

  2. I know who was wrong! I know. I know. Maybe he'll redeem himself with an Air Force prediction.

    And to all those Steve Jones naysayers out there--he finally redeemed himself tonight. He only played 6 minutes but pulled down 2 rebounds. The only other player with that kind of productivity on the boards was Anthony Marshall. Way to go Chop!

  3. Tre Bully Willis strikes again.

  4. Ryan,

    Can we get some information on the following.

    a) The recruitment progress of Cory Joseph.

    b) The recruitment progress of Dwayne Polee.

    c) How Carlos Lopez is doing from a health standpoint and in general.

    d) An update on Henry Buckley

  5. J-Roc ... You'll get 3 of those 4 this week. Maybe all 4 :)

  6. Wow. I spent a long time writing that post and it got deleted like 15 minutes after i wrote it! haha. I'm not even mad that is impressive. Alright I wont say anything about chop jones anymore. I thought my analysis of the game was pretty spot on though. Wish they would have kept that much on from my post. I thought it was pretty positive about the rebels! I gave compliments to players that deserved them that game, but oh well.

  7. @rebelfanforever45 ... I definitely agreed with what you said of the big men.

  8. Our bigs were great tonight. I thought this stat was interesting:

    Stanback/Willis: 49 points

    3 headed monster (Massamba, Shaw, Santee): 22 points

    Jasper/Bellfield: 8 points

    Rest of the team: 0 points

    Without our bigs, we dont have that 3rd scoring option this game. Stanback and Willis's perfomances would have been lost causes. I would give 3 game balls to our bigs. They helped out Stanback and Willis tonight!

  9. @rebelfanforever45 ... As Kruger continues to keep wanting that third, consistent scoring option, I think that as long as Stanback and Willis play like this, there will just consistently be someone who benefits, even if who that person is changes. With the way defense are now having to key on them, someone's getting better looks. Tonight, it was the big men as a whole. Everyone's benefitting from their hot shooting, I think. As for Jasper and Bellfield, I don't know that UNLV necessarily NEEDS them scoring a ton of points. In two games this week, Jasper had 18 rebounds, while Bellfield had 13 assists. Those are pretty solid contributions. Points from them, now, almost seem like a bonus.

  10. Your right, lately other players have been that 3rd scoring option besides Stanback and Willis. Hawkins at CSU was big for us, Wallace against UNM with 21 points won the game for us, and our 3 headed monster against TCU this time. Our team seems to be feeding off those 2 guys which is so nice to see compared to last years team. I'm still waiting for Jasper to break out offensivly. I don't know if it is me but he seems to be too passive on offensive. I don't know if he is that way by choice or the coaches don't want him taking much shots. He is our 2nd best driver to the basket next to Tre'von. And yes Bellfield and Jasper contribute in other ways too. Jasper is still our best rebounder and Bellfield has been getting assist. I wish Bellifield would take care of the ball a little bit better as of late. He has moments where he seems to get a little careless with the ball, luckily it hasn't hurt us. Overall the team is making improvements, which should be happening when coming towards the 2nd half of conference play.

  11. Don't mean to rain on everyones parade but...I am glad for the win but with each game that goes by it is getting harder and harder to remain positive. I do not understand it but the last three games we are playing very poor defense. Utah, CSU and TCU all consistently spread us out, took us off the dribble, and either finished at the rim or stuck threes on us. We cannot seem to contain anyone off the dribble. This happened to us last year about this time. Defense used to be the Rebs calling card. We can not ask for Tre or Chace to play any better. They are the only reason we are 4-2 in conference. They have come up huge when we are struggling. I did think our bigs probably had their best collective game yet. I hope that continues. I would also like to see Anthony Marshall move off the ball. He has really struggled the last two games running the point. He is playing timid and the offense stagnates when he is in. There are alot of concerns as we near the half way point in conference. I do not like the way we are playing and it scares me.

  12. A nine point win is not a scorching. What a reach to entertain dreamers.

  13. That pass was horrible! He throws the ball away every time he gets in.

  14. Once again people who don't know basketball talking trash. That pass was not Chops fault! Wallace is suppose to get between his man and the ball. Kendal got beat to the spot and never got a body on his man. The three on the next play was Wallace sucking in and not getting out to defend the 3 point shot. That SMALL run was due to 2 poor plays by Wallace.

  15. John Wall 33.3 min/pg
    Jimmer Ferdett 30.3 min/pg
    Matt Bouldin 35.5 min/pg
    Luke Harangody 35 min/pg
    Denis Clemente 32.8 min/pg
    John Scheyer 36 min/pg

    Tre'Von Willis 27.5 min/pg

    Can anyone explain why Willis is not getting the same minutes as other team's top players? Why does UNLV need an 11 man rotation? Why is Kruger untouchable? Why does the local media kiss Lon's butt? And LV Sun, thanks for the spell check.

  16. Do we expect Chop to say, "no, I don't want to go in because of the bad things the fans say about me." The blame needs to go to Kruger. No one blamed Lon for last years poor finish. It was all about Wink and the rest of the players. The way they lost to Utah and then had a tough go with two mediocre teams this could very quickly turn into another underachieving season. Is it wrong to expect UNLV basketball to be in the top 20 and make a run for the sweet 16 more than once a decade?

  17. I believe there is value to winning without having to play your starters the whole game.

    Those few minutes of rest will pay dividends later in the season.

    It's clear that the focus is to build toward the end of the season and ensure guys have some legs left, and this forum clearly has a lot of people who haven't played a seanson of basketball in their lives.

    And I agree that Chop's ONE negative stat (the turnover) was Wallace's fault. Kendall didn't go strong and get the pass when he needed to. He looked like he got knocked away like a rag doll with not very much contact.

    Overall though, this team is so much fun to watch. In so many ways these guys are the antithesis of what the team was last year.

    Willis was a model of offensive efficiency. 30 points in 31 minutes.

    He deserves MWC POW, but will probably be co- with Jimmer.

  18. What is Kruger's status at UNLV today if he failed to recruit his own son?

  19. Maybe some professional reporter could hold Kruger accountable for his poor decisions.

  20. Just keep proving my point about your lack of knowledge or understanding what you see on the court. Thats the same pass that UNLV uses all game to start their offense. The guy came THROUGH Wallace. If the defender jumped the passing lane and picked it off that would be on Chop.

    That being said I would like to see Hawkins getting more minutes!

  21. Ryan,

    Sanford just called and asked why you all at the Sun are giving Kruger a free pass. Time for the Sun and RJ to start asking more difficult questions about Rebel Hoops!

    Maybe it is time to go out and get a big time assistant who can recruit studs instead of hoping we get decent transfers every year.

  22. Great win Rebs!

    People in Las Vegas sure like to cry.
    If any of these guys were as nowledgeable about basketball as they claim to be they would'nt be on these boards they would be coaching or something.

    Hopefully the guys can steal the W back when they go to Utah.

  23. @ bigfish

    Do a little research or maybe just watch the games? Since conference play started Tre's minutes:

    BYU 34 min
    UNM 27 min (Foul Trouble)
    SDSU 36 min
    Utah 39 min
    CSU 32 min
    TCU 31 min

    MWC average of 33 min/game

  24. ps... he was in foul trouble the CSU game also!

  25. B.y.U. is still king of the hill in The Mountain West right now

  26. That's good news LV-Born. Now let's see him cut down that rotation and put AFA away early. The mormon impersonations were a classic.

  27. Great win Rebs! And for all you "fans," quit whining and focus on what is most important. The W!

    Reeeeeebbbbeelllllllsss!

  28. ksiff and bigfish sound like fools right now. I could understand if we had a sub 500 conference record. but we don't and you just sound like haters. started pregame for the NFL games early huh? To emphasize the negatives after a win is ridiculous. For that you need an opinion columnist, which Ryan Greene is not. Why don't you ask to start your own column. "What I Would Do" by a non-coach, non-factor, closet hater

  29. Its people like ksiff and big fish that make reading these comments a real pain. You aren't real Rebel fans. You are the type of people who spew hate at Chop, Kendell, and Lon, but would wear a smile if you met them in person. I have no respect for any you.

    Sufferin Succotash is a better fan than you guys.

    Please find a new sports team to be a fan of. We real UNLV fans don't need or want you.

  30. dhvincent1 - First I don't know why they did not delete your comment about Tre looking like a thug. F%#L his nickname is Tre - Tre = 33 and the pic you misinterpreted was for the beautiful tre (3) he had just shot. I don't know for the life of me why they let any and every idiot post comments on these blogs to randomly take pot shots at these young athletes and decent young men...shameful. So Tre has a few tats, he's a smooth, laid back player who from time to time will do something animated when things are going good. Get a little insight because he is in no way, shape or form a thug or ever has been. He's been playing with a basketball since he could hold one and watching College and NBA games before he could hardly speak. For you to imply Thug or suggest any nonsense to the contrary is defamation of character to the highest degree and truthfully you should be posting an apology you D-Bag. Get to know him on a personal level before you post such an evil commment like that. Read more, Watch more and Learn more about the True Rebels that are representing our program, because I have zero tolerance for some of the morons such as yourself on the Sun's blogs...You diabolical "HATER".

  31. But enough tolerance to read through 44 other comments, right?

    "evil comment" ...rofl

  32. Back to this again. Chop hasn't played more than 7 minutes in any game since conference play started. He may "Average" 11 but that is swayed because of Non Conference games.

  33. Snydumb aka (snyderm) - Don't you concern yourself with what I read. I try to scam the comments and take the positive, but that comment deserved to be addressed. Why in the world would that offend you me saying that comment was evil or that I have zero tolerence for ignorance unless you are yourself in that category, which I feel you are because why else would you comment on me stating the fact that a THUG was totally off basis. You must be a "HATER" too. That was an evil comment. How would you like to be labeled a THUG or even have it insinuated? GET A CLUE and A LIFE and I agree with those that say stop hiding behind these usernames. You negative want-to-be Rebel fan's are so pathetic. Be a real fan and keep it positive. GO REEBBBBBELLLLLS!

  34. Kruger took this program to another level from where it was at the past 15 years. He raised the bar. I'm not talking about the omnipresent expections Tark created in the fans and community. I am talking about realistic level of play and place in the pecking order from 1993-2005. He is taking us up the ladder, maybe slower than some want, but we are moving in the right direction.

    He's kept the program clean, added some recent tourney success, upgraded the level of talent (whether some of you will admit it or not), raised home attendance considerably, raised expections, etc.

    Is he the guy to take us back to being a national powerhouse? Perhaps not. Will we ever even get back to that level again? Maybe not. He is the guy we need right now. The program was in shambles for 15 years and people forget that he's the one who rebuilt it.

  35. It makes me laugh how people on this site can't let Ksiff or fish give a little constructive criticism. Their points are valid. I thought Chop's pass was a bad one after I watched the game a second time today. It changed the momentum of the game.

    What is so negative about saying Jhawk should be getting Chop's minutes? Nobody's calling Chop's mom a name here. It's not personal. Alot of us disagree with Kruger on the 11 man rotation. So what? Why do some of you take it so personal. Alot of coaches would disagree with Kruger using a 11 man rotation. Tark never used an 11 man rotation. From watching his whole UNLV career he never played a guy like Chop. Tark played playmakers plain and simple.

    Chop must have alot of friends and relatives reading this board because it's the only explanation I can come up with.

  36. Personally, I'm happy Kruger is our coach. He has brought us a long way. Is there a better proven coach out there that is available? No, so were lucky to have him. That doesn't mean I agree with him on all his decisions.

  37. @ kenns29

    There is nothing wrong with being critical or questioning a coaches decisions but the Chop thing is way out of hand. If after watching back to back road wins the only thing that someone can discuss is about a guy that plays 6 minutes, 4 of which are in the 1st half is silly. There are so many other things that can be discussed, positive and negative. At this point its like people are making the point to get a rise out of people. We are all Rebel fans so there has to be some positive to go with all the negative posts. Talk about Chace or Tre playing well, or the 3 centers all contributing. We get that some people on here dislike Chop but lets move on because it is obvious this conversation is a dead end. Personally I would love to know the thought behind playing Chop and Kendall at the same time but that's not all I going to take from a game.

  38. Kruger is going to give chop 4-6 minutes the rest of conference play, maybe less, end of story. Either way, no amount of whining or complaining on the internet is going to change that. I cringe every time Chop enters the game too, but c'mon can't we find something better to talk about.

    Me UNLV fan. Me hate Chop. Me hate Kruger. Me love Tark. Me love Reggie.

  39. Another nice conference road victory! Let's not forget we LOST both these games (@CSU and @TCU) last year...

  40. And we covered the spread as an added bonus again.

  41. You guys who are calling out Kruger and questioning Ryan's objectivity are ridiculous. Have the Rebels been perfect? No. Is Kruger doing a good job this year? Perhaps. Let's think about it.

    The team is exceeding preseason expectations. They are playing better than expected at this point. In fact, many fans were optimistic about our chances preseason because Derrick Jasper was supposed to be a great impact transfer, a potential MWC Player of the Year candidate. Despite Jasper being more solid than spectacular, they are still 16-4 and well on their way to an NCAA tournament bid. Find me one legitimate publication that had UNLV projected as a tournament team before the season.

    Why in the world should we call out the coach when what he is doing is obviously working. He isn't immune to criticism, but the team is 7-1 in true road games. That's impressive. That's good coaching. If they were 13-7 and underachieving, it would be a different story.

    As an aside, Kruger isn't some rogue maniac playing 10 or 11 guys a game. Lots of coaches do it, when they have the personnel. Two teams that come to mind immediately: Kansas and Texas.

    Kruger has trimmed the rotation in conference play, with Willis playing 33.5 minutes per game. If we start losing, by all means, criticize away. Freaking out about the rotation after two road wins seems to lose sight of the big picture.

  42. I just can't get over the Utah loss. That was so bad. But here we are, we keep winning on the road and Tre' has become a scoring machine. All good, but i agree the D is slipping a bit, and it needs to be sharpened up before we hit the BYU, UNM, and SDSU gauntlet in a couple weeks.

    I'm a little confused at all the vitriol that Chop inspires also. He's just a kid and he works hard. He may not be the most gifted athlete on the team, but I can tell you that he doesn't take plays off. I actually like his work ethic. His minutes give valuable rest to the other guys. So let's give the kid a break. Like Wispy said this year is going better than expected. Just think about next year, all of these guys coming back PLUS QT and Lopez, and if you dare to hope CJ or Polee off the bench?

    The point is Kruger has got this thing going in the right direction, and that is the first time I can honestly say that about a UNLV head basketball coach since you-know-who.

  43. We should be thankful for the coverage from Ryan and the LV Sun (I still miss Rob!), but we are here reading these articles for FREE! We are essentially putting the Sun out of business by reading these articles here instead of buying the newspaper. It costs the Sun money to publish these articles,and then we can read them for FREE, and still complaints? (Yeah, yeah internet advertising...)

    Newspapers are on their way out, and if the eventually throw in the towel, we'll have to get our sports coverage strictly from places like ESPN... Or from some dudes blog.

    Those complaining about these articles need to take a step back and assess the ground on which they stand.

  44. Now is the time for a deeper rotation. It's great to give a lot of guys good minutes to build depth for now and the future, as well as keep the top guys from getting burned out. The rotation will adjust closer to conference and NCAA tourney time.

    As far as debating Kruger's merits go, the guy wins, his players graduate and the NCAA isn't sniffing around. Who else out there would be able to do what he does? First, would you trade any other MWC coaches for him? No. Would you trade any PAC 10 coaches for him? Maybe Howland, but could he recruit without the Westwood address? Probably not. Tony Bennett? Don't think his uglyball would impress the T&M crowd Romar or Obama's brother in law? Doubt it.

    Probably the only coaches who are better than Kruger are ones that are getting paid at least 2x what he's getting, and in jobs like UNC, Duke, etc.

    Anyone disagree?

  45. Agree 100% MWCRob

    Totally off topic and maybe this is something Ryan can ask UNLV. Why doesn't the school move the student section so apposing players are shooting into the student section in the 2nd half? Utah had the same issue and this year changed benches so opposing teams would go into the student section the 2nd half. The Mack is an amazing area and the student section is one of the best in the MWC but a change would make things so much more difficult for the opposition! I have never understood all that WASTED space for the 4 or 5 media guys.

  46. I think the student section should be directly behind the visiting team's bench.

  47. Bennet is not at WSU now,he long he left to Virgina. Its Ken Bone now.

  48. aTrefan,

    "...stop hiding behind these usernames."

    Like how I use my real name and you don't?

    Still ROFL!

    BTW, this "hater" is a huge Tre' fan. He's our best player...but I don't like to rush to judgement ;-)

  49. your real name is snyderm? I don't see why you are arguing with aTrefan anyway. He's right, that comment about Tre bein a thug was out of line. I guess you are arguing just to argue.

  50. Yes my real name is "snyderm." One word.

    And I disagree that the comment was out of line. Plenty of people think that about Tre', they're just afraid to say it.