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Learn and win: No. 24 UNLV gutsy in 74-72 victory at Arizona

Wallace’s late hustle, Willis’s 25 points bump Rebels to 6-0


John Miller / AP

UNLV coach Lon Kruger, center, talks to his team during a during a second-half timeout against Arizona. UNLV won in double overtime, 74-72.

UNLV vs. Arizona

Arizona's Nic Wise (13) drives past the defense of the UNLV's Justin Hawkins (31) during the first half of Wednesday's game in Tucson. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

ARIZONA POSTGAME: Not a beauty contest

Ryan Greene breaks down the key points from UNLV's 74-72 squeaker in double overtime on Wednesday night at Arizona, led by Tre'Von Willis's 25 points and late-game gusto. Plus, a preview of Friday's Rebel Room podcast, featuring a special guest.

TUCSON, Ariz. — Lessons learned.

UNLV coach Lon Kruger said his No. 24 Rebels absorbed plenty of them, no matter the outcome for his squad on Wednesday night at the McKale Center in the team's first road test of the season.

But a dramatic, thrilling, stressful, sometimes ugly, yet ultimately pleasing 74-72 victory in double overtime over Arizona made for a nice bonus when all was said and done, improving UNLV to 6-0 for the first time since 1992.

"You just grow from those opportunities," Kruger said afterward. "When you're on the road, and you accomplish that, without many people here cheering for you, you tend to bind when that happens, and it's one of those you can't get anything out of practice that resembles that, so if you can do it in a game on the road, against a good team, you feel good about that.

"You just can't learn any more than we learned from tonight's game. And to do that and win, it's huge for us."

More than anything, the Rebels learned just how tough they really are in their first road test of the 2009-10 campaign — one which contained 21 lead changes and never saw either side go up by more than six.

In front of a noisy crowd of 13,485, junior guards Kendall Wallace and Tre'Von Willis left the most lasting impressions in a game which took a little bit from almost everyone on the roster to get the job done.

Wallace came up with two major defensive rebounds, a key steal and a 17-foot jumper which were all part of a 5-0 spurt which pulled UNLV even with Arizona (3-3) in the closing minutes of regulation after trailing 52-47.

Meanwhile, Willis provided the fireworks, finishing with a team-high 25 points. Of those, 23 came after halftime, including 11 of UNLV's 20 points scored in the two overtime periods combined. He did it in every way possible, be it short jumpers off the glass or stutter-step drives to the hoop after puzzling scores of Wildcat defenders.

"I got the mentality that whatever it takes for this team to get a win, I'll do it," Willis said afterward. "I was looking around in the game, we were hanging around, hanging around, in a tough environment, and I wanted to make some plays for my team. That's what it came down to. It was a total team effort. Everybody stepped up today at some point in the game and was huge for us. I'm just so proud of my guys right now."

Willis stepped up at just the right time for the Rebels, as a shaky first half performance by both sides saw Arizona on top by five at the half after controlling the game's pace through 20 minutes. Instead of establishing their own flow, the young Wildcats made a point of disrupting UNLV's by equaling the signature defensive intensity of Kruger's club.

The effort for the Cats was led by the squad's lone upperclassman — senior point guard Nic Wise.

"The first 10 or 15 minutes, he was killing us," Willis said. "He made a lot of plays, made some shots, got to the free throw line, drew some fouls on our guys. And we started just trapping him as soon as he came across half court, tried to get that little duck or pick. We just sent our big men at him and made him get the ball out of his hands."

The Rebels never found much offensive flow, and for the entire night had trouble stringing together made shots, but at the same time kept Arizona from doing so by handling Wise. Both teams shot below 40 percent from the floor, and neither club shot over 20 percent from 3-point range for the night.

An early 10-0 run in the second half turned it into an airtight, see-saw battle the rest of the way, and Wallace's late efforts in regulation proved to be the ultimate springboard for the Rebels heading into extra periods.

It came while playing in his home state, where he starred just up the interstate at Mountain View High in Mesa.

"It means a lot. I've been down here in this gym a few times. I've always wanted to play here," Wallace said while meeting with several family members who made the trip down. "I knew I had to come in and bring some energy if I was going to keep playing. I was glad I was able to come in there, make some plays, the team was able to capitalize and get this win."

Wallace remained on the floor for the entirety of both overtimes, as the Wildcats rarely had an open look from the floor after Wise's 3-point miss at the end of regulation, which could have ended the night a tad earlier had it sunk.

"Nic Wise probably got the best look you can get at the end of a game, and once he missed that, we knew we were fortunate and we were going to come out real aggressive, hold nothing back in the first overtime," Willis said.

No one was more aggressive on the offensive end than Willis, who made an example out of Arizona sophomore guard Brendon Lavender repeatedly with tough drives to the hole.

After Willis missed a leaner in traffic at the end of the first overtime which could have won the game, the Rebels' nonstop attacking finally caused Arizona's defense to have a momentary lapse with just over a minute left to play in the second OT.

It ended up costing Arizona the game.

That was when junior Derrick Jasper found space on the left wing and calmly cashed a wide open 3-pointer, giving the Rebels a 70-68 lead they would never relinquish.

"I was real surprised," he said. "I think there was a little bit of miscommunication on their part, and it left me wide open and I just drained it.

"It was real tough. I didn't expect a double-OT game coming in, but you never know what you're going to get playing college basketball. I'm tired. I want to go to sleep. I've got a lot of homework, too."

Jasper finished with a well-rounded stat line, pouring in 12 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Wallace, UNLV's other hero of the night, had eight points, five rebounds and a crucial steal while playing a season-high 26 minutes.

But he wound up in the shadows of Willis, who didn't have the all-around numbers but was firmly in command for UNLV when it mattered the most. That's something Jasper's seen before from Willis, who was a teammate of his long ago during their days playing summer prep ball in California.

"I've seen it many times," Jasper said. "That's how I knew he was gonna deliver for us. That's how I knew we should get him the ball.

"That's our guy. That's our big-shot player. Willis wants the ball in the clutch, and he's gonna deliver for us."

The time for UNLV to celebrate an exhausting victory is minimal, however.

After flying back late Wednesday night, the team heads out of town again on Friday afternoon for Saturday night's contest at Santa Clara, which is 4-3 early on.

In between, on Thursday, will come a humbling reminder — as always — from Kruger to his team that December success only means so much.

But it still means something.

"We like what we've done," Kruger said. "Again, it's early and, again, most importantly, I've said this over and over, we have to get a lot better. I think our guys understand that but, still, if you win and make progress and win and improve, you just can't learn any more than we learned from tonight's game. And to do that and win, it's huge for us."

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  1. It's great to win especially after shooting so poorly from the "3" Any body know the final stats for 3 point shooting and free throws?

  2. Ryan covers those stats in his other article "Notebook:......

  3. Rebels shot 39.7% from the field, 18.5% from the 3 and 71.4% from the line. This was a very poorly officiated game as we had 26 personal fouls to arizona with only 17 personal fouls. i counted at least 4 times we got called for blocking even though our guys had their feet set and it was a CLEAR charge which in just those calls made it at least an 8 point swing. Its good to see the rebels grind this one out even with it being a 5 on 6 game(ref was def. the 6th man for arizona last night!!!). I had my buddy who loves arizona over to watch the game and he couldnt even believe how blatantly one sided the refs were. But despite all the B.S. we pulled this one out. Tre stepped up when it counted and he really played a good game. I love my Rebels!!!

  4. I look at it like this. Arizona played their hearts out and wanted that game BAD it was a matter of two wills and crucial execution in crunch time in which Willis imposed his will and got us the "W". Inspite of the poor shooting we were still able to win in a very hostile environment against a team playing inspired defense that ought to show us all how good this team really is, most teams would have folded and fell apart. Arizona is very talented athletically and IMO will win the PAC-10 when it is all said and done. I will say it again this UNLV team is their own ceiling, now let's get out there and win this next game. Santa Clara is no easy place to play. They don't play in arena's but in gymnasiums with about 5,000 - 7,000 screaming, immature college students sitting right on the floor about 2 feet out of bounds and in your ear the whole game. It is more like a high school state championship game so if they have that focus they will be just fine!

  5. Alright Rebs....good job! Let's keep it up and act like we belong in the Top 25. Keep the attitude that we are better than everyone else.


  6. UNLV will not go gentle into that good night, Rage against the ding of the light! That about summed it up, they fought really hard. Great game in a hostile crowd (by the way, they had 13k and change, and people say the Mack doesn't have similar attendance?)

    WHen I saw the stat sheet with Wallace 5 reb, I said it must be a misprint, and Wilis with almost all the points in the 2nd half (more like 2nd and 3rd period like hockey with the overtimes).

    Santa Clara, here we come!

  7. Glad to see a win despite the poor officiating. Nic Wise definitely likes to play with his hands with and without the ball. Also seems like the stripes never heard of a traveling call.

    When the 3's aren't dropping we've got to attack the rim. I don't think we got Santee the ball enough. Everytime he set a pick, he was slashing to the rim. He looked real hungry, we should feed him.

  8. The poor shooting from 3 does concern me. Agreed that we need to continue to attack and slash. The one thing about Kruger's offense that scares me is it is just about all pick and roll or pick and pop. Problem is when you get a good quick defensive team like Arizona they hedge well and we end up standing, then having to have a guard go one on one with the shot clock winding down. We end up forcing or taking contested shots. Very similar to some of the offensive outages we had last year. We do have a few more weapons but this still concerns me a great deal. We definitely need to feed the post more and see what they can do with it. They might surprise us. If either Brice, Darris or Matt can be even a little bit of a threat that takes a big load off of our guards. Play a little inside out and get some cuts to the rim. Open looks will be much more available. Hope the offense continues to improve. Great win. Those are the games we lost last year. Runnin' Rebels!

  9. Good game...questionable officiating...but we'll take the win!

  10. That is a game the rebs would have lost in years past. What a game! I could not believe how many 3's they threw up. This team should not shoot the 3. They don't need to shoot it to win, like teams in the past. They are good at setting screens and taking it to the hole. Oscar Bellfield
    was still shooting the 3 in his sleep! His wrist must hurt. Great game, but please don't make the 3 the only part of you O. Great posting of the guards in the second half to take advantage of the their size. One more thing: FREE throws!

  11. i agree about the poor officiating.. but they werent calling charges EITHER way. so the good guys need to recognize that and quit trying to take charges. also agree that when things break down on the first part of the play.. everyone looks for the 3 to bail them out EXCEPT jasper. He gets it, put the ball on your hip and drive to the lane. Not sure what we do about free throws, they will either stay after and practice them or they wont. great game, so fun.. except for the 6 or 7 heart attacks. :)

  12. Good for the rebels!!

  13. I figured a lot of people would want to talk officiating. Was it a bit inconsistent? Yeah, can't disagree. It was at least that way on both sides. I think UNLV deserves a lot of credit for not losing its cool with that thrown into the mix on top of a hostile crowd. I know it may not have sounded like it, but my seat was right next to the Rebels bench, and those people right behind me were vicious!

  14. Free throws and 3 point shooting have nothing to do with practicing them more they are about mental focus come game time and during the game. When you are truly game focused or in the "zone" on the court you don't even hear the crowd at all it is like playing in your back yard, that is when you will become a killer on the court. There will be games this year they drain 3's all night and we will all forget about this discussion.

  15. I think it has been very exciting to see this team improve each game. Even though they didn't shoot very well, they kept their composure down the stretch and pulled out a win. Especially for the first road game. I thought the defense on Wise was fabulous. He was so tired he couldn't even jump for that last shot. Jasper is coming into his own, he is going to be as good as advertised. I would say Chace has shown spots of his potential, and he will be pretty darn good by mid season.

  16. I like Chop, but this team would be much better off getting Hawkins and Marshall on the floor. There's a huge difference in the talent level. Chop is not a threat to score at all, he didn't even look at the basket. I understand the tangibles, but an 11 man rotation is spreading the minutes thin.

  17. I know we threw up plenty of threes, but so did the Cats. Fortunately, they didn't make much either. This win was big and shows A LOT about this team. Hopefully they can keep up this level of intensity regardless who they play.

    Too bad the game at Santa Clara isn't televised. Radio will have to do =( Any news on the game @ the Orleans vs K-State next week? No TV either huh?

  18. Officiating is going to go both ways all year long. As a player you have 40 minutes to execute and make more plays then the other team and if you do that you will win the game. Real ballers will never use the ref's as an excuse for losing because you know it is up to you to make shots and play suffocating defense during the game. Both teams during a game will have more then enough opportunities to make plays and take the game away from the ref's. As a player it is your job to decide the game not the whistle. Big props to Willis for showing killer instinct and imposing his will on all of Tucson!!

  19. and to think Willis is the only transfer that wasn't ranked out of HS....these ppl who do the rankings for the HS kids need to step their game up!!

  20. Santa Clara not televised...damn, I'm going out and buying a radio then...Cause forget about play-by-play.

  21. @11, good point to bring up when nay-sayers always look at the number of "stars" a player has next to his name, or how a recruiting point system works...

    I'll take a smart, hard worker with hustle and stamina over a Beas Hamga.

  22. It probably shaved about a year off my life last night listening to this game. What a great job by the Rebels coming into one of the more hostile arenas in the country and coming away with a "W" in double overtime.

    Coach Kruger did a great job of riding the hot hands, especially keeping Willis, Jasper, and Kendall on the court without substitutions throughout both overtime periods. Lon has been downright psychic in the intuitive way he's brought the right players in at the right time during games this season.

    Again, good things happen for this team when they penetrate. We seem to get into trouble when we start launching three's with little or no ball movement.

    I also agree that the officiating was porous at best. Thankfully, bad calls and no calls seemed to go both ways last night.

    I was mentally prepping myself yesterday for a loss. I figured since it was our first road game, we're a young club (many of whom hadn't even traveled with the team last year), and going into a tough environment, this one could have easily gotten away from us. It's ok, I thought. 5-1 isn't a bad start.

    Well, how about this? The No. 24th ranked UNLV Rebels are 6-0, and showing the college basketball world that we're for real. Great game, Lon and Co. I couldn't be more proud, even if I'm going grey in the process.

    Good luck Saturday versus Santa Clara, Rebs! I'm pulling for you.

  23. If you want to watch the Santa Clara game you can go to their website. You can get a feed from CBS College Sports. I did this to watch UNR vs UNLV football game this year and it cost me $5.00 and the feed was decent.Link below

  24. Like most, I thought the officiating was awful last night, but at least it was pretty bad in both directions. I'm thinking that getting called for more fouls is just going to be part of what happens all year, seeing as the foul counts were pretty lopsided even in the home games (I still think the refs at the UNR games were wearing shirts with dark blue, not black, stripes). Still there were some blocks called that were CLEARLY charges that were ridiculous.
    I think one issue the team is having is realizing that they actually have an inside game. For some many years we lived-and-died by the 3, so they are still learning how to play using the inside game. Having our guards post them up at the end last night was brilliant. We need more posting up and drives to the hole than 3s at this point.
    I was very impressed with the defensive effort Arizona put up last night. We never really established an offensive rhythm all night. I think as the season goes on, this win is going to look better and better because Arizona has tons of potential! Wise is a stud and that freshman center guy was a beast!
    Kruger did a great job playing the right people at the right time. Right about the time I started yelling at the TV wondering why Wallace was still in the game, he started making huge play after huge play. I'm now on my way out to get a Wallace jersey :-). I'd like to see Hawkins and Marshall get more time and I haven't been terribly impressed with Chop, but its been a while for him so I'll reserve judgment.
    I have to mention the ridiculous announcers for the game last night too! They are some of the worst Homers I have ever heard on TV. It reminded me of watching my A's play the Angels on FSW. I especially like how they blasted our players for "jacking up bad three's" early in the shot clock, but Nic Wise does the same thing and they say "that's a senior privilege, if he's feeling it, he gets to let it go." I understand slanting a bit toward the home team on that network but that was ridiculous!
    So now we are 6-0 and have 2 very winnable games coming up next. Hopefully when we keep winning, we'll actually get more respect. What's the best thing about being 6-0? The chance to go 7-0. Go Rebs!

  25. I'll be at the game saturday. Live in Bay Area- been looking forward to this for a year. A bunch of my high school friends went to Santa Clara-I think they will be impressed by this Rebel squad. Reminds me of the old days when we would go to see Tark's boys destroy San Jose St.

  26. Represent us well, Rose.

  27. I think Chop's time will decrease as the season goes on. I am sure Lon wanted to ease the Freshmen in for a hostile road game. Chop has played road games in the Pac-10.

  28. Fellas,

    In my opinion - and I'd love to know your thoughts on this one - that was a game last night where I think offensive statistics were so bad on both sides, and then you throw in the officiating, and I think it's almost unfair to judge anything about that game based on the numbers.

    The fact is that UNLV answered the bell several times when Arizona put them against the wall, especially down 5 late in the second half.

    We already know what the talent level is like on this roster, we know they're not going to shoot like that every night.

    More than anything, it was a valuable win. I'm sure Kendall Wallace's confidence got a boost. I'm sure Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins got their road butterflies out of the way.

    I wouldn't put too much stock into Chace's fade in the second half and Massamba's off night.

    Teams with depth just look different than teams that rely on three guys. Every night, it's someone else coming up big. I think we'll see that trend continue.

  29. I watched the game on T.V. did the commentators seem biased for Arizona or what?

  30. To me, the fouls seemed to see-saw in both directions; a bunch on UNLV, then a bunch on Arizona, then a bunch on UNLV. Overall, i think we can agree the officiating was terrible.

    The Rebels need to drive first and shoot the three second (or even third). When you are shooting under 20% from the arc you gotta make it happen some other way. Brice is starting to make a major impact in the paint, we need to use him more. We could have sealed that game in the first over-time if we had gone up by four on the second to last possession. We still live and die by the three as evidenced by Jasper's last three of the game. Had we missed that, we would have been going to a third OT or even lost. But if your wide open like that you gotta shoot it.

    As far as the commentators go, they were a joke. But it was a PAC-10 channel, with Arizona Wildcats posted on the score ticker the entire game. So, the biased opinions should be expected. I was really dissapointed by the halftime show, not a lot of stats or discussion just a bunch of crap about the wildcats "behind the scenes" (borrring).

    Go Rebels! Beat Santa Clara!

  31. Might be able to find the Santa Clara game on

  32. Fox Sports Arizona produced the game. The commentators are biased because the channel's main market is Tucson and Phoenix. The same two guys call every Arizona game on that channel which is normally for Arizona fans.

  33. 1st: The officiating was abysmal at best, and one sided. AZ fans will argue this, but UNLV was in 2x bonus EARLY and had 27 PF. 27!! AZ had 19, and many came very late for strategy purposes.

    2nd: Plays that work are the ones that drive to the basket. Good things happen when we get close. Albeit it tires our guys out, but we have the depth to do so. Plays like willis charges to the basket, gets double-teamed, dishes off to massamba or santee for the score (look at Massamba's FG%).

    3rd: If we absolutely can't make it deep in a drive, Wallace and Marshall are our 3-pt shooters. Get them in the game, like above, Willis drive, and once double-teamed, dish out to the 3-pt shooters.

    Ryan: The big time players coming up big, consistantly, I think are going to be Willis, Bellfield, Jasper from judging the way they have played so far.

    Great combo late game (IMO):


  34. I thought the officiating was bas in both directions, we definitely got a few calls (over and back . . .).
    After last nights performance I think we need an official name change it should be Scar Bellfield, because the "O" that he tried to show last night was offensive. I was screaming at my TV last night when he kept throwing up those quick shots, he wasn't playing in the rhythm of the offense at all. (I know he has ability and big moments for us, last night just rubbed me the wrong way)

    Take the win guys, learn from it and maybe try to box out a bit against Santa Clara???????

  35. Ryan: agreed on the stats. What a sloppy, hard fought game. Both teams played defense well enough to throw the other teams offense out of sync. Neither team was able to capitalize on open looks from the perimeter.

    One stat that does stick out in my opinion is the lack of assists which I think correlates with the number of missed 3-pointers. Guys were forcing threes and not working the ball around well enough to get better looks. That probably has to do with the D being played but also with a lack of patience on the road.

    Road games are tough in general and in an environment like that for the first big road test of the year you have to be proud of the fellas for winning a game in which they did not play their best. A Double OT win on the road in Zona will make those guys a lot more confident the next time they're in a tough spot.

  36. Good point, Plastic. I think that both teams defenses were mostly to blame for the bad offenses. Yeah, both teams missed some wide open threes and easy layups, but for the most part I thought almost everything was pretty well contested by both us and AZ, and almost nothing was given easily.

  37. If you plan to purchase the game from CBS Sports you will have to pay for a monthly access pass to the Santa Clara page which is $6.95 and cancel the service after the game.

    This is the cancellation page. If you also pay for the Rebels All Access pass make sure to specify which subscription you are canceling.

  38. I have no problem to paying 7 bucks to watch the game. Thanks for the information.

  39. Sofaking,

    I think you hit it right on the head. Personally, I think it's better to be a team without a go-to guy, but UNLV has three which share the duties, and I think that's a nice number. You're right in that Derrick, Oscar and Tre are the most capable of doing that, both mentally and physically.


    Agreed on the comparison of the assists and three tries. Read tomorrow's notebook, because Kruger was very interesting when talking about UNLV's long-range shooting moving forward this season ...

  40. The only useful thing you got out of those Fox-Arizona announcers was some history about how Kruger took a Pan American team into McKale Center and beat first year head coach Lute Olsen.

    Our man Kruger strikes again taking our Rebs into McKale and now beating first year coach Sean Miller.

    Go Kruger....Go Rebels....

  41. The rebs are getting some love in SI's power rankings: