Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009 | 2:29 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Alex Adeyanju break down yet another overwhelming performance from UNLV, who improved to 12-1 and advanced to the title game of the Diamond Head Classic after roughing up host Hawaii, 77-53, on Wednesday night. Also, a look ahead to a much-improved foe in Southern Cal who awaits the Rebels on Friday evening, as Lon Kruger's club hopes to wrap up its business trip with a trophy in-hand.
HONOLULU — Playing at Oklahoma State from 1997-2000 under a demanding head coach in Eddie Sutton, Doug Gottlieb was never a star.
He averaged 5.2 points and 8.2 assists per game in his collegiate career, and was known more for his tough-as-nails attitude and love for being a defensive pest.
That said, Gottlieb, who hosts his own show on ESPN Radio and works for the network as a color commentator, said that UNLV has a team he would have fit in with perfectly.
Gottlieb called UNLV's 77-53 victory over Hawaii at the Diamond Head Classic on ESPN2.
"I just like the idea that they're going to come in like they did today and they just took Hawaii out of everything they wanted to do," he said. "That's fun basketball.
"Younger teams, they only play well when they're shooting the ball well. Older teams play well when they're taking you out at the defensive end. I like the fact that they'll make the extra pass. I like that when they get a steal, they pass it up the court instead of trying to take it themselves. That, more so than the number of guards they play, would make me want to play with them."
Fans watching the game back in Las Vegas were more than likely morphed into dedicated Gottlieb fans as he showered praise on the Rebels throughout the broadcast.
At one point, he compared UNLV freshman guard to former UCLA standout and current Oklahoma City Thunder starter Russell Westbrook. He lauded the do-it-all presence of junior guard Derrick Jasper.
He even went as far as to call the Rebels college basketball's best team on the West Coast this season.
"Their defense — Defensively, they're outstanding," he said. "(Coach Lon Kruger) has so many like-sized guys, guards who aren't afraid to defend in the post and they just have a great defensive spirit.
"They share the basketball and they like playing with one another. There's some things they need, yeah. They could shoot the ball a little bit better, they don't have a ton of low-post scoring, but they're older, they're mature, they're cohesive and they play their asses off."
New Trojans fueling the fire
It turns out that when USC found itself at 4-4 heading into last weekend's home date with Tennessee, the Trojans had simply been playing a waiting game to that point.
Two newcomers who just became eligible within the past week are making a huge impact — senior guard Mike Gerrity and sophomore forward Leonard Washington.
Gerrity, who transferred to USC following the fall semester last year from UNC-Charlotte, made his Trojans debut in the team's surprising 77-55 trouncing of the Volunteers before heading to Honolulu.
He's scored 17 points in each of USC's first two games at the Diamond Head Classic and is 15-of-28 from the floor in three games overall.
Washington, at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, looks as if he should be lining up at defensive end for Pete Carroll instead of donning a basketball uniform.
His first semester grades just came through on Tuesday night, making him eligible on Wednesday for the first time this season. He responded with 10 points, six boards and two blocks in 21 minutes of run. He averaged 6.1 points and 4.2 rebounds per game in 30 games as a freshman.
It took a bit of stress off of the Trojans' starters, who have carries a thin bench so far this season.
In the team's opening victory in Honolulu, 55-51 over Western Michigan, the five starters averaged 33.4 minutes. On Wednesday, they averaged 32.2.
Inside the numbers
Some more numbers of note from UNLV's victory over Hawaii ...
— Chace Stanback's streak of consecutive games scoring in double figures was snapped at five, but he still made quite a contribution. The sophomore forward finished with seven points, seven rebounds, three steals and two assists.
— The Rebels neutralized everyone on the Hawaii side, and no one's lack of productivity was more important than that of 6-foot-7 senior forward Roderick Flemings, who entered as the Warriors' leading scorer and had two triple-doubles to his credit already this season. He scored only eight points on 2-of-6 shooting and had 10 rebounds in 32 minutes. He left the game late in the second half with a left knee injury.
— All 11 players to get on the floor for UNLV scored at least three points. The last to get on the board was senior guard Steve 'Chop' Jones, who did so in impressive fashion, scoring an and-one layup in front of the team's bench. He calmly drained the ensuing free throw.
— The Rebels' first half defensive prowess so far in Honolulu has shown on the stat sheet. Combining the first halves from victories over SMU and Hawaii, UNLV's opponents have recorded just five assists and 24 turnovers.
The final word ...
ESPN color analyst on UNLV junior guard Derrick Jasper: "When Jasper was playing for Kentucky, when he got hurt, that was just a devastating blow to their team. Their staff openly talked about how he was the key to Kentucky's team back when he was with the Wildcats. He can guard three positions, can play three positions on offense, he just provides you with an extra point guard even though he's not the point."