REBELS BASKETBALL:

Stripped of its colors, UNLV heads out for monster showdown with Colorado State

Rebels, Rams meet on Saturday at Moby Arena with huge NCAA tournament implications on the line

Image

Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall heads off the court with his head down after fouling out against Colorado State during a game on Jan. 19, 2011, at the Thomas & Mack Center. Colorado State won, 78-63.

UNLV vs. Colorado State

  • UNLV Rebels (19-7, 7-5) vs. Colorado State Rams (18-7, 8-3)

  • Where: Moby Arena

  • When: 4 p.m.

  • Coaches: Lon Kruger is 156-69 in his seven seasons at UNLV and 474-302 in 25 overall seasons; Tim Miles is 50-70 in his four seasons at CSU and 262-202 in 16 overall seasons.

  • Series: UNLV leads, 31-9

  • Last time: CSU won, 78-63, on Jan. 19 in Las Vegas

  • Line: N/A

  • TV/Radio:The Mtn./ESPN Radio 1100 AM/98.9 FM

  • THE REBELS

  • G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 185, Jr.) 10.7 ppg, 3.7 apg, 2.3 rpg.

  • G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200, So.) 9.8 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.8 apg.

  • G Tre'Von Willis (6-4, 195, Sr.) 12.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.2 apg.

  • F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210, Jr.) 12.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg.

  • F Quintrell Thomas (6-8, 245, So.) 5.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg.

  • Bench:G Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215, Sr.) 6.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.0 apg; F Brice Massamba (6-10, 240, Jr.) 4.0 ppg, 2.2 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190, So.) 5.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg; F Carlos Lopez (6-11, 215, Fr.) 5.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg; G-F Karam Mashour (6-6, 200, Fr.) 2.4 ppg.

  • What to watch: UNLV was without Tre'Von Willis in the first meeting, but Willis has struggled to be as productive as he was last season before a balky right knee required surgery in the summer. However, now as close to full strength as he's been in quite some time. How much of a difference will that make compared to the first time around, when the Rebels lacked a guy who was willing to take charge while trailing the Rams the entire second half.

  • THE RAMS

  • G Dorian Green (6-2, 170, So.) 7.4 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.9 apg.

  • G Adam Nigon (6-3, 175, Sr.) 6.5 ppg, 2.1 rpg.

  • F Greg Smith (6-6, 200, So.) 6.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg.

  • F Travis Franklin (6-7, 215, Sr.) 14.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg.

  • F Andy Ogide (6-9, 245, Sr.) 16.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg.

  • Bench: G Wes Eikmeier (6-3, 175, So.) 9.3 ppg, 2.2 apg; G Jesse Carr (6-2, 180, So.) 4.4 ppg, 1.8 rpg; F Pierce Hornung (6-5, 200, So.) 4.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg; F Andre McFarland (6-6, 225, Sr.) 3.2 ppg; F Will Bell (6-6, 230, Jr.) 2.7 ppg.

  • What to watch: He doesn't average big numbers, but senior guard Adam Nigon has a history of having his biggest offensive efforts against the league's top programs. His specialty is the outside shot. The former walk-on leads the Rams this season in 3-point percentage at 44.7.

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The Rebel Room

Breaking down UNLV's big game at CSU

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Las Vegas Sun reporters Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer analyze the UNLV basketball team's Saturday game at Colorado State. The Rebels are in fourth place in the Mountain West Conference, needing a victory against third-place Colorado State to enhance its chances for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament. That makes Saturday's game a must-win if the Rebels want to continue playing in March.

At Thursday afternoon's practice, UNLV senior guard Tre'Von Willis ran around in a pair of his old purple and black game shorts from Washington Union High back in Fresno, Calif.

Oscar Bellfield donned some black and orange trunks with a faded logo from a tournament he played in somewhere along the way and a nondescript white tank top.

Kendall Wallace came from the locker room down the Thomas & Mack Center tunnel to do some rehab on his knee wearing a pair of UNLV team-issued practice shorts, but was sent back up by a member of the coaching staff to change.

Everyone was stripped of their normal practice gear — a couple of coaches included — in order to try and send a message with the season's biggest game on the horizon this Saturday at Colorado State.

"We took a day to kind of remind us that we've got to play better, represent better," coach Lon Kruger said. "Guys want to, and we think we can."

Added Willis: "It stirs things up a little bit, gives us a different look. From a player's perspective, we're going to have a new look as well. We're going to go out there and just play our game. We're going to look to run a little bit, attack and play the same way, intensity-wise, on the defensive end."

The timing for a bit of a mental reset couldn't possibly be better, and whether it directly correlated or not is unclear, but Thursday's practice was a bit more intense and raw than normal.

The Rebels (19-7 overall, 7-5 Mountain West) last Saturday suffered an emotionally deflating home loss to No. 6 San Diego State, 63-57, then had the look of a team that had just lost following a 49-42 victory over Air Force at the Mack on Wednesday night.

"It was a win, but it wasn't a win you could be proud of," sophomore forward Quintrell Thomas said. "We didn't do a good job of forcing them to do what we wanted to do. We definitely learned a little something that game."

Defensive prowess has hardly been the issue of late. It's the offensive production and execution that hit rock bottom against the Falcons. The Rebels had only 14 field goals and were sweating out a game they should have won easily into the final minutes.

In its last two games, the team is just 3-of-29 from 3-point range, and on the season is firing away at a 30.5 percent clip from deep. That percentage ranks 272nd in the nation.

"We can't keep going through these games not fighting to get what we want on the offensive end," Willis said. "We're letting defenses dictate too much and we're reacting instead of attacking and us making them react to what we're doing."

Still nursing a sore right knee at the time, Willis didn't play in the Rebels' shocking 78-63 home loss to the Rams on Jan. 19.

Afterward, several UNLV players bemoaned their lack of focus and thorough effort against the Mountain West upstart.

Colorado State (18-7, 8-3) did whatever it wanted to that night, and the inside duo of Travis Franklin and Andy Ogide set the tone for the entire game, combining for 42 points and 16 rebounds.

It was CSU's biggest road win under fourth-year coach Tim Miles, who right now is arguably the most deserving candidate for MWC Coach of the Year honors.

Miles took over a program that was at the depths of the league ranks and has it in the hunt for a possible NCAA tournament bid.

The Rams have gotten to this point by playing the most consistent ball of any team in the conference. They're beating everyone they're supposed to beat and hanging with the big boys, as well. Last weekend, they notched a key 68-62 home victory over New Mexico and have also pushed BYU and SDSU into the final minutes in close losses.

This game is huge for both sides, though, in not only the race for third in the league but for the MWC's third potential NCAA invite.

The Rebels have the easier schedule after Saturday, with their remaining regular season games coming against New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. The Rams still have road games at BYU and SDSU. If UNLV wins, it inches to within a game of CSU in the loss column, while the Rams can give themselves some more wiggle room against the Cougars and Aztecs by maintaining the two-game cushion.

UNLV in the last couple of seasons has struggled at Moby Arena, losing there two years ago and escaping with a narrow 80-72 victory last season. Now, on top of the host being a bit tougher, the crowds in the unique gym are bigger, too.

"We've just got to have energy," Thomas said. "We are here playing college basketball. There's no reason not to have energy. There's a lot of people who want to be in the position we're in. We have to pick up the energy and look like we want to play out there."

If UNLV doesn't bring the aforementioned energy to the table, Saturday's game could get really ugly, really quick. With a loss, the Rebels would be left with a load of work still to be done to improve the tourney résumé and an 0-6 record in the regular season against the MWC's top three teams.

With effort reminiscent of Thursday's, UNLV has a shot to earn a potential season-saving win.

So, does the point get across?

"I think that's the feel and the message that coach Kruger was trying to send — we've got to look at this and just be ourselves," Willis said. "Go out there, be hungry and just want it. We're responding to each other, and we're ready to win some ball games."

Massamba likely to play after missing Friday's practice

Junior big man Brice Massamba, following a shot to the head during Thursday's practice, was a bit woozy. He then sat out from Friday morning's sessions while suffering from some concussion-like symptoms.

However, Massamba made the trip with the team to Fort Collins on Friday afternoon, and according to Lon Kruger is likely to play on Saturday barring any more symptoms creeping up.

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  1. Only a couple of the coaches didn't wear their UNLV gear during the practice? It should have been every single one of them. Neither the coaches or the players are representing UNLV too terribly well right now.

    Hopefully this move by Kruger serves to bring the team a bit more unity and a whole lot more focus. If not, and even half of some of the rumors floating around are true, we could be in for an implosion of epic proportions. Guess we'll find out on Saturday. We win this game and, barring anything completely unexpected, we are probably going dancing.

  2. These guys sure need a wake up call. Not sure that not allowing them to wear practice gear does it but at least Lon is trying to send a message. No doubt about it, this team is soft. I sure hope they find some toughness by the time they hit Ft. Collins. I will be there to see for myself if this team can respond or it is the same old lip service. Give me some hope Rebels.

  3. rumors? Do tell Mr. Lange.

  4. We really need to hope that CSU does not beat BYU or SDSU as well. Gonna be a grinder of a game.

  5. Ryan, do the Rebels practice how to beat a zone or ever play two bigs at the same time? Or do they just practice by passing it around the perimeter and shooting threes?

  6. Yes, they work against zones. They do go two bigs on the floor occasionally, as well.

  7. Instead of stripping them of their colors, how about coaching on how to attack a zone defense. And stop subbing your bigs every two minutes. Let them play and get in the flow of the game. The coaching strategy for the bigs is incredibly inconsistent and it must be frustrating to the players. This is all well and good but we play with ZERO intensity and ZERO passion. We never get upset or play hard. Sure, we go through the motions and say all the right things, but there's just no intensity from coaches, or players.

  8. Go, Rebels!

  9. I have always been a Kruger supporter but I am really starting to question his ability to take us to the next level. I really like Kruger and I'm not giving up on him yet, but for the past three years it's been the same thing...the team regresses as the season goes on. I watch the "top" coaches around the league and they all exhibit fire and intensity from the sideline and that is something you just don't see from Kruger. Why is that an issue? Because players tend to carry themselves the same way their coach does. Passion and intensity are sorely being missed right now...that and a few buckets :-) !!!

  10. I just want to see this team come out and assert their will on a team besides TCU. I want them to walk into that gym like they are the better team and actually display that on the floor. Ever since that loss the 2nd half against Boise and the 2nd half vs. Louisville this team looks like a bunch of sheep with no confidence. They've been soft all conference season and I'm sick of it. Give us something to cheer about!

  11. @jke1717, Sure our players don't play with passion or emotion, that's why we never get techs called /sarcasm.

  12. Ryan, another question...

    Do you ask Coach why he won't play two bigs at the same time? Everyone who sits around me at the games always asks that question.

    Also, in the AF game, why did he yank Lopez after he scored and not play Thomas in the second half? It makes sense that if the other team is beating us with size, then we should counter with some additional size. Thomas has been much better with his foul trouble lately, although Lopez needs to learn to stop leaning forward when defending.

    I'm guessing that he went with J-Hawk to limit the backdoor cuts (which would probably be the best way for the Rebs to beat a zone if Willis/Marshall/Oscar collapsed the zone by slashing through the zone), but this sacrifices too much offense for the benefit of defense.

  13. If you are thinking that UNLV never gets upset or frustrated, you weren't at the game on Tuesday night. I've never seen Kruger act like he did during a timeout of that game. He literally slammed a chair on the ground in disgust of the way his kids were playing. I also agree with the comment about our players getting technical fouls. They just haven't been very consistent on the offensive end of the floor. If you aren't hitting perimiter shots you don't have to guard those shots. The other teams are clogging up the interior of the floor so that UNLV will shoot the open shots that aren't falling. Beginning of the season they were hitting the shots and thus they could do whatever they wanted.

  14. Just because Kruger doesn't yell at his players doesn't mean they're missing their fire and intensity. Just look at K-State, Frank Martin has plenty of intensity, it's not working out too great over there.

    Kruger and his players have their own relationship and style of discipline, just like parents do with their children. You can't tell me you haven't seen QT get a dumb foul and immediately look over to the bench and know he's in trouble with Kruger. They know what he expects. Don't perform and you're punished. Yelling works for some kids, but probabaly not for the type of player Kruger recruits.

    What I want to know, is where is the leadership? Steve Jones wasn't a great player by any means last year, but he sure knew how to get his team back on track. He was vocal. Tre is off and on. Marshall is the only guy I ever see pull everyone together and say: "Look. This is what we need to do. Let's do it." When Marshall and Lopez hit the floor, I get so excited. It's like I know I'm about to see something... anything.

    Where's Bellfield? Where's Stanback? These are our Seniors next year. Forget about Jasper, he's let his confindence sink so much, I feel like he's never coming back.

  15. I know this is about the game Saturday... But just giving everyone a heads up...

    Dantley Walker...Durango High 8PM... Playing Agassi Prep... Should be a great opportunity for everyone to check him out...

  16. Dantley Walker given a scholarship is laughable! This kid will not be anything close to a Jimmer Fredette, so let's just erase those comparisons ASAP. Walker plays in a league that is the equivalent of a blind league. I think they play Blind Tech twice and Little Sisters of the Poor twice as well. I've seen middle school leagues better than what this kid plays in. He doesn't face anyone that will actually get up in his face and play defense. At the next level he will be exposed tremendously. He's kind of like a kid named Tamir Goodman that played years back in Maryland. Goodman averaged close to 40 points a game for a small high school called Talmudical, and they played in like the Jewish League or something. The buzz on the kid was so strong that Sports Illustrated even did an article on him calling him " The Jewish Jordan!" Current Maryland coach Gary Williams even got sucked into the trap and offered a scholarship to Goodman to play basketball at MD. He accepted the scholarship, but soon word got out that Goodman was a fraud and was just putting up big numbers against nothing competition. Coach Williams saw Goodman play in an open gym setting against better competition and quickly withdrew his scholarship offer and we never heard of Goodman again. That's exactly what this kid is, sorry to burst your bubble Rebel fans. Kruger is desperate to land the next great recruit, and he took a big swing and a miss on this one.

  17. @Canes

    Ummmmmmmmmm.... Where did I say any of that... I just said check him out...

    BTW... He plays AAU here with the LV Prospects... With some pretty good local players and does pretty well with them...

    So stop being a UNLV troll... The shtick is old...

  18. I do not care what league he plays in or how overrated he might be, I have one question. Can he shoot threes at better than 30%? If the answer is yes sign him up.

  19. Hey Qt let's see you school andie this sat. and take control of the game. I know you can do it and that's why your my favorite player. My prediction qt 12 points 10 boards

  20. @Caines, your wrong, the "Jewish Jordan" could ball, the problem was, "As an Orthodox Jew, he could not play during the Sabbath from sundown on Friday until three stars appear in the sky on Saturday night." Maryland wasnt willing to to go through the hassle so he ended up leaving and finding a coach who would work the schedule around his beliefs. Im not trying to defend the signing of Walker, im just proving you wrong lol. copy of the story below.

    http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/basketball/...

  21. Rebels get technicals for the new rule of "elbows or aggressive play." QT got one for smarting off. Lopez has a couple for elbows. Where's the leadership of getting pumped up. Stanback and Jasper are emotionless. Tre on occasion. Marshall, Lopez and QT play with some but it's not consistent. We need to bust the zone that we know is coming tomorrow or the season is over. D O N E done. And it won't be done by standing around the perimeter and heaving up 25 footers. Coaching and execution will win the game.

  22. The modern game of basketball doesn't allow emotion for fear of penalty. You can see frustration from players by their body language if not their demeanor. Keep tacking on rules, and ruin the game. From day one after getting a rebound I was always taught to hold the ball with our elbows out, and if someone reaches in, you gyrate. If you caught an elbow, then you shouldn't have reached in!

  23. Yellowsub I'm impressed with your research, but that was the politically correct answer that was given as to why Goodman wouldn't be attending Maryland. Trust me growing up in MD, everyone all knew the real reason was that Gary Williams went to see him actually play and realized that he would be the laughing stock of the ACC if he would've given this kid a basketball scholarship to play in what was at the time the best conference in America (The ACC). As you see in the article he barely averaged 6 pts a game at Towson, which is probably one of the worst Division 1 teams on a consistent basis. Trust me if the kid truly was a star, MD would have found a way to work around his religious beliefs.

  24. It also says that he played for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the powerhouse in Israel, for 5 years. Doesn't sound too bad to me. Back to Walker, i dont think he will be near Jimmer level at all, but i think a lot of recruiting gets judged solely on hype and the star system that when a kid isnt thrown into the hype machine that he gets over looked. Rivals just had an article on "3 star" players who went on to be great, Jimmer being one of them

  25. Alright yellowsub I'm done arguing with you, just remember me when Walker is a complete flop.

  26. JerryWayne: I won't get into specifics but some of the rumors I've been hearing refer to possibly members of the staff and/or team notbeing back next year, and I'm not referring just to Willis and Jasper graduating.

    In regards to Dantley Walker, you can talk all you want about the competition in the division he is stuck in playing in Panaca, but he all ran with the Las Vegas Prospects and was dominant at times. You're welcome to your own opinion, but people who know much more about basketball talent than I ever will and have seen a lot of this kid think this kid will be outstanding. Provided his verbal commitment holds up through his two-year mission, we'll be getting at the very worst and sharpshooter a la Kendal Wallace. I'm not saying he'll be a POY candidate like Jimmer, but I'm betting he'll fill up the bucket nicely.

  27. Mike would be curious to hear the rumors? Only player I can think that would leave is Mashour?

    Lopez - used redshirt
    QT - used redshirt
    Stanback - used redshirt
    KW - Used redshirt
    Moser - used redshirt
    Massamba - Sr.
    OB - Sr.
    Marshall - Jr. local
    Jhawk - Jr. and good friends w/ AM

    Please fill us in if you have some insight?

  28. Saw some comments from someone who went and saw Dantley Walker play at Durango last night. Said he was double and triple teamed all game and still dropped 55. Probably had double digit steals and would have had tons of assists if his team was any good.

  29. LV - I'm not coming on here and naming names because that's just irresponsible since a lot of this stuff is just rumblings and rumors.

  30. Yeah like bring up and starting more rumors without quoting a source is responsible. you already let the cat out of the bag without any proof. Responsibility is your last concern now.

  31. I have read all the things on Rebel Net talking about Lopez. I would be suprised, he would have to sit out and burn a year and he has UNLV tatted on his arm.

    Not that any of that is binding but sitting out another year?

  32. I'm sure lots of people on here have heard rumors. Its not like the team hasn't completely flopped the last few week. If you look at the players during the Air Force game, its obvious that players are unhappy with what's going on and there were several instances where they didn't even acknowledge the coaches when they were being pulled off the floor. Its no secret that a number of players are unhappy with the rotation and subbing patterns being utilized during the games. The same frustrations we are expressing as fans; the players are dealing with the same frustrations.

    Again, there is a difference between saying this is some of what I've heard and saying "Player X is looking to leave after the season." What cat has been let out of the bag? That changes may be on the horizon? If you couldn't see that on your own after what we've been watching the last few weeks, that's a "you problem." And you've probably heard this expression: If you start naming your sources, they don't remain sources for long.

  33. The only person I heard was actually unhappy was qt and he practically admitted it on the post game three weeks ago. But then showed improvements and got his spot back. Then he admitted he just need to work harder and that he was happy.

    No doubt the players are frustrated but that doesn't mean they are quitters. This season will be over soon enough and a new mind set will be set. Kruger said this week that probably next year he will work the line up to put two bigs in at one time. He said maybe this year but he doesn't want to go far from where they have been playing this late in the season. I think he should do it though.

  34. AF is making SDSU look bad so maybe you are all reading way to much into that game.

  35. For bracket info check out this site, it has all sites listed with average seed. Also link to each site so u can check what they are saying.

    http://bracketproject.50webs.com/matrix....

  36. Speaking of quitters anyone see that Deshawn Mitchell is looking for his 4th school in 3 years? Just kicked off Snow Jr College team despite being the leading scorer. Sad. He joins the ranks of Roberson, Lawrence, Adeife and Hamga as guys who bolted and unfortunately amounted to nothing.

  37. I, for one, would be disappointed if Mashour transferred. I know people think I am crazy but I think this kid has NBA-level skills, at least based on what I saw during the exhibition games waaay back in November. Good size, good quickness, soft touch on the jumper and good range too. I hope he stays with it and works his way into the lineup either this year or next year.

    Big game for our Rebels, but I guess every game from here on is huge thanks to some wasted chances. I still like this team, if for no other reason than the effort and hard work on defense. If the offense comes around, and we get a favorable seed (I know I know) I think we can do some damage. Go Rebels

  38. Wow thats hard to believe, I liked him, but thats what happens when people around them tell them how "great" they are. Gives them such a big head they can't get out of thier own way.

    Hopefully the Rebels get thier egos in check and start playing team ball like the first 12 games of the season.

  39. #2 Texas and #4 Pitt both lose, does this open the door for the MWC to get a 1 seed (winner of BYU @ SDSU)?

  40. I agree. Especially at the college level, so important for the kids to stay humble. Larry Johnson, arguably one of the greatest college players ever, always deferred praise and compliments to his teammates (who were admittedly pretty good too). At the college level, it's all about the team. Show me a college team that has one superstar and nothing else, and I'll show you a team that's not going anywhere