REBELS BASKETBALL:

Bellfield keys monster second half for UNLV in 68-61 win at Colorado State

Junior guard a catalyst with four 3-pointers after the break as Rebels notch 20th win

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV coach Lon Kruger yells encouragement to guards Anthony Marshall, center, and Oscar Bellfield as they head to the bend for a time out against Colorado State during their Mountain West Conference game at Moby Arena Saturday, February 19, 2011 in Fort Collins. UNLV won the game 68-61 to split the season series.

UNLV-CSU Basketball 2-19-2011

UNLV guard Anthony Marshall quietly claps to himself while leaving the court after the Rebels beat Colorado State in their Mountain West Conference game 68-61 at Moby Arena Saturday, February 19, 2011 in Fort Collins. Launch slideshow »

UNLV vs. CSU

KSNV coverage of UNLV vs. Colorado State basketball game, Feb. 19, 2011.

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FORT COLLINS, Colo. — When the door to the visitor's locker room in the corner of Moby Arena swung open on Saturday night, the celebration that could be heard had an accent of relief to it.

Pressure had begun to mount on UNLV in the last week, after letting a late lead slip in a 63-57 loss to No. 6 San Diego State, then winning in the ugliest of fashions over Air Force four days later, 49-42.

With their NCAA tournament at-large profile on the line, the Rebels got a win that they could feel good about in Fort Collins, Colo., over surging Colorado State in 68-61 fashion.

"We knew it was going to be a big game today. Whoever won this game was going to get an extra boost over the other," guard Anthony Marshall said.

Marshall had a hand in the Rebels' monster second-half performance, but the catalyst that woke UNLV (20-7 overall, 8-5 Mountain West) up was Oscar Bellfield.

The Rebels point guard, who has struggled to consistently hit outside shots for much of league play, hit four 3-pointers after the break, and everyone simply fed off of his momentum.

UNLV trailed 27-22 at the half, as looks from the floor didn't come easy, and the magnitude of the game seemed to be making the Rebels a bit tentative on offense. In the game's first 20 minutes, they were just 9-of-25 from the floor.

A 9-2 run to open up the second stanza put UNLV ahead, and then back-to-back threes from Bellfield a few minutes later helped put the Rebels in the driver's seat for good. They never trailed again.

After he hit a couple of outside shots, the ball movement improved, a raucous crowd of 8,745 was held in check and more guys around Bellfield got the confidence to step up and pull the trigger on shots of their own.

"It all starts with one person," forward Chace Stanback said. "One person starts knocking down shots, it gets contagious. Everyone starts having more confidence in what we're doing and shots start falling.

"He played great. He's our floor general. When he starts getting open looks, knocking them down, it gives everybody on the team a boost of confidence."

Before Saturday, the Mountain West Conference season had been a labor of love for Bellfield.

Early in the season, he was one of the team's hottest shooters, looking like someone who would help make up for absences of the injured Kendall Wallace and suspended Matt Shaw — the team's top deep threats a year ago.

Since suffering a right wrist injury in late December against Southern Utah that he's played through without complaint, Bellfield hasn't consistently been the same, merely showing flashes and suffering through brutal droughts.

Still, he's there after practice every day shooting and usually is one of the last guys to leave the gym. On Saturday, it paid off for the guy who was just 15-of-64 (23.4 percent) from 3-point territory in the team's first 12 MWC games.

"(I had to) stay positive, not think about the misses or even the shots," Bellfield said. "I got the opportunity with teammates creating great looks for me. I was just taking advantage of it.

"If I hesitated, the outcome probably would have been different. If I just let it go, I'm better off."

Bellfield's most memorable play from Saturday afternoon, though, didn't involve him scoring.

The Rebels scored a series of back-breaking shots down the stretch with the Rams trying to claw back, but facing a dwindling shot clock late and UNLV up 60-57 in the final minute, Bellfield shot down the lane trying to pull something out of thin air. What he found was Marshall on a backdoor cut after his defender was drawn to help on Bellfield.

Bellfield zipped a quick pass while hanging in the air to Marshall, who provided the dagger with a reverse layup.

It helped close out a second half which was on the opposite end of the quality spectrum from the first. After the break, UNLV was 15-of-29 from the floor, 7-of-13 from long range and credited sharper execution for the improvement.

Anyone watching could have seen that.

"A lot of it was a result of driving and kicking, misdirection, getting it back to open people," coach Lon Kruger said. "Oscar made some big plays, as did Anthony and Chace, as well. But Oscar was the key to giving us that margin in the second half."

Bellfield scored a team-high 18 points and didn't turn the ball over in 32 minutes. No one benefited more in the second half from him opening things up more than Stanback, who scored 10 of his 12 points after the intermission. He also had 10 boards, earning his third double-double of the season.

Marshall scored 16 on 7-of-11 shooting, also notching six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Meanwhile, Tre'Von Willis was more vocal and demonstrative than normal on the floor, recording nine points, a season-high eight assists and five rebounds.

UNLV's efforts on defense and the boards couldn't be ignored, either.

The Rebels forced 17 CSU turnovers, and took out one of the Rams' two major forces in the paint. Seniors Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin combined for 42 points and 16 rebounds in a stunning 78-63 victory in Las Vegas in mid-January, but only Ogide could get it going in the rematch. He had 19 points and seven boards, but Franklin was held scoreless with just one rebound in 14 minutes.

As a team, Colorado State limited itself by only being able to corral five offensive rebounds, with Stanback owning the defensive glass for much of the game. He had nine of the Rebels' 22 defensive rips.

"There was the satisfaction of going on the road, into a tough place and beating a good team," Kruger said. "Plus, making some shots is (cause for) a sigh of relief, too."

In the bigger picture, UNLV can now be relieved that it has a bit of a leg up on Colorado State in the race for the Mountain West's third potential NCAA tournament bid.

On top of that, the Rebels inched closer to third place in the league standings, which is heavily sought after this year by both teams in hopes of avoiding the No. 4 vs. No. 5 game in the MWC tournament quarterfinals.

Still a half-game ahead of UNLV, CSU still has remaining road games at San Diego State and BYU, giving them a strong scheduling disadvantage.

As for the Rebels, they'll travel to face New Mexico on Wednesday. The Lobos were on the brink of a win in Las Vegas in the first meeting before UNLV stole a 63-62 win.

Steve Alford's club on Saturday lost its third straight game for the second time this conference season, getting knocked off at the buzzer by Utah, 62-60, in Albuquerque. That dropped them to 5-7 in the league, tying the fifth place Lobos in the loss column with Air Force.

But, no matter how up and down UNM is, winning in The Pit is never an easy task.

UNLV heads there with a little more wiggle room on its résumé with Saturday's win in the book, but the Rebels will try to avoid looking at it in that manner.

"The last couple of days in preparation for this game, we felt that we did a lot of things to take a step forward," Marshall said. "After the game, we just felt good about what we'd done. We've got to let this game go now and look forward to the next one.

"For us to get to where we're trying to go, that's what we have to do from here on out."

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  1. Nice win. It's amazing what happens when you shoot a decent percentage from 3 point land against the zone. Anthony Marshall continues to impress, and I'm glad he's only a sophomore, but tonight's MVP was Oscar Bellfield, who reminded us how good the team could look when he's knocking down 3s.

  2. I have been as critical of our guys as anyone but being there last night and watching how the Rebs played in the second half was alot of fun. That place was going crazy and our guys never lost their composure. I have never heard Moby that loud. They played extremely hard and of course seeing some threes drop at big times was wonderful. Huge win. So nice to see Oscar knock down big shots. Sure hope this is a sign of more things to come.

  3. Nice win for the rebs! I, too, have been very critical of lon and the boys but they responded in a big way. Nice to see the three ball finally drop. It will be great if we can keep hitting the three, but we can't forget about still working the ball inside. I know our bigs have struggled at times, but they were also there to bail us out in some games as well. Maybe this could be the start of a crucial winning streak.

  4. I was also at the game gumby, and you are right. That was the craziest crowd I have seen at Moby in the last 5 years. Good atmosphere and great game. Proud of our boys for making adjustments at half and knocking down shots.

  5. Great game rebels. Hard fought and truly a team effort. Shots definitely seem to be contagious when someone starts making a few. At first I was afraid, petrified even, (ha!) that it was fgoing to be another terrible shooting game in the 1st half, but the guys came out and battled back for the win in the second. On to NM.

  6. Still a solid game as role players for our bigs last night. Keep it up QT. Only good things will happen when our bigs get a chance to help too

  7. Good win for UNLV. Check out my new blog if you are dying for all that is UNLV Men's Basketball from across the web:
    http://rebelsunlv.blogspot.com/

  8. Nice job team! Oscar looked comfortable shooting the 3 and it energized the team. Also, it was good to see better ball movement and the guys trying to beat the zone by placing Willis/Hawkins at the free throw line. Either way, the best way to beat a zone is with great outside shooting. Hopefully Oscar's stroke is back now, and he'll be able to knock down open 3s for the rest of the season. Go Rebs!

  9. Q missed a few short ones but was co mvp with Oscar in my opinion. He was strong enough to keep Ogide from backing him down in the post and snagged some big rebounds or was able to tap the ball out to the guards on missed shots and just gave UNLV more possessions. UNLV still shot a lower percentage than CSU but those extra possessions were huge.

  10. What a great win for the Rebels, pulled through at the time they needed it most. What really upsets me is that on the comments of our difficult games, either losses or rough wins, people can't wait to tear apart the Rebs. But in the wins, no one wants to praise them. Our team could use a lot more support than that. Great job Rebels, this was the most important game of the season and you pulled it out.

  11. I was outta my seat when QT blocked that shot and it was followed by that Anthony Marshall alley-oop dunk. The bigs were finally playing like they should taking up space in the middle and backing down players in the key. They didn't hit all of the easy stuff, but the effort was definitely there. I couldn't help but crack up when the Colorado St. coach slammed the board over his knee and drew the tech! To bad Tre couldn't hit those free throws, but we'll forgive him this time. Hopefully, we can keep that second half team we saw last night for the rest of the season. GO Rebs!

  12. That zone is easy to break, I like the off side guard or off side post to flash to the open spot and hit the 15' jumper instead of the three. Chace would be ideal, cus he could hit the shot or drop the high low exchange with the big. Hopefully this wasn't another flash in the pan type thing.