Published Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 | 7:10 p.m.
Updated Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010 | 9:18 p.m.
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Final, UNLV wins 60-50
When UNLV needed emotional boost more than anything, Kendall Wallace was there.
Junior guard Derrick Jasper was lost late in the first half to injury, which was for the moment diagnosed as a sprained left knee. It was the same knee which Jasper had microfracture surgery on two years ago while still at Kentucky.
UNLV had its lowest scoring first half of the season, trailing Air Force at the break, 24-21.
Wallace started in Jasper's place to start the second half, and his four early 3-pointers in the second stanza set the tone as UNLV took care of the pesky Falcons, 60-50, at the Thomas & Mack Center.
At the time he went down, Jasper had three points, four rebounds and four assists in what was one of his better halves of basketball as a Rebel.
His teammates picked it up after the break, overcoming Air Force's penchant for slowing things down consistently when Jeff Reynolds' club faces the Rebels. Tre'Von Willis led the Rebels with 13 points, while Chace Stanback and Wallace each scored 12. Brice Massamba, in his second consecutive start, scored eight, including the team's first six of the night.
UNLV improves to 17-4 overall and 5-2 in Mountain West play. Air Force is now 8-11 overall and 0-6 in the league. The loss was the program's 22nd straight in MWC games.
The Rebels are off for eight days before facing Wyoming next Wednesday in Laramie.
For more, including further updates on Jasper, stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
7:35, second half, UNLV leads 44-38
UNLV hit eight of its first nine shots of the second half, and now is holding Air Force at arm's length with 7:35 to play in the game, leading 44-38.
While Kendall Wallace provided all of the early fireworks out of the halftime locker room for the Rebels, Oscar Bellfield then picked up the torch, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Chace Stanback then brought the student section behind him to its feet with a sweet cross-over move on the baseline, putting an Air Force defender on his behind, then cashing a mid-range jumper.
Now, UNLV is 9-of-14 from the floor in the second half and 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
14:05, second half, UNLV leads 36-34
The early diagnosis on UNLV junior guard Derrick Jasper is that it's a left knee sprain. Of course, there will more than likely be further evaluation to come in the next day or two.
But in the mean-time, UNLV has taken its first lead of the night on pesky Air Force, thanks in large part to Kendall Wallace.
Starting the second half in place of Jasper, he has hit a trio of 3-pointers early on, igniting the dormant home crowd.
UNLV is certainly playing an inspired brand of ball right now with one of its best players back in the locker room in pain. Can't make up storylines like this.
Halftime, Air Force leads 24-21
The good for UNLV is that the Rebels scored the final six points of the first half, showed some signs of life and have a bit of momentum at the half, down 24-21.
The bad? Well, not only was it the team's lowest-scoring first half of the season, but UNLV might have to go the rest of the way without junior guard Derrick Jasper.
The Kentucky transfer, who had microfracture surgery two years ago while still at Kentucky, was in a cluster underneath on the defensive end as a charge was called on Air Force's Tom Fow. He went down clutching his left knee and was helped off the floor by team trainer Dave Tomcheck and strength & conditioning coach Jason Kabo.
He was then helped to the locker room at the half with tears in his eyes. He's currently being evaluated in the locker room.
Unfortunately for UNLV, he had been the Rebels' spark plug to that point, with four assists, four rebounds and three points in 13 first half minutes.
You have to wonder how the Rebels emotionally handle the second half. Could be very interesting.
Here are some other numbers of note from the first half ...
— UNLV is 9-of-19 from the floor, while Air Force is 9-of-21. It's more the pace than anything that's affecting the Rebels. The Falcons have their number in terms of keeping the game slowed down.
— Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback, who combined for 49 points on Saturday at TCU, scored a combined six points in the first half.
— Tom Fow has been the killer for Air Force, as he has a game-high nine points on 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point range. Meanwhile, UNLV's top 3-point gun — Kendall Wallace — is 0-for-3 from deep.
More in the second half, plus updates on Jasper as they're made available.
3:58, first half, Air Force leads, 19-12
UNLV continues to struggle to acclimate against an Air Force team that just wants to slow the Rebels down, and time to build some momentum before halftime is running short.
UNLV trails Air Force, 19-12, with 3:58 left in the first frame, and the Falcons, who have lost 21 consecutive Mountain West games, are playing with more and more confidence.
Derrick Jasper continues to be a spark of sorts for the Rebels, with four defensive boards and three assists, and he'll go to the line for a pair out of the current T.V. timeout. It looked for a second like a baseline jumper from Justin Hawkins out of the last full break could be a momentum-swinger, but it went to waste thanks to two UNLV turnovers.
For reference, UNLV's lowest scoring first half this season came in a Dec. 25 loss to USC, where the Rebels managed only 25 points in the game's first 20 minutes.
11:41, first half, Air Force leads, 7-6
UNLV is still defending Air Force to the bone, but finding rhythm on the offensive end continues to be a struggle, as the Rebels still trail the Falcons eight minutes in, 7-6.
Brice Massamba has all three UNLV field goals so far. His second came off of a sweet inside feed from Derrick Jasper. Jasper also fed Massamba a possession later, and the sophomore forward spun underneath for a nice bucket.
Outside of him, though, the Rebels are 0-for-5 from the floor, and are struggling to get good looks.
Air Force is only 2-of-6 from the floor, but is taking UNLV out of its comfort zone.
Best state line so far? Derrick Jasper, in eight minutes, has two boards, two assists and a steal.
14:46, first half, Air Force leads, 5-2
Well, Air Force can say it had control of this game's pace at some point when all is said and done. Last year, the Falcons kept both meetings with the Rebels this slowed down. Can they do it again?
As UNLV struggled to hit shots out of the gates, Air Force milked the entire shot clock on three of its first four possessions, and the blacked-out crowd at the Mack is growing a little restless.
Air Force took an early 5-2 lead thanks to a Grant Parker three and an Evan Washington mid-range jumper. UNLV didn't score until there was 15:01 on the first half clock. The Rebels missed their first four attempts. Brice Massamba scored on a nice inside dish from Oscar Bellfield.
If it weren't for the heavily advertised black-out tonight at the Thomas & Mack, getting the stands filled tonight for a battle between UNLV (16-4 overall, 4-2 MWC) and lowly Air Force (8-10, 0-5) might have been a labor of love.
But it looks like it'll be a pretty good crowd tonight, and the shirts given away to the first 4,000 fans in attendance aren't too shabby, either (here's a photo, courtesy of UNLV team manager David Cleveland via Twitter).
The Rebels are hoping to treat the home crowd to a better show than the last outing at the Mack, which was a 73-69 upset loss to Utah last Saturday.
However, if you had the chance to tune in, you saw a UNLV team which responded in the right way in two surprisingly tough road atmospheres last week at Colorado State on Wednesday night and TCU on Saturday evening.
UNLV picked up two nice wins, is now 7-1 in true road games and the mission tonight is to avoid losing the focus which was so sharp over the last week.
Air Force comes in and is, well, um, bad this year. There's no point in sugar-coating it. Part of it is their fault, due to, well a lack of talent. The other part is injuries, which can be a cruel friend to have pay a visit over the course of a season.
With all of that laid out, now it's on to tonight's three keys to UNLV victory ...
1) UNLV swept Air Force a year ago, but neither game was pretty. Both were low-scoring. First, up in Colorado Springs, the Rebels needed a barrage of 3-pointers from Kendall Wallace to pull away. On the return game in Vegas, UNLV won, 46-43. It was the second-lowest scoring output in a win in program history. That said, UNLV needs to speed these guys up. If the Rebels can do that, I don't see Air Force realistically hanging around for very long.
2) The big men need to produce like they did on Saturday at TCU. The three-headed monster of Brice Massamba, Matt Shaw and Darris Santee combined for 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, and each was special in his own right in limited minutes. One thing Air Force does have by the bulk is size. The Rebels need to combat that somehow.
3) Derrick Jasper needs to keep his act up on the defensive glass. On the season, he's now UNLV's second-leading rebounder, averaging 4.8 per game. In UNLV's last two games, he's grabbed 18 ... all on the defensive end. At 6-foot-6, he can sneak up from the back-court to sky and grab those off-target shots. It's truly an equalizer for UNLV, as none of the Rebels' big men are big-time boarders. That will also keep Air Force from getting any wild ideas early on.
As for tonight's prediction and 'Pick to Click,' I'm taking UNLV, 84-60. I think Anthony Marshall has a big night off the bench. I think he'll see a lot of minutes, and he's been on an offensive slump which he's been nothing short of vocal about on Twitter. I say he has 10 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds off the bench. Plus, as per usual, one highlight stuff.
Talk to you after tip-off ...