Published Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 | 6:20 p.m.
Updated Saturday, Dec. 5, 2009 | 9:11 p.m.
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Ryan Greene is joined for a special edition of The Rebel Room by Tom Keegan, who is the sports editor of the Journal-World in Lawrence, Kan. Why, you may ask? Well, Tom in his AP poll last weekend voted UNLV at No. 11, which was the highest nod the Rebels got following their victory over Louisville to improve to 5-0. Keegan explains why he voted UNLV so high, plus offers some insight into another program he knows well in Kansas State, who visits the Orleans Arena for a showdown with Lon Kruger's club next Saturday.
Final, UNLV wins 66-63
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Thanks to a late defensive stop, No. 24 UNLV escaped on the road for the second time in four days, outlasting Santa Clara, 66-63.
The reason it came down to the game's final possession, however, was again Tre'Von Willis, who for the second consecutive outing carried the Rebels after halftime.
Following a scoreless first half in which he picked up two fouls — one a hold seven seconds into the game, the other a questionable blocking foul — he scored all 14 of his points after the intermission. Willis also had five assists, no turnovers and two steals in the effort, improving UNLV to 7-0 on the season.
The Rebels trailed by 10 points early in the second half, 43-33, when Santa Clara's Marc Trasolini was called for a technical foul after he executed a pull-up on the rim following a slam dunk. UNLV answered with a 10-0 run to tie the game at 43-43, and from there simply outmuscled the Broncos, who were without leading scorer Kevin Foster. Foster was in street clothes with a broken right foot.
UNLV now has six days without game action before taking on Kansas State at the Orleans Arena next Saturday. Kansas State, of course, is where Rebels coach Lon Kruger both played his college ball and later served on the bench as both an assistant and head coach. On his staff, assistants Greg Grensing and Steve Henson also have deep ties to K-State, and director of basketball operations Mike Shephard is a K-State grad.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, photos, stats and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:40, second half, UNLV leads 59-58
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It continues to be the Tre'Von Willis show here in the second half, as he recently ended another UNLV offensive drought with a 3-pointer, putting the Rebels up 59-58 in what is suddenly a noisy road atmosphere.
With 3:40 to go, Santa Clara won't go quietly into the night.
The loose balls and cheap fouls have piled up in the second half, but Willis is truly a calming influence. He has scored all 14 of his points in the second half and has five assists to go with no turnovers.
Santa Clara is now in the bonus, which isn't as scary as it was in the first half, as the Broncos are 1-of-4 from the line in the second half.
7:44, second half, UNLV leads 54-53
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — For the second game in a row, it's the Tre'Von Willis Second Half Show.
The junior guard has 11 of UNLV's 23 points since the break, and the Rebels have found new life with him at the helm on the offensive end rather than on the bench with foul issues.
His most recent contribution was a nice inside dish to Darris Santee, who in turn scored his first two points of the game after Willis wrapped the pass around two defenders.
The Rebels are 9-of-18 from the floor in the second half, while Santa Clara is 6-of-16. Willis, on the night, has four assists and no turnovers to go with his 11 points.
Sidenote: Just got a visit on press row from former Rebel René Rougeau. He said he'll be starting his run soon with the ABA's Clayton Showtime. Congrats go out to the former swingman.
15:41, second half, Santa Clara leads 43-41
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Marc Trasolini scored another huge bucket for Santa Clara, but this time hurt his team in the process.
The sophomore forward slammed home two points early in the second half, but did a complete pull-up on the rim, citing him for a technical foul. After that came an 8-0 run for the Rebels, which is still going into the second half's first full break.
As was the case on Wednesday night at Arizona, Tre'Von Willis has sparked the effort. After scoring no points and picking up two fouls in the first half, he has five so far after the break for UNLV. Oscar Bellfield also added a three, while Brice Massamba scored two off of a nice back-door feed from Chace Stanback.
Halftime, Santa Clara leads 39-31
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — UNLV was trying to hold for a last shot, hoping to trim their five-point deficit against Santa Clara before heading into the halftime locker room.
Instead, the Rebels find themselves trailing by eight at 39-31, thanks to an incredible 3-point play by forward Marc Trasolini.
Oscar Bellfield and Matt Shaw had some miscommunication coming off of a screen atop the key, and Trasolini stepped in to take a loose ball the other way. Spinning, he hit a layup and was fouled with :01.5 left on the clock.
It was only fitting that Santa Clara ended the first half at the free throw line, as the Broncos spent much of the game's first 20 minutes right there.
UNLV was in foul trouble most of the way, whistled for 15 fouls in the first half as opposed to six called against Santa Clara. The Broncos responded by going 15-of-19 from the free throw line.
Here are some other numbers of note from the first half...
— UNLV has no one in serious foul trouble, but Tre'Von Willis, Chace Stanback, Oscar Bellfield, Darris Santee and Steve Jones have two apiece.
— UNLV is 4-of-12 from 3-point range. Santa Clara is 4-of-9.
— Oscar Bellfield leads UNLV with 10 points on 4-of-7 shooting. The rest of the team is a combined 8-of-23.
— Trasolini is carrying the offensive load for Santa Clara, who is without leading scorer Kevin Foster due to a broken foot. Trasolini has 11 points, while freshman guard Robert Smith has nine. Trasolini and Robert Smith are a combined 10-of-11 at the line.
— UNLV is being badly outrebounded, 24-11. Santa Clara has nine offensive boards.
7:28, first half, Santa Clara leads 22-20
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Derrick Jasper hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to end an offensive drought of sorts for UNLV, as the entire first half so far has been frustrating for the Rebels on that end of the floor.
The shooting percentage hasn't been terrible, but the finding of open looks has been the issue.
Meanwhile, Santa Clara has used the free throw line to its advantage, as the Broncos are in the double bonus the rest of the way until halftime. UNLV's been forced to use a ton of different lineups in hopes of avoiding foul trouble. So far, Darris Santee and Tre'Von Willis have two apiece.
11:28, first half, Santa Clara leads 15-14
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — UNLV is struggling to find some solid ground on offense, as Santa Clara is playing a brand of defense every bit as sticky as what the Rebels saw at Arizona on Wednesday.
To make matters worse for Lon Kruger's club, the fouls are beginning to pile up rapidly, as the Broncos are in the bonus with 11:28 to go in the first half.
The latest foul was a blocking call on Tre'Von Willis, which was a toss-up. Willis didn't agree, as he shot up off the ground, walked away from the action and vented his frustration all on his own with some words under his breathe.
Santa Clara is in good position to build a lead with the early bonus, too. So far, the Broncos are 5-of-6 from the line.
Meanwhile, UNLV is having trouble attacking the rim, which Kruger has stressed plenty of late.
15:46, first half, Santa Clara leads 9-8
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The Broncos, in a late note, are without leading scorer Kevin Foster (19.8 ppg), who recently suffered a broken foot.
However, Santa Clara has found a way to make up for the sophomore guard's absence early on, and that's by crashing the offensive glass.
In building an early 9-8 edge on UNLV, Troy Payne has two buckets inside, but more important are his three offensive rebounds in just over four minutes of game play.
Oscar Bellfield has paced UNLV early on, scoring five points on two-of-two shooting, including a 3-pointer to open up the scoring for the Rebels.
UNLV has seen nothing but man defense so far, which could change as this one progresses.
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Well, this certainly isn't the McKale Center atmosphere that UNLV encountered on Wednesday night, where the No. 24 team in the land prevailed in double overtime, 74-72.
So far, there are honestly just as many Rebels fans in the building as their are Bronco backers. Then again, there are only about 100 spectators in here as we're roughly 40 minutes from top time here at the Leavey Center.
It's a quiet night here on campus, which is one that pops up out of nowhere in suburban San Jose/San Francisco. On my walk from the parking garage to the arena, I couldn't help but notice that the rec center next door was packed. That leads me to believe that the student turnout tonight will be minimal, too.
So what does this all mean?
Well, several players after Wednesday's win talked about how the venom coming from the stands in Tucson gave them something to feed off of. Tonight, the Rebels will more than likely have to provide their own motivation.
If you go by what Lon Kruger said over the past few days, it shouldn't be an issue. He said that, despite overall poor shooting, one thing fueling UNLV's 6-0 start this season is the fact that his players have a mutual desire to continually improve. That, of course, has been a byproduct of the lack of ego on this team.
Well, tonight we see how strong that desire is, playing against a struggling program in a rather empty arena, with six days free on the horizon before the Rebels' next game.
Key to tonight's game
Who can hit the three more efficiently? Both teams are relying on it a ton, maybe even a bit too much. On each side, roughly 35 percent of all shot attempts have come from long range. UNLV is hitting at a 25.2 percent clip, and Santa Clara at 30.8. If one team gets hot early on from deep, that could mean all of the difference.
Going with UNLV, 80-66.
Pick to click
It's going to be junior guard Derrick Jasper. He has had two solid, well-rounded performances back-to-back against Louisville and Arizona, combining for 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists in UNLV's crucial five-day stretch. This is the kind of game he can thrive in, too, as UNLV could be seeing a decent amount of 3-2 zone from the Broncos. Few can manipulate a zone on this roster better than Jasper. He's starting to show flashes of just how good he will ultimately be, and this game is just another step in that process.
Be back shortly after tip-off.