Small shoes and all, Wallace helps bury Falcons

Sophomore nets 15 in career-high 27 minutes after forgetting his kicks in Las Vegas

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UNLV guard Wink Adams drives between Air Force forward Matt Holland, left, and Air Force guard Brandon Provost in the first half Saturday.

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UNLV forward Joe Darger scores on a 3-point shot over Air Force guards Taylor Stewart and Shawn Hempsey with UNLV guard Rene Rougeau looking on in the first half.

The Rebel Room

AIR FORCE POSTGAME: A short and sweet blowout

Ryan Greene and Rob Miech, fresh off of their whirlwind trip back from Colorado Springs, talk about UNLV's 59-38 triumph over Air Force on Saturday afternoon. The ever-evolving Rebels were paced by the zone-busting 3-point shooting of Joe Darger and Kendall Wallace, while Tre'Von Willis used their marksmanship to help build his way to 11 assists. Plus, the guys take a quick look ahead at Tuesday's home date with San Diego State.

Box score

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- A hundred bucks for a pair of used basketball shoes.

Sounds ludicrous, right?

Well, UNLV sophomore Kendall Wallace is going to try and barter with teammate and pal Scotty Hoffman, but shelling out the c-note and meeting Hoffman's monetary demand might not be an awful idea.

See, while the team was at the Colorado Springs Marriott, preparing to head to Clune Arena for Saturday's showdown with Air Force -- one in which UNLV triumphed, 59-38 -- Wallace realized he'd left his black Nikes back in Las Vegas.

He was forced to borrow the pair of gray and white Nikes Hoffman had on his feet, even though they weren't his size.

No choice. Wallace mashed the toes on his size 13 1/2 feet into a pair of size 12 shoes.

"Those were Scott's shoes that he wore outside and everything, so I had to clean them up right before the game," Wallace joked. "I told Scott if I played well I'm gonna buy them from him. He wants a hundred for 'em."

It wasn't just the fact that Wallace's light-colored kicks contrasted the black ones worn by the rest of his teammates that made him stand out.

His 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting while playing a career-high 27 minutes were integral in busting Air Force's zone defense and helping UNLV turn it into a laugher late in the second half.

"I think it was that zone," Wallace said of the Falcons' 2-3 approach. "My eyes light up whenever another team is playing zone. My teammates were really looking for me."

Wallace's 3-point connections all afternoon seemed to come either right before or right after senior teammate Joe Darger hit his.

When Matt Holland gave Air Force its only lead of the game at 13-12 in the first half, Darger and Wallace hit back-to-back trifectas to push the Rebels ahead by five.

Wallace's third and fourth hits from long range came during a 17-7 UNLV run to start the second half, which turned a 10-point halftime lead into 20 at 46-26.

His final swish was on the heels of a stagnant few minutes from the UNLV offense with mostly reserves on the floor, putting the Rebels ahead, 50-33, with 6:32 to play. It sucked the last bit of air out of the Falcons faithful and put to rest any hopes of a frantic, late-game comeback.

"Against Air Force, with their matching and zoning, I thought a shooter on the floor was very helpful for us," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said.

Kruger's stressing having a shooter on the floor was even more obvious when he had Wallace start the second half on the floor in place of junior center Darris Santee.

Santee and his backup, freshman Brice Massamba, played only 13 combined minutes as Kruger went small for much of the afternoon. It was the perfect counter-attack to Air Force's milking of the play clock on seemingly each offensive possession.

"I think we were real patient offensively," Wallace said. "We didn't take too many tough shots. We just kept moving the ball around. We like to be aggressive, but we knew that they were going to slow it down, so we knew that we needed to get some good shots."

In total, 30 of UNLV's 48 shot attempts wound up coming from beyond the 3-point arc.

Wallace also played a key role in building sophomore teammate Tre'Von Willis' impressive assist total. Willis took a back seat in the scoring column, and instead finished with a career-high 11 assists, which made him the first Rebel this season to notch double-digit dimes in a game.

He assisted four of Wallace's five 3-pointers.

And Willis will have every reason to keep going to Wallace for the time being, as he's 14-of-24 from 3-point range in his last six games.

"He did what he had to do to get open shots," Willis said. "A couple of times he moved for me because I penetrated and drew his man, but it probably wouldn't have been an open shot if he stood right there. So he slid to a spot where he could catch it and shoot it, and he was stroking that thing tonight."

In the end, though, Wallace took just as much satisfaction from watching Hoffman bury a 3-ball for UNLV's final points of the afternoon as he did from cashing any of his own.

Air Force called a late timeout following Hoffman's hit from the corner just in front of the UNLV bench. As Hoffman approached the huddle, Wallace shot out in front of everyone with an ear-to-ear grin waiting for his buddy.

"I was pumped about it -- his first one in like two years, I think," Wallace said. "I was gonna give him a hard time if he had an open look and didn't take it."

It was indeed Hoffman's first 3-pointer since his second career appearance as a Rebel on Dec. 18, 2006, against Norfolk State.

But the real question is: Will it put Hoffman in a good enough mood to come down on the asking price for those Nikes?

"They're used," Wallace argued. "So I'm trying to get a better deal."

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  1. Wallace is huge. Coming off the bench, this guy can light up any arena.

    The Rebels are slowly forming a formidable offensive unit to go with our improving defensive prowess.

    When everything clicks for this team, the sky's the limit.