Saturday, Nov. 21, 2009 | 9:09 p.m.
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Las Vegas Sun reporters Rob Miech and Ray Brewer dissect the UNLV basketball team's 78-69 victory on Saturday against Southern Illinois. Tre'Von Willis had a career high 25 points and appears to be the Rebels' team leader.
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Rebels hang on for a 78-69 victory
UNLV's 12-point lead with four minutes to play was trimmed to five points by Southern Illinois with under a minute to play, but Matt Shaw hit a pair of free throws with 35 seconds left and the Rebels hung on for a 78-69 victory.
Tre'Von Willis had 18 second-half points and finished with a game-high 25 to help the Rebels (3-0) pull away in the second half. They trailed by as many as 12 in the first half, struggling early for the third time in as many games this year.
Derrick Jasper finished with 11 points, all in the first half, and Shaw also had 11 points. A Shaw 3-pointer late built the lead to 72-60.
The Rebels are off until Wednesday when they host Holy Cross.
4:32, second half, Rebels leading by double digits
The Tre'Von Willis Show has continued at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UNLV is leading 72-60 against Southern Illinois and Willis' 14 second-half points have been the difference. The point guard also has six rebounds and three assists and is doing an excellent job of organizing the offense.
Forward Matt Shaw gave UNLV a 70-60 lead with five minutes to play when he stepped back and hit a 3-pointer. The 6-foot-8 Shaw, who missed last year with a knee injury, has ability to hit the long range shot. He's a true threat to the offense when he is connecting from the outside.
7:42, second half, Rebels with biggest lead
Tre'Von Willis has scored 12 of his game-high 19 points in the second half and Kendall Wallace buried a 3-pointer from the corner to give UNLV a 59-56 lead with under eight minutes to play against Southern Illinois.
The lead is now 63-56 with 7:42 to play after a layup from Darris Santee and two foul shots from Willis. The Rebels have been threatening all game to pull away and this 9-0 run could be the start of the end for a Southern Illinois team that has been scrappy all night.
Willis, after missing most of Wednesday's game with UNR in foul trouble, has been the difference. He's really taken control in the second half.
14:38, second half, Rebels with slim lead
There has been a combined 23 points to open the second half as UNLV has taken a small lead with under 15 minutes to play. Tre'Von Willis has four quick second half points and now has 11 for the game.
UNLV's biggest lead has only been four points, but the Rebels have been close on two different occasions to blowing the game open. It's been an entertaining game to say the least — when one team scores or goes on a run, the other matches.
It could be a race to the finish ...
Rebels down three points at halftime
It could be worse.
The UNLV basketball team trailed by 12 points less than 10 minutes into Saturday's game against visiting Southern Illinois, but went on a 20-4 run to get back into the game. It was similar to the rally against UNR Wednesday to erase a double-digit second half deficit.
They can't continue with these slow starts — but that's a topic for another time.
Derrick Jasper has a game-high 11 points on 4-of-8 shooting and has been aggressive since the opening tip. The Kentucky transfer will be an impact player and we are getting a glimpse of that tonight.
We'll check back once the second half gets going. It should be a great finish.
3:56, first half, Rebels trail 29-28
This is the type of game that will benefit the UNLV basketball team later in the season.
The Rebels are trailing Southern Illinois by one-point with under four minutes to play in the first half and the game has been back-and-forth with several lead changes. It's exactly what you look for in an early season game.
UNLV trailed by 12 less than 10 minutes into the game, but went on a 20-4 run to get back in the game. Its biggest lead is four points.
Anthony Marshall, the freshman from Mojave High in North Las Vegas, had another solid showing off the bench. The guard always seems to give the Rebels a boost when he is inserted. He had a nice drive to the basket for a layup against Southern Illinois.
Tre'Von Willis and Derrick Jasper still lead UNLV with seven points. John Freeman of Southern Illinois has a game-high 11.
7:57, first half, Rebels ahead 24-22
The Thomas & Mack Center is full of energy thanks to an 18-2 UNLV run as the Rebels have erased a double digit deficit to take a lead against Southern Illinois.
Kendall Wallace and Tre'Von Willis hit consecutive 3-pointers to highlight the rally and the Rebels defense has upped its intensity in coming up with stop after stop. Derrick Jasper and Willis lead UNLV with seven points.
It's fun to watch the Rebels on defense. They are really hustling in their man-to-man set, which has created a buzz in the arena. A few 3-pointers doesn't hurt either.
10:23, first half, Rebels trail 20-16
Derrick Jasper leads UNLV with seven points early as the Rebels trail Southern Illinois 20-16 with 10:23 to play in the first half.
Jasper just drained a 3-pointer, UNLV's first of the game, and the Rebels are on an 7-0 run after trailing by double digits.
UNLV missed 11 of its first 14 shots, it is being out-rebounded 13-8 and Southern Illinois has opened with more energy.
15:56, first half, Rebels trail 10-5
The Rebels have started slow ... again.
For the third time in as many games this season, the Rebels have struggled in the initial four minutes of a game. Tonight, they are trailing Southern Illinois 10-5 with 15:56 to play in the first half.
Sure, it early. But you always want to start strong. Remember, they needed to rally from a double-digit deficit Wednesday to beat UNR, and those type of comebacks don't happen every night.
The Rebels are 2-of-6 from the field with Derrick Jasper scoring three of the five points. Brice Massamba has the other field goal.
LJ is back in the Mack — and only about two weeks late.
UNLV great Larry Johnson and former Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian are sitting behind the Rebels bench at the Thomas & Mack Center during pregame warmups for the Rebels game against Southern Illinois.
Johnson was noticeable absent during a ceremony Nov. 10 at halftime of an exhibition game to honor the 1990 national championship team. He attended a banquet as part of the two-day celebration, but missed the public event to draw criticism from a few fans.
He laughed when asked about situation and wouldn't give details as to why he missed the event.
"I had a great time. I had a blast catching up with the guys," Johnson said of the banquet.
Johnson, who led UNLV to consecutive Final Fours and is widely regarded as one of the program's best all-time players, wasn't supportive of the program for most the 1990s after the controversy surrounding Tarkanian leaving the program in 1992. But he has been more visible since Lon Kruger became coach six years ago and came back to earn his Bachelor's degree from the university.
There is a game tonight, too. The Rebels take on Southern Illinois (2-0) as part of the inaugural Mountain West Conference-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge. Southern Illinois is traditionally one of the league's top teams.
UNLV (2-0) will try to build from the momentum it gained Wednesday in erasing a 12-point second half deficit to beat instate rival UNR. We'll be back once the game starts.