Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009 | 2:29 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Alex Adeyanju discuss the Rebels' Diamond Head Classic opening round thumping of SMU on Tuesday night in Honolulu, 67-53. Plus, was SMU's closing of the gap late really worth making a big deal about? And a look ahead to what's left in the winner's bracket for the rest of the week.
UNLV vs. Hawaii
UNLV Rebels (11-1) vs Hawaii Warriors (6-4)
Where: Stan Sheriff Center
When: 8:30 p.m. PST
Coaches: Lon Kruger is 123-54 in his six seasons at UNLV and 441-287 in 24 overall seasons; Bob Nash is 30-38 in his three seasons at Hawaii, which is his first head coaching job.
Series: UNLV leads 20-9
Last time: UNLV won, 61-58, in Honolulu on Dec. 5, 2006
TV/Radio: ESPN2/ESPN Radio 1100-AM
What to watch: UNLV has withstood the storm twice this season in true road games. Will having played 24 hours earlier have any carryover effect? Also, Hawaii's Roderick Flemings, who has triple-double capabilities, was quiet in Tuesday's opener with only nine points and three boards to his credit. Is he due for a big night? Can Chace Stanback and Matt Shaw combine to silence him?
HONOLULU — For most teams, playing in an out of town holiday tournament means neutral site equality.
UNLV (11-1), however, gets a taste of a true road atmosphere on Wednesday night against Hawaii (6-4). The two will square off at 8:30 p.m. PST in a semifinal showdown in the winner's bracket of the Diamond Head Classic.
The host Warriors took care of Charleston in Tuesday night's opening round finale, 84-71.
In the 10,300-seat Stan Sheriff Center, the home crowd had the most dense — and vocal — crowd behind it, with 7,119 in attendance for the nightcap.
While the Rebels faced an opponent with plenty of size on Tuesday in SMU, Hawaii has similar length, but was much more productive with it in its opening round triumph.
Senior center Petras Balocka, who entered the tournament ranking 23rd in the NCAA in rebounding, had 19 points, 13 boards and six assists for the Warriors, while guard Hiram Thompson added 15.
The biggest matchup problem could come in the form of Hawaii's leading scorer — 6-foot-7 senior forward Roderick Flemings, who has already posted a pair of triple-doubles this year. He's averaging 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game through 10 contests.
Willis dinged up ... again
UNLV junior guard Tre'Von Willis, who in the last week has had to fight off both minor back pain and a turned left ankle, added a new one to the list.
He came out of the halftime locker room with a wrap on his left hand after he was cut by the tooth of an SMU player late in the first half.
While Willis scored 12 points in 25 minutes coming off of the bench for the third consecutive time suiting up, he didn't feel like himself.
That was evident from his 5-of-13 shooting, 1-of-4 accuracy from long range and five turnovers.
"The back is fine, the ankle is sore," said Willis, who missed Saturday's game against South Carolina Upstate. "I was so slow and had no jumping ability whatsoever, but my teammates did a good job of helping me.
"We did a good job of helping each other, for the most part. We had a six-minute breakdown towards the end of the game, but you live and you learn."
Stanback still on-point
UNLV sophomore forward Chace Stanback scored in double figures for the fifth time in a row on Tuesday night, registering 11 points on 4-of-6 shooting.
With that performance, he's now 25-of-48 from the floor in that five-game stretch. He was 16-of-49 in seven games prior.
He was also 3-for-3 from long range on Tuesday. In that same five-game span, he's 8-of-16 from 3-point range after going 1-of-14 in the season's first seven outings.
Depth could prove useful ...
Entering Tuesday's opening round action, sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield led UNLV in minutes per game, averaging 27.4. On the Rebels' roster, 11 players averaged at least 11 minutes a night.
In the other semifinal of the winner's bracket on Wednesday, two programs who don't quite have that luxury will do battle.
Saint Mary's (10-1) will face Southern Cal (6-4) at 2 p.m. PST at the Stan Sheriff Center.
The Gaels knocked off Northeastern in Tuesday's first game, 78-67, while the Trojans had to come from behind in the second half to defeat Western Michigan, 55-51.
Both stuck to roughly a seven-man rotation. The starters were heavily taxed, too.
The Saint Mary's starting five averaged 32.4 minutes across the board on Tuesday, while USC's averaged 33.4.
No one played more than 26 minutes for the Rebels on Tuesday, and should UNLV knock off Hawaii, that reserve tank could prove useful on Friday.
2010 Diamond Head Classic field announced
Diamond Head Classic officials announced the field for the 2010 tournament on Tuesday, and it promises to be a good one.
Seven members of the eight-team field are Hawaii, Utah, San Diego, Butler, Baylor, Mississippi State and Florida State. The eighth and final team has not yet been announced.
UNLV will not take part in the event next winter. Instead, the Rebels will travel over Thanksgiving Weekend to play in the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif. That tournament includes the Rebels, DePaul, Oklahoma State, Penn State, Stanford, Tulsa, Virginia Tech and Cal State-Northridge.
The final word ...
UNLV junior guard Tre'Von Willis on teammate Anthony Marshall's on-stage appearance at a Monday night luau: "It was hilarious. At first, he didn't want to do it, but the hula girl just picked him up, basically, and shoved him on the stage. He's a freshman, so you'd expect he'd be a little shy, but he did a pretty good job."