Notebook: Willis pushes on despite ankle turn

Junior guard says back pain is no big issue


Justin M. Bowen

Tre’Von Willis turns the corner on Steve Panos during the UNLV-Weber St. game Thursday night. UNLV came out on top, 72-63.

Weber State vs UNLV

Matt Shaw's four 3-pointers in a 16-point performance lead the Rebels to a 72-63 win over Weber State on Thursday night.

UNLV-Weber State Basketball

UNLV forward Darris Santee looks to score against Weber State's Trevor Morris during the game Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV came out on top, 72-63. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

WEBER STATE POSTGAME: A smooth capper to a busy day at UNLV

Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's 72-63 victory over Weber State, which may have been the Rebels' overall smoothest showing so far in a 9-1 start to the season. Plus, the guys take a look at the positives which come from the school's Thursday hiring of Jim Livengood as its new athletic director.

For the second consecutive game, UNLV's leading scorer — junior guard Tre'Von Willis — came off of the bench in an effort to reduce stress on some mild back pain.

Now he has another physical woe to nurse.

After making a sensational block in transition late in the first half of UNLV's 72-63 victory over Weber State on Thursday, Willis landed on an opponent's foot, turning his left ankle.

"The back feels good," he said. "I don't know if you can get accustomed to ankle injuries, but I'm feeling fine. I've just got to stay healthy. My teammates picked me up today, had a good game and we got a win."

Willis had a decent limp to him as he exited the UNLV locker room.

The Fresno, Calif., native scored nine points — only his second outing this season without scoring in double digits — four rebounds, two assists and steals in 23 minutes.

The ankle apparently shouldn't be an issue moving forward, especially considering that he played 11 second half minutes after turning it.

Oooooh, that smell

UNLV played its first game in the Thomas & Mack Center in 19 days.

It had been that long since the Rebels knocked off then-No. 16 Louisville, 76-71, on Nov. 28. After that contest, the team made way for the National Finals Rodeo to take over the facility.

In its wake, the NFR left a hint of an aroma from the show, but nothing too pungent.

"It feels good," junior forward Matt Shaw of being back on the home floor. "It still smells a little like horses, or whatever was in here, but it feels good to be with our crowd. I love it here."

Saturday's game against Kansas State — a 95-80 loss at the Orleans Arena — was played just a couple of miles down the road, but still didn't have the feel of a true home game that the Rebels get at the Mack.

After Saturday's 7 p.m. contest against South Carolina Upstate comes another long layoff from action at home.

It will be 25 days before the Rebels host San Diego State in their home Mountain West Conference opener Jan. 13.

Career highs abound

Shaw's 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting wasn't the lone single game career best set by a UNLV player Thursday.

Derrick Jasper set a new personal best with 12 rebounds — 11 of them coming on the defensive glass. His previous high was 10, last achieved on Jan. 19, 2008 against Florida when he still was playing at Kentucky.

Chace Stanback set a career high with four blocked shots, trumping his previous mark of two, while Oscar Bellfield's eight assists tied his previous high.

Tighter rotation beginning to take shape?

It's no surprise that minutes can have a tendency to fluctuate from game to game for players in Lon Kruger's deep rotation.

However, as the non-conference season draws near its conclusion, some trends are beginning to appear.

Freshman guard Justin Hawkins was scoreless in a nine-minute run Thursday. He still is proving to be a nice piece on the defensive end of the floor, but after averaging 17.6 minutes per game in UNLV's first five contests of the season, he's playing five minutes per game in the team's last five games.

Of his 41 points this season, only two have come in those last five outings.

As for sophomore forward Brice Massamba, he played a season-low six minutes Thursday, but still provided plenty of energy with hustle in the rebounding department and a huge putback slam off of a Bellfield miss.

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  1. "It still smells a little like horses, or whatever was in here..."