Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun
Published Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 | 3:30 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Nov. 20, 2010 | 6:14 p.m.
Everyone in the building knew that Mike Bruesewitz's inbounds pass with 10 seconds to play would go to Jon Leuer.
Justin Hawkins knew how to take it away.
The UNLV sophomore stole the ball with the Rebels clinging to a one-point lead, then hit two clinching free throws to secure a 68-65 victory for the Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday afternoon.
They were the only two points Hawkins scored all day, and came at the end of a day that, for UNLV, was relatively frustrating on the offensive end.
Chace Stanback hit several key jumpers in the second half and finished with a game-high 25 points, while Oscar Bellfield scored 14 of his 18 points in the first half, helping keep UNLV afloat through a sluggish opening 20 minutes.
Junior guard Jordan Taylor led Wisconsin with 19, while Leuer was held to only 10.
The Rebels are off until Thanksgiving night, when they will tip-off against Tulsa to open the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, analysis, stats, photos and The Rebel Room Postgame Edition podcast, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:57, Second Half, UNLV leads 60-58
No one is going to remember this as a pretty ball game, and right now, UNLV is doing just enough to get by.
The Rebels are struggling on the defensive end and having a tough time rebounding, but are coming up with buckets when they need them and hold a 60-58 edge on Wisconsin with just under four minutes left to play.
Chace Stanback hit a pair of huge corner 3-pointers to help UNLV surge back ahead, but then picked up his fourth foul while going up for a layup in transition that was negated.
After he went out, Brice Massamba scored a pair of crucial buckets, and Tre'Von Willis hit one of his own inside with a nifty move just before the game's final media timeout.
Both teams are in the bonus, and it could quickly turn into a battle at the free throw line.
Stanback leads the Rebels with 19 points, while senior star Jon Leuer is starting to come alive for Wisconsin, as he has eight points, three rebounds and two blocks.
11:40, Second Half, UNLV leads 48-47
Wisconsin has drawn seven fouls on UNLV in roughly eight minutes to start the second half, putting them in the bonus early.
However, after Jon Leuer missed the Badgers' first bonus free throw try, Derrick Jasper made up for a half filled with frustration by hitting a corner 3-pointer to put the Rebels back up, 48-47.
The trouble for UNLV so far, though, is in the rebounding department.
The Rebels are being out-done so far on the boards, 27-19, and Wisconsin has 11 offensive rebounds to UNLV's two. That's helped give the visitors 11 second-chance points, while UNLV has none.
Tre'Von Willis got in the books with a driving layup early in the half for his first points of the season, but so far tonight, it's the only field goal for a Rebels shooting guard between himself, Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins.
Halftime, UNLV leads 34-33
It was a first half played largely at Wisconsin's pace, but UNLV still holds a slim 34-33 edge on the visiting Badgers at the break.
They got the lead just before the buzzer with a 10-foot baseline jumper from Carlos Lopez, who played 11 big first half minutes while Brice Massamba and Quintrell Thomas each had two fouls. Lopez also had two, but was able to keep it there over the final eight minutes.
UNLV is going to need some production from the 2-guard spot, as Justin Hawkins, Tre'Von Willis and Anthony Marshall were all scoreless in the first half. UNLV's offense, as a whole, looked to have little flow.
We also haven't heard the last of Wisconsin star Jon Leuer. With two fouls, he only played eight minutes in the first half and scored three points.
Oscar Bellfield leads UNLV with 14 points, including four 3-pointers, while Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor is matching him on the other side with 16.
The game has been played at a Big Ten pace, with lots of fouls and long possessions. If UNLV wants to pull away, the Rebels will have to push that pace up a notch or two.
6:20, First Half, Wisconsin leads, 27-26
A Big Ten officiating crew has relegated this game to a Big Ten pace, calling tons of fouls both ways and turning the game into a free throw contest late in the first half, with Wisconsin leading 27-26.
Oscar Bellfield continues to keep UNLV afloat offensively, as a 4-of-5 showing from 3-point range has him with 14 of UNLV's 26 points.
Since coming in five minutes into the game, Tre'Von Willis hasn't scored for the Rebels, but does have three key assists in six minutes of run.
The Badgers survived for a good stretch in the meat of the first half with four back-ups on the floor. Meanwhile, foul trouble has especially plagued UNLV's big men, as Carlos Lopez, Brice Massamba and Quintrell Thomas each have two fouls.
11:30, First Half, UNLV leads 19-17
UNLV was beginning to cruise along after a third 3-pointer by Oscar Bellfield, but a break in the action changed everything.
Carlos Lopez tussled for a rebound with Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz, and after a few elbows, a foul was called against the Badgers' forward.
After Bo Ryan protested, officials took several minutes to look at the replay at the scorer's table, ultimately calling a personal foul on Bruesewitz and a technical foul on Lopez. it resulted in a 6-point swing towards the Badgers.
As it stands, UNLV now holds a 2-point edge in a game that has been inconsistently officiated so far on both sides.
For UNLV, foul trouble is beginning to mount down low, as Brice Massamba and Quintrell Thomas each have two. Carlos Lopez now becomes the Rebels' most important player for the rest of the half.
Bellfield leads all scorers with 11, while Jordan Taylor leads Wisconsin with eight.
15:39, First Half, UNLV leads 10-8
As he's done so many times before, Oscar Bellfield is off to a big start against a marquee non-conference opponent.
The junior guard has a pair of 3-pointers early and eight of UNLV's first 10 points, as the Rebels hold a 10-8 lead on Wisconsin.
A couple of interesting personnel notes so far ...
— Tre'Von Willis still has yet to check in for UNLV.
— Quintrell Thomas, who fouled out in just eight minutes on Wednesday night, picked up an early foul and was quickly removed for Brice Massamba before picking up a second.
Wisconsin is finding it tough to get open 3-point looks against UNLV's pressure defense, though Jordan Taylor hit one as the shot clock was winding down just before the TV break.
Well, there's no excuse for there not to be an absolutely electric atmosphere today in the Thomas & Mack Center.
The highly-anticipated 2010-11 season gets its first marquee game today, as UNLV (2-0) hosts Wisconsin (2-0) in a 4 p.m. tip.
I got to the Mack about 40 minutes ago to take in as much of the pregame as humanly possible, and here are a few quick observations.
— Tre'Von Willis was the first Rebel out of the locker room to shoot. He's been going at it furiously ever since and has already worked up a strong sweat with an hour still to go before the game.
— Wisconsin's players came out of the visitor's locker room first, and I've got to see, it's one of the tallest teams I've seen in person. Just about everyone who walked by the scorer's table appeared to be about 6-foot-7.
— Maybe it's a sign of team unity of something like that, or maybe I'm just reading too much into it, but half of the UNLV showed up today with shaved heads.
Now, on to today's three keys to UNLV victory ...
1) The quartet of Brice Massamba, Carlos Lopez, Quintrell Thomas and Chace Stanback have to be in peak form tonight. Given Wisconsin's size and ability to shoot the three across the board, the Rebels cannot afford to give up a bevy of second- and third-chance looks. Massamba is coming off of a great game against Southeastern Louisiana, where he had 12 points and five boards. Thomas had seven points, but fouled out in eight minutes (can't do that today, even if some of those foul calls were questionable). We all know what Stanback is capable of, but Lopez could be the key to all of this. He's looked great against two inferior opponents in every aspect of the game. Now, he faces the biggest test yet in his young college career, and he has to come through.
2) I'm not saying UNLV has to live and die by the 3-pointer like it did a year ago, but the Rebels will likely have to hit between five and eight of them to keep pace with Wisconsin, who at any given time has three or four players on the floor capable of hitting them. UNLV is 7-of-25 from deep in its first two games. Not a bad percentage at all, but the Rebels won't be able to drive at will in lieu of shooting outside shots against the Badgers like they did against the Lions on Wednesday.
3) Tre'Von Willis won't start, but he'll probably play 25 minutes. He's obviously amped for this one, but he cannot afford to look rusty. Plain and simple. If he's going to join a lineup that's playing at a high level right now against a marquee opponent, he's got to be at his finest. Given his history in big games, I'd say it's likely that he'll be the Willis of old.
As for a prediction and Pick to Click, I'm taking UNLV, 73-67. These are the types of games where the Rebels play at their best — marquee home non-con games against BCS conference opponents. That said, Oscar Bellfield's had the best big-game pedigree in non-conference play of anyone on this team, so why not go with him?
Talk to you again after tip-off. Also, don't forget the #unlvmbb tag on your in-game tweets to join the conversation with yours truly.