Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011 | 2:15 a.m.
UNLV vs. Colorado State
UNLV Rebels (14-4, 2-2) vs. Colorado State (12-5, 2-1)
Where: Thomas & Mack Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: Lon Kruger is 151-66 in his seven seasons at UNLV and 469-299 in 25 overall seasons; Tim Miles is 44-68 in his four seasons at Colorado State and 256-200 in 16 overall seasons.
Series:UNLV leads 31-8.
Last time:UNLV won, 70-39, in Las Vegas on Feb. 20, 2010.
Line: UNLV by 13
TV/Radio:The Mtn./ESPN Radio 1100 AM/98.9 FM
G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 185, Jr.) 10.8 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.4 rpg.
G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200, So.) 10.5 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.6 apg.
G Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215, Sr.) 7.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 2.1 apg.
F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210, Jr.) 12.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg.
F Brice Massamba (6-10, 240, Jr.) 4.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg.
Bench:G Tre'Von Willis (6-4, 195, Sr.) 12.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.0 apg; F Quintrell Thomas (6-8, 245, So.) 4.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190, So.) 6.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.3 apg; F Carlos Lopez (6-11, 215, Fr.) 4.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg; G-F Karam Mashour (6-6, 200, Fr.) 2.9 ppg.
What to watch: Can Anthony Marshall keep it up? Starting in place of the injured Tre'Von Willis, he had 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting in limited minutes due to foul trouble on Saturday at Air Force. He'll start again, and in four conference games is 22-of-37 (59.5 percent) from the floor. It's all starting to come together for the talented, super-athletic sophomore.
G Dorian Green (6-2, 170, So.) 8.2 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 2.4 apg.
G Adam Nigon (6-3, 175, Sr.) 8.9 ppg, 6.6 ppg, 2.1 rpg.
G Wes Eikmeier (6-3, 170, So.) 9.6 ppg, 2.2 apg.
F Travis Franklin (6-7, 215, Sr.) 14.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg.
C Andy Ogide (6-9, 245, Sr.) 15.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg.
Bench: G Jesse Carr (6-2, 180, So.) 5.5 ppg, 2.1 apg; F Andre McFarland (6-6, 225, Sr.) 4.1 ppg; F Greg Smith (6-6, 200, So.) 4.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg; F Pierce Hornung (6-5, 200, So.) 3.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg; G Will Bell (6-6, 230, Jr.) 3.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg.
What to watch: If there's one CSU player starving for a great game against UNLV, it's Travis Franklin. In last season's 80-72 home loss to the Rebels, he was a woeful 3-of-14 from the free throw line, including several late-game attempts. This year, he's bumped his FT percentage from 54.5 to an impressive 72.
Without hesitation, Tim Miles rattles them off from memory.
"Against Wyoming, we were down 13, end up winning by 13," the fourth-year Colorado State coach begins. "Hampton had us down 17, we got back, had the lead with four seconds left. San Francisco jumped down on us by 10 or 12, we beat them. Southern Miss had us by 15, we beat them.
"It's been chronic."
But the difference between this season and the previous few is that the Rams are in fact winning the better portion of those games.
It took a little while, but Miles got the program rolling, and CSU will come to the Thomas & Mack Center to face UNLV on Wednesday night at 12-5 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West Conference. Yes, it's early, but the Rams are current third in the league standings.
Those two wins, though, came over cellar-dwellers TCU and Wyoming. If CSU is going to jump to the next level and join the MWC's upper tier, beating some of its inhabitants — UNLV, San Diego State, BYU and New Mexico — is a requirement.
"First and foremost, you don't belong until you deserve it," Miles said. "When we start beating those teams on a regular basis, we'll belong. Our guys want to believe that they do belong in that group, but it's a bottom line business.
"Our guys were completely disappointed after the New Mexico game last week. They'd chipped away, chipped away, then Phil McDonald Hit a three and it hurt us. I think our guys believe that they want to do it. But doing it and wishing and hoping for it are two completely different things."
The loss Miles is referring to was a 68-61 setback in Albuquerque last Wednesday, when CSU overcame a — surprise, surprise — double-digit deficit and got to the brink of knocking off the Lobos in one of the league's most intimidating venues.
The key, though, is that the Rams are getting closer. Winning a couple of those games this year could help bolster an already strong postseason résumé for a program that is far from a regular player come late March.
Last season, in eight games against the four MWC teams that made the NCAA tourney, Colorado State was 0-8, suffering from an average margin of defeat of 18.8 points.
Mixed in there were a couple of lopsided blowouts, including a 70-39 waxing in their annual visit to face UNLV at the Mack.
"It was such a traumatic experience that I put it back there where I can't find it," Miles said with a chuckle. "I have no recollection of it as far as I know. That was an M.O. for our team last year was that if you punched us hard enough (early), we were stunned and didn't know what to do about it."
That was exactly how UNLV did it to Colorado State on that February evening, jumping out to an 18-2 lead within minutes and never looking back.
The Rams have shown better resolve against early deficits with mostly the same personnel from a year ago.
Senior forwards Andy Ogide and Travis Franklin are combining to average 29.5 points and 12.3 rebounds a game, while the backcourt is still led by senior gunner Adam Nigon and sophomore point Dorian Green.
Nigon is shooting 49.2 percent from 3-point range, while Green has become a much more efficient scorer. His scoring average is down about three points per game from last year, but he's bumped his field goal percentage from 35.7 to 44.8.
The Rams have also benefited from the addition of Iowa State transfer Wes Eikmeier. The 6-foot-3 sophomore wing is averaging 9.6 points per game, starting all 17 games.
Though it's become the trend in almost all of his team's games, Miles knows the dangers of falling behind to UNLV all to well.
While he said he'd buried any memory of last year's debacle, he did pull out the game tape this week and showed his team roughly 20 plays from it. He said that during each of the clips, the scoreboard was visible, uncovering the wound from one of CSU's poorest performances of the 2009-10 campaign.
"For our guys, that was an embarrassment," Miles said. "I told them, 'If you want respect, you earn respect, so let's just get prepared. There's a way to win every game, so let's find a way to win this game.'"
Willis a game-time decision for UNLV
For the fourth consecutive practice, UNLV senior guard Tre'Von Willis sat out with a sore right knee on Tuesday afternoon.
Willis could also miss his second straight game, as Rebels coach Lon Kruger labeled his status as a game-time decision on Tuesday afternoon.
Whether Willis plays or not, Kruger said that sophomore Anthony Marshall will again start in his place. Marshall scored 12 points on 5-of-10 shooting Saturday at Air Force despite playing limited minutes due to foul trouble.
Marshall is the Rebels' hottest, most consistent offensive threat of late, averaging 15 points per game in league play and shooting 59.5 percent from the floor.