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October 25, 2016

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox


Instant Analysis: Rebels gain victory, invaluable experience against Wisconsin

UNLV vs. Wisconsin

UNLV knocked off Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, 68-65, behind a career-high 25 points from Chace Stanback and clutch late-game heroics by Justin Hawkins on defense and at the free throw line.

UNLV vs. Wisconsin Basketball

UNLV players, from left, Todd Hanni, Brice Massamba, Carlos Lopez and Karam Mashour celebrate as Justin Hawkins makes a free throw to cement their win over Wisconsin on Saturday. UNLV beat the 25th-ranked Wisconsin 68-65. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

WISCONSIN POSTGAME: Rebels survive the grinder

Ryan Greene and Case Keefer take a closer look at a grinder of a 68-65 win for the UNLV men's basketball team on Saturday afternoon at home against Wisconsin. It was far from pretty, but the Rebels improved to 3-0 and now have a few days off before the start of the 76 Classic on Thanksgiving night. The guys take a look at the struggles of UNLV's big men, the defensive prowess of Justin Hawkins, the offensive heroics of Chace Stanback and assess Tre'Von Willis's return from a 4-game suspension.

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The UNLV basketball team couldn’t have asked for a better early season matchup.

This game had it all — emotion, a great opponent and a positive outcome.

Sure, it’s only the third week in November, but Saturday’s 68-65 win against No. 25 Wisconsin will only make the Rebels that much stronger come March.

Obviously, a victory against a quality opponent from a nationally respected conference will carry it weight in gold at the end of the season when the Rebels are jockeying for position in the NCAA Tournament. More importantly, however, is the experience and confidence the UNLV players got from the victory.

Trailing by one point with one minute to play, the Rebels didn’t flinch in pulling out the win. They made the shots when they needed to and closed the game with a great defensive stand.

And it wasn’t just one player. They got contributions from several.

Take junior forward Chace Stanback for instance.

He finished with a game-high 25 points in arguably the best performance of his UNLV career. His 3-pointer from the corner with about 55 seconds to play erased a one-point deficit and gave the Rebels the lead for good. He’s really blossomed into a player the Rebels can rely upon with the game on the line.

Here are three more observations from Saturday’s game:

1) Welcome back Tre’Von: When Tre'Von Willis was arrested in June in connection with a domestic complaint, I was highly critical of his actions, arguing he should have never put himself in a compromising situation. However, my opinion was in the minority, with several Rebel fans hitting the message boards to show their support. Willis eventually pleaded no contest to a reduced misdemeanor charge and returned Saturday following a three-game suspension. The senior guard was greeted with a standing ovation by the Rebel faithful. Performance on the court aside — he finished with four points and five assists — it was nice to see Willis receive the warm reception. I’ve been impressed with how he’s accepted responsibility for his actions and how he appears to be contrite for his action. He’s earned your cheer.

2) A rough week for Quintrell: Quintrell Thomas, the heralded Kansas transfer who is expected to be a force for UNLV on the interior, has been hampered with foul trouble the past two games. The 6-foot-8 sophomore forward lasted less than one minute in UNLV’s starting lineup Saturday before picking up a foul and being benched. At halftime, he had two fouls in just five minutes. He also was 0-for-3 from the field in the first half, misfiring badly on two attempts. He only played two minutes in the second half. In Wednesday’s victory against Southeastern Louisiana, Thomas only played eight minutes in fouling out. Thomas simply needs time to work off some of the rust after sitting out last year. He is pressing in an attempt to make an impact. He needs to let the game come to him, and that’s when his obvious talent will take over. The Rebels need his big body on the inside.

3) Those 3-pointers: UNLV’s streak of games with a 3-pointer made increased to 775 contests as the Rebels connected on 9 of 18 of its 3-pointers. Oscar Bellfield hit a 3-pointer two minutes into the game and the Rebels keep firing — which is a problem. Unlike years past, they don’t have enough proven shooters to live and die by the 3-pointer. I know that sounds odd considering the Rebels hit 50 percent against Wisconsin, but ultimately, it will be tough to duplicate the effort the rest of year. Oftentimes, they settled for the 3-pointer early in the shot clock. Against Southeastern Louisiana on Wednesday, Stanback hit the only 3-pointer in the Rebels’ eight attempts to keep the streak alive. His shot came with less than 10 minutes to play, well too deep into the game for the liking of the UNLV fans.

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