Published Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 | 7:01 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2009 | 9:33 p.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech dive into the issue of Mike Sanford's firing from UNLV, plus what went down at his Monday press conference. Also, a look at a big week ahead for the Rebels hoops squad, as it hosts UNR and Southern Illinois.
UNLV vs. UNR
UNR Wolf Pack (1-0) at UNLV Rebels (1-0)
Where: Thomas and Mack Center
When: 7:30 p.m.
Coaches: Lon Kruger is 113-53 in six seasons at UNLV and 431-286 in 24 overall seasons; David Carter is 1-0 in his first season at UNR and overall.
Series: UNLV leads, 51-19
Line: Rebels by 5.5
Last time: The Rebels won, 64-57, in Reno on Dec. 6, 2008
TV/Radio: The Mtn/ESPN Radio 1100-AM
THE WOLF PACK
G Brandon Fields (6-4, 185) 14 ppg
G Armon Johnson (6-3, 195) 16 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg
F Luke Babbitt (6-9, 225) 26 ppg
F Dario Hunt (6-8, 230) 2 ppg, 7 rpg, 5 apg
C Joey Shaw (6-6, 210) 5 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg
Bench: G Ray Kraemer (6-4, 200) 10 ppg; Marko Cukic (6-9, 240) 2 ppg
What to watch: Attrition plagued the Pack when Mark Fox departed for Georgia, but the heart and soul of the team remained in the local product Babbitt. Johnson also hails from Reno, and they must be a dynamic duo for UNR to shine. It’s 3-6 in its last nine in Las Vegas.
G Tre’Von Willis (6-4, 195) 17 ppg, 4 apg, 3 rpg
G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 180) 1 ppg, 5 apg
G Derrick Jasper (6-6, 215) 6 ppg, 4 rpg
F Chace Stanback (6-8, 210) 6 ppg, 9 rpg
C Brice Massamba (6-10, 240) 9 ppg
Bench: G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 16 ppg; F Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 9 ppg, 6 rpg; G Justin Hawkins (6-3, 190) 11 ppg; G Anthony Marshall (6-3, 200) 6 ppg, 3 apg; F Matt Shaw (6-8, 240) 2 ppg, 4 rpg; G Steve Jones (6-1, 220) 8 ppg, 3 rpg
What to watch: UNLV’s depth figures to give UNR some major problems this evening. Various players will get called on to defend Babbitt, but plenty of others will chip in to try to frustrate the star forward. If the Massamba-Santee connection produces another 18, the Rebels should win handily.
Final, UNLV wins 88-75
When UNLV trailed 54-42 early in the second half, the Thomas & Mack Center was darn-near silent. By the end of the night, it was frenzied.
That's what a 46-21 run can do for a home crowd.
Freshmen Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall joined senior walk-on Steve Jones in igniting the spurt, as what once looked like a disappointing night for the Rebels turned into an all-around enjoyable victory for those in attendance.
Hawkins scored 13 points, had five rebounds and four assists while Marshall had six points, five rebounds and three steals. Jones pitched in five quick points and forced a key turnover. From there, sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield and the starters mopped up what was left of it. Bellfield scored 22 for UNLV, while Chace Stanback chipped in nine and both Derrick Jasper and Brice Massamba scored eight apiece.
For UNR, senior guard Brandon Fields cooled after a blistering first-half showing, but finished with a team-high 22 points. Sophomore star Luke Babbitt scored 14 points and had 10 rebounds for the Wolf Pack, but for the second straight season, couldn't shoot very well against the in-state rival. He was just 2-of-11 from the floor.
3:29, second half, UNLV leads 77-69
UNLV's ridiculous run continued, as Derrick Jasper, Chace Stanback and Matt Shaw all got into the act upon returning from their stint on the bench.
Shaw hit a nifty turn-around jumper inside and Derrick Jasper had a nice feed for another bucket as UNLV turned what once was a hotly-contested game into a laugher. Jasper got himself in on the scoring with a right-handed layup on the right side of the bucket. He switch the ball into his right hand in mid-air.
Then, Oscar Bellfield showed how well-rounded the effort truly became for UNLV by boxing out the taller Joey Shaw for a gritty defensive rebound.
Heading into a final timeout up 77-69, UNLV got there with a 35-12 run.
7:24, second half, UNLV leads 68-60
After Brandon Fields hit both of his free throws, Justin Hawkins spilled in a key layup on a tough drive, giving him nine points and keeping UNLV within a point of the Wolf Pack.
A key moment came on the other end moments later, though, as a foul on Jones put UNR in the bonus, and Luke Babbitt hit a pair from the line, giving him 12 on the night. UNR officially went into the bonus with 11:21 to play.
Darris Santee then punched back after having a shot inside blocked. He regrouped, grabbed the ball and drove in for an acrobatic two on the baseline.
UNLV went back on top for the first time in the second half with a Justin Hawkins layup after a great stutter step, 59-58. The freshmen are getting serious minutes, as Stanback, Jasper and willis have spent much of the second half resting.
Marshall then matched his fellow frosh with another driving layup to cap a 19-4 run, forcing UNR into a desperation timeout trailing 61-58 and the game quickly slipping from its grasp which was so strong moments ago.
Hawkins continued to build on his career-high with two more free throws, giving him 13 points, then Oscar Bellfield hit yet another leaner inside — reminiscent of his game-winner last season at Louisville. He has 22 points, the latest bucket extended the Rebels' lead to seven points at 65-58.
UNR called yet another timeout, and Armon Johnson ended the Wolf Pack drought with two off the glass. But that glimmer didn't last very long, as Kendall Wallace was the latest of the bench brigade to help out, hitting a three from the left corner, putting UNLV up 68-60.
11:49, second half, UNR leads 54-53
Something sparked for the Rebels, as an 8-0 run came in the quickest of fashions, sparked by a Steve Jones layup fresh off of the bench.
Then, a pair of buckets was capped with a Justin Hawkins tough two inside. After UNR was called for an offensive foul, Justin Hawkins hit an outside jumper. UNR lost the ball out of bounds along the edge, and Steve Jones then cemented his legend for the night with a three-pointer atop the key to pull UNLV within a point with one of the quickest 11-0 runs known to man.
Brandon Fields drew a foul inside to send the game to another T.V. timeout, but not before the crowd at the Mack was completely re-energized with 11:49 to play.
14:36, second half, UNR leads 54-42
Brice Massamba opened up the second half scoring with a pair of free throws after drawing good contact inside. But UNR, as it did several times in the first half, one-upped UNLV with a Brandon Fields three-pointer, giving the senior 15 points.
Oscar Bellfield, though, continued to be the Rebels' most active offensive asset, as an off-balance layup cut UNLV's deficit back to four points. He then added to it after a UNR timeout with a runner while drawing contact. His free throw got the crowd going, but then Fields matched it with an and-one bucket of his own on the baseline. Babbitt then put in two more charities in for the Wolf Pack, making their lead a bit more comfortable again at 46-40, quickly killing the crowd noise again in the process.
Bellfield continued to be the pulse for UNLV, attacking the rim again and again drawing contact. Two more free throws gave him 18 points. Babbitt made two more free throws, as the refs are again whistle-happy. Between the two teams, there were seven foul calls in the second half's first three minutes.
Brandon Fields' career night continued with another bank shot from inside, giving him a game-high 20 points in extending UNR's lead to eight points once again.
Babbitt and Armon Johnson then spilled in a bucket apiece, and the Mack fell pretty silent, as Lon Kruger was forced to call a timeout to slow the bleeding with UNLV trailing 54-42.
Halftime, UNR leads 38-33
UNLV came out of the first half's last T.V. timeout with a good inbounds play, setting Oscar Bellfield up for an open layup to give him seven points. Armon Johnson came back down aggressively and drew the 10th foul on UNLV, putting UNR in the double bonus. He hit both charities, giving him eight points and pushing the UNR lead back up to 10.
Bellfield answered with a pair of free throws of his own, and UNLV then tried to apply some full-court pressure for a bit. Then, after UNR went a trip without points, Anthony Marshall made a great feed from the inside out to Bellfield, who casually swished a 17-footer, giving him a team-high 11 points to his credit. It pulled UNLV to within five at 34-29.
After Joey Shaw hit two free throws, Derrick Jasper again swooped in for an emphatic two, this time drawing a foul to go with it. The free throw spilled out, however.
Brandon Fields made UNLV pay for not grabbing an extra bit of momentum with a step-back baseline jumper, giving him 12 points in the half.
UNR took a 20-second timeout for the stretch run, and both teams swapped scoreless possessions before UNLV called for a break of its own to set things up with :18.9 to go.
Anthony Marshall missed a three in the corner, but Chace Stanback tipped in a follow-up to end the half, pulling UNLV to within five points at 38-33.
Some key stats at the half ...
--UNLV was only 13-of-37 from the floor and looked out of sync for plenty of the first half. Plenty of that can be attributed to Tre'Von Willis only playing two minutes before picking up two fouls. He'll be key for the Rebels in the second stanza in terms of not only production, but also leadership.
--Oscar Bellfield leads UNLV with 11 points. Brandon Fields has 12 for UNR.
--UNR is 5-of-9 from three-point territory. UNLV is 1-of-7. Quite the difference-maker.
--Luke Babbitt got 16 minutes in before he picked up two fouls, scoring four points and grabbing seven rebounds. He was 1-of-5 from the floor. If he heats up, the comeback for UNLV won't be so easy.
--The unheralded key for UNR? Joey Shaw. Had eight points and seven boards in the first half, including back-to-back treys which provided major separation on the scoreboard.
Key to the second half in one sentence
It comes down to one thing: Who means more to their team, Tre'Von Willis or Luke Babbitt?
3:40, first half, UNR leads 3-2
Brice Massamba completed the old-fashioned three-point play, but Armon Johnson continued to give UNLV fits with his penetration, scoring his second bucket of the game.
Oscar Bellfield then swished a pair of free throws to again pull UNLV to within a bucket, but UNR continued to shoot the lights out from deep. Joey Shaw hit back-to-back threes to make it an eight-point game at 31-23.
Anthony Marshall nearly swung the momentum with one play on a dunk attempt underneath against 6-foot-9 Marko Cukic, but it rattled out. Johnson turned it into a bucket on the other end, putting UNR up by 10 points with 3:40 to go in the first half.
6:46, first half, UNR leads 23-21
While Dave Hall and his crew remain whistle-happy, UNLV continued to grind out its lead with solid offensive play. Jasper this time knifed inside and created a wide open layup for Chace Stanback.
UNR finally found ways to answer.
First, Luke Babbitt got to the free throw line for his first points of the night, then Brandon Fields scored on the baseline to make it a two-point game at 13-11.
The run for UNR continued with an Armon Johnson trey from the corner in front of the UNLV student section.
Oscar Bellfield re-claimed the lead for UNLV with a runnier in the lane, and then did so after a pair of Wolf Pack free throws with another soaring layup.
Free throws, however, will play a role for the rest of the first half, as UNLV has eight team fouls with nine minutes to play in the half.
UNR's Adam Carp tied it with a bonus free throw, and Bellfield was bailed out after a turnover under the Wolf Pack bucket when UNLV forced a tie-up on the other end.
Brandon Fields cashed in his first three after UNLV's Justin Hawkins missed one, but Chace Stanback responded with his second field goal on a nifty turn-around hook on the right block.
The shootout appeared then to be underway, finally, as UNR's Ray Kraemer hit UNR's third trifecta of the first half, putting them up 23-19. Brice Massamba then sliced it in half before the next T.V. timeout with an and-one bucket inside.
11:47, first half, UNLV leads 11-7
Darris Santee earned a trip to the line out of the first full timeout and hit one of two, but UNR continued to attack the paint on offense with its quick guards. Brandon Fields' first bucket of the game came on a driving layup, moving across the lane.
Justin Hawkins two possessions later gave the UNLV fans their first major opportunity to get up, as the freshman hit an up-and-under layup. It was an unexpected boost from a lineup lacking experience. It included Hawkins, Marshall, Darris Santee, Steve Jones and Oscar Bellfield.
Hawkins stepped up big yet again with a three-pointer atop the key on UNLV's next possession, giving the Rebels their first breathing room of the night at 11-7.
15:38, first half, game tied 5-5
The offensive play was sloppy for the game's first few possessions, but Derrick Jasper got the scoring started by doing what he's best at — gliding from coast to coast. He put away an early two by knifing through the Wolf Pack defense for a seemingly easy bucket.
Soon after, Tre'Von Willis was called for his second foul less than two minutes into the game. Freshman Anthony Marshall came in to take his place as Brandon Fields hit one of two free throws.
Chace Stanback tried to respond with an 18-foot jumper, but instead, Dario Hunt put UNR on top on the other end with a follow-up dunk off of a Luke Babbitt missed layup.
Stanback misfired again on a short turnaround jumper on the other end, but the UNLV defense came up with a huge swat from behind of a Brandon Fields layup in transition.
Brice Massamba then hit one of two charities on the other end, tying things up, 3-3.
After Dave Hall whistled yet another Rebels foul on the other end — remember him? — Anthony Marshall slipped in an easy deuce, but Babbitt followed quickly with his first points of the game, muscling for position inside.
Pregame, Part Deux
Tonight's 'lights, please' to kick off starter introductions was delivered by none other than Holly Madison. Made me smile, can't lie.
Starting for the Rebels tonight are Chace Stanback, Brice Massamba, Oscar Bellfield, Derrick Jasper and Tre'Von Willis.
A 91-52 thrashing of Division II foe Pittsburg State on Saturday was nice and all, but UNLV gets a chance to show its new look off tonight to an opponent which is a true step — or two — up from the Gorillas.
UNR comes to town for the annual in-state rivalry showdown tonight, with action tipping off at 7:30 p.m.
The Wolf Pack comes to town on the heels of a 75-61 victory over Montana State at home on Saturday night. It was the debut of long-time assistant and now head coach David Carter. As you may remember, Mark Fox bolted from Reno this offseason in one of the more questionable coaching moves of the summer, taking the reins at Georgia.
Still, Carter was left with a cupboard featuring a couple of nice pieces.
Luke Babbitt was spotty, yet productive last season in the Rebels' victory up in Reno in early December. In the team's opener, he had 26 points and five rebounds. Don't forget, the 6-foot-9 sophomore forward was a McDonald's All-American a year ago. If the kid wasn't from Reno? Well, you can bet your behind he'd probably be somewhere else. Loyalty counts for something, right?
Junior guard Armon Johnson and senior backcourt mate Brandon Fields also bring experience and scoring punch to the table.
More than anything for Rebels fans tonight, eyes should be on UNLV's defensive presence inside against Babbitt. The combination of sophomore wing Chace Stanback, sophomore forward Brice Massamba and senior forward Darris Santee will be responsible for Babbitt tonight. As we learned last season, if you take Babbitt out of the equation for much of the night, it makes things much easier.
A defensive slugfest wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for UNLV, either, as Southern Illinois comes to town on Saturday for a non-conference contest. The Salukis, under coach Chris Lowery, are year-in and year-out one of the nation's best defensive ball clubs and have a consistent knack for keeping the pace slow and sloppy.
Stay tuned for live updates throughout tonight's contest in what is sure to be a crazed Thomas & Mack Center.