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Reserve Rebels didn’t have time to panic

Unlikely boost from reserves wasn’t so unlikely, say UNLV assistants


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins celebrates a turnover against UNR during the second half of their game Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the intrastate rivalry 88-75.


Thanks to 35 bench-points, UNLV used a second-half surge to beat Nevada, Reno 88-75 Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack.

UNLV vs. UNR Basketball

UNR forwards Luke Babbitt, left, and Adam Carp battle with UNLV forward Brice Massamba and guard Anthony Marshall as they chase down a loose ball during the first half of their game Nov. 18, 2009, at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won 88-75. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UNR POSTGAME: Kruger's gamble pays off ... big

Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Rob Miech break down an 88-75 UNLV victory which turned on a dime from a slugfest into a track meet on Wednesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center. It was all the result of a gamble made by coach Lon Kruger with the Rebels trailing by 12 with 15 minutes to play ...

When it looked bleak Wednesday night for UNLV, as coach Lon Kruger called for a timeout when UNR padded its lead to 12 points early in the second half, a hush fell over the Thomas & Mack Center.

No doubt more than a few of the 13,113 fans were concerned, and then Kruger yanked starters Derrick Jasper, Chace Stanback and Tre'Von Willis.

“I never panic,” said Rebels assistant coach Lew Hill. “The guys never panic. They just made a run. In basketball, it’s about runs. We needed to get a little fresh, a little energy. We went with the young guys and, boom, changed it right there.”

The young guys were true freshmen Justin Hawkins and Anthony Marshall, and fifth-year senior walk-on Steve “Chopper” Jones.

They combined to tally 12 points of a game-altering 23-4 run, and UNLV handed its rival an 88-75 defeat.

That the unlikely trio made such a difference might have surprised many in the stands. But after practice Thursday, Kruger’s lieutenants said there was no panic in the ensuing huddle as Kruger made his changes with 14 1/2 minutes left.

“The substitution pattern was not unlike what we’ve been doing,” said Rebels assistant coach Greg Grensing.

He expected Hawkins to deflect some passes and irritate the Wolf Pack, Marshall to attack and be aggressive, and Jones to provide a boost of energy.

That happened, in spades.

“But until they’ve been in the fire and done it a few times, you are left to wonder exactly how they’ll respond. Am I surprised how they responded? They practice that way all the time,” Grensing said.

“They’ve been consistent. They’ve been fearless. So it isn’t shock. But you’re always pleasantly surprised to see them, under those terms of adversity, handle it so well. They got it turned around pretty quickly.”

Ten seconds after getting back on the floor, Jones slipped in a layup among some firs on the left side. Back on defense, Marshall stripped the ball from Dario Hunt.

Right away, at both ends, it clicked.

“We needed to do something,” said assistant Steve Henson. “We had to call a timeout and get fresh bodies in there. We needed life and energy. They got in there and we couldn’t have asked them to do anything better.

“It all came together the way you dream of it happening.”

UNR came up empty on five consecutive possessions as UNLV scored on five of its six possessions after the terrific trio went into the game.

Jones missed a layup the only time the Rebels failed to score with the infusion of youth and aggression. Jones capped the 11-0 run, getting UNLV within 54-53, with a 3-point shot from the left side.

“We’ve got the depth,” Hill said. “That’s what makes this team have a pretty good chance in the future. If one unit isn’t doing well, we’ll try to find a spark. The next game, it might be something different.

“But we never panic.”

No words from pop, yet

Chopper Jones slept soundly Wednesday night. “Like a baby,” he said.

By late Thursday afternoon, he hadn’t spoken with his father, television hoops analyst Steve “Snapper” Jones.

“Went straight to bed,” Chopper said. “Had classes this morning. Lifted weights. I’ll call him today.”

It fits the former teammate of Kevin Kruger at Arizona State that Jones would be matter-of-factly ho-hum about making such an impact in only his second game as a Rebel.

At Arizona State, he scored 12 of his career 23 points as a Sun Devil in one game, against Cal State San Bernardino on Nov. 15, 2006. Wednesday, he finished with those five points.

As has been well documented in his brief UNLV career, the energy Jones provides can’t be measured. Last season, as a redshirt, teammates named him the team’s most inspirational player.

“Onto the next one,” he said. “Done the business already, but it was fun. A good time.”

He did get a congratulatory text message from Kevin Kruger, who is playing for a pro team in Naples, Italy, after the game.

“Typical Kevin,” Jones said.

Double, double

Hawkins is the lone Rebel to score in double figures in both of UNLV’s first two games. He had 11 points in the opener against Pittsburg State and 13 against the Wolf Pack.

Will that continue?

“Maybe,” he said. “It’s early. We’ve only played two games. You never know.”

Eager to find his role on the deep squad before the season, Hawkins said he is still navigating his way in his rookie campaign.

“All of the upperclassmen keep telling me, 'Do what you’ve got to do to be out on the floor,'” he said. “They keep giving me respect and keep me up when I’m down in practice. I think I’ll do well the rest of the season.

“I’m easing into it, game by game. It’s still young in the season. My role isn’t defined yet.”


Of at least a dozen point-blank misses by the Rebels on Wednesday, the one by the local product might have been the most egregious.

Anthony Marshall, fresh out of Mojave High, missed a dunk with four minutes left in the first half. Sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield missed a jam in the opener.

“I hadn’t done that since somewhere around my junior year on an alley-oop,” Marshall said. “I surprised myself when I jumped. I haven’t exploded like that in a long time. I got up and, really, I just thought I’d put it in instead of dunking with authority.

“I probably should have dunked with authority and it would have went in.”

Five minutes earlier, he missed a layup. So he felt like the dunk would be redemption. Three minutes after the errant jam, he missed another close shot.

He stayed late Thursday, shooting jumpers and free throws.

“We’re getting good looks, they just happen to go in and out sometimes,” Marshall said. “We have to play through that and keep going hard. I’m determined to make my easy buckets.

“There are a lot of wide-open shots I’m missing, so I stay after practice and put up extra shots. We have such good drivers, that leaves gaps open for shots that I’m missing.”

A lot to like

Junior forward Matt Shaw said a home crowd that might have been very curious about some new faces and different combinations likely came away from the Mack late Wednesday night quite satisfied.

“They’ll probably like more and more players,” Shaw said. “It was only the second game, but that was pretty intense. It felt like a late-season game. It shows how competitive we are.

“Luckily, the crowd got into it pretty quick. They definitely helped us get going. We’re thankful we had a good crowd. It’s easier once the crowd gets going. They pick up our intensity and we have more fun with it.”

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  1. Hopefully the missed dunk streak will be ended saturda

  2. these kids have no idea what a good crowd iz...u keep winning and this town will be in a frenzy

  3. Yeah 11, would be nice to see one go down for the small guys!

  4. the simple fact that our guards are rising and attempting slams, over defenders at that, is encouraging. Please keep it up Oscar, Anthony and whoever else that can get up. No doubt we needed more of that last season, especially from Te'von, who settled a little to much for soft layups that rimed out. Poke those jams in in with athority young guns!

  5. Great sign that our guards are taking it to the hole first before jacking up threes. Whether they lay it in or hammer it down getting to the rim is vital for our offense. Threes will be there and be alot more open if we attack. Keep it up boys, beter teams are on their way to the T & M. Runnin' Rebels!

  6. By the way, RPI rankings have UNLV above Louisville now at the #14 spot.

  7. After watching the game against UNR, it seems that both Marshall and Hawkins can create their own shots better than Tre'von. I think when we went to that smaller line up, we were able to attack the basket better because we created more mis-matches that way. I think our new staring line-up should be this:

    PG: Bellfield
    SG: Hawkins
    SF: Jasper
    PF: Stanback
    C: Shaw

    Santee and Massamba are still offensive liablities. And when we go to a smaller line up we seem to run more and be more aggressive around the basket! Just on observation I saw last saturday. Can't wait til tomorrow against the solukies! Should be another great game!

  8. And when those dunks start going down into the hoop as well, fkg

  9. great to see UNLV high in the RPI..seems all of Kruger's great teams are high in RPI..one thing i do not agree with at this point is starting Hawkins, he needs to bring that energy off the bench. Sometimes the game starts slow and when he comes in with Chopper and AntMars it is a huge boost...plus, Tre is just one game removed from a 17 pt performance and scored 8 in the 2nd half..hes not BAD for us..

    with the big guys, lets keep startin Massamba. Hes scoring the most points and going up strong and drawing the most fouls! thats what we need! Santee and Shaw are good matches to come in and play with the bench (they will probably put up about tht same # of mins as Brice)

  10. calm down rebelfanforever45. Dont need to be adding Hawkins to the starting line-up so soon. Probably not at all this season unless inury. There's more value in him (and Marshall) coming off the bench and providing energy, fresh legs, defense and scoring ability my freind.

  11. thanks SMB..and anyways, its who finishes the games (when they're close) that matter anyways :)

  12. Agreed. Coming off the bench for Hawkins and Marshall is the perfect role. They can continue to build their confidence and be agressive. The only thing that I see with Tre is that his ballhandling has always been a little suspect. He has never been a particularly smooth handler. Especially in the half court when he has to stop and start. In a fast break or full court situation he is more comfortable. Jasper taking over at point is a good thing for Tre. Let him focus on scoring. Also think Massamba is our best option at center so far. Shaw is not aggressive enough and Santee while aggressive still struggles mightily at catching and shooting. I cringe when he gets the ball in the game. Still waiting for these "power jams" he was reported to be throwing down in pre season practice. Runnin' Rebels!

  13. SMB,

    Haha, I'm calm no worries! But I don't see why not adding him to the starting line up. Yes he may be a true freshman, but Hawkins has already shown that he can make plays when given the chance. Like Gumby just posted before me, Tre'von's ball handling skills have always been a little suspect. And there are times where I feel he is sort of selfish with the ball. I think he could be a veteran leader, and a very good go to guy for our 2nd unit.

    Now as far as Santee and Massamba go, I don't think we will ever see any of those 2 dunking in a game. They are too soft with the ball and don't have any low post moves. Massamba is active and will get a hard fought rebound or 2, but once he gets it, he hardly ever finishes a play at the basket. And same goes for santee. They are always getting there shots blocked down in the paint. Shaw was the only big man in the UNR game that showed any kind of a decent low-post moves. But I do see your guys point on why we should keep Hawkins on the bench as well. Him and Marshall have played together so well the last 2 games. It's hard to break the duo up.

  14. yeah the dunks would be great and an allyoop here and ther would be nice too...but not at the expense of missing esp in a tight game...rpi...lol 2 games in? i think we were #1 rpi for like the 1st few weeks wen wendle white in co. wer runin da show (sweet 16 yr.)

  15. wuz it jus me or duz shaw look stronger wit da xtra fat...still has that nice touch tho!

  16. gumby, my thoughts exactly. You GOTTA take it to the hole first, then work it from there... you gotta set the tempo from the get go that you are going to be aggressive and dictate, then they help, then there are free 3s for Kendall Wallace, then the inside-outside headaches begin for all opponents.
    The dunks are an early-season positive, no doubt. And, yes, they will be falling. UNLV should have scored triple digits against UNR. At least a dozen point-blank misses? That won't last. I think you can owe that to early-season jitters, them getting used to each other and the arena ... etc
    By the way, folks, talked to Wallace after practice. He does not like "Squirrel." "Gotta think of something better than that," he said.
    ALSO, it's Chop... I've taken it for granted over the past year, that it's Chopper ... but Jones has confirmed, through others, that it's just Chop. He's so classy, he didnt' want to bring that up himself. Kudos, Chop.

  17. yeah kendal dnt like that either...how bout "red baron", "The professional" or "sir wallace"

  18. I call shannanagins on you ROBERT. Massamba is leading the big men is scoring..he hasnt gotten a shot blocked all season long! he gets fouled or it goes in, it seems like. Shaw may develop into the best big guy a few games down the road, but for now its Massamba. And, we only need a guy for this season. Lopez and QT will man the C spot next year. There will be too many quality players next year...i see a transfer comin.. :/

  19. or...da "scarlett sniper"

  20. as far as Kendall..i have been saying it should be The Machine :)

  21. he is a machine 'lokd n loaded"

  22. How about "Mr. Downtown"? Or "The Rainmaker"? Maybe, "Milky Butter"? haha, i dunno i got nothin. He definitely deserves somethin better than squirrel. But on a serious note, I think UNLV is a better team when we go with a smaller line up. We are able to push the ball better and we don't lose any rebounding edge with Santee and Massamba sitting the bench. Shaw at Center best fits us right now.

  23. thnk massamba did hav one blokd but by reno ...and i luv massamba has so much heart and thats why he starts but i think shaw iz better and will be our #1 five by confrnce play rebls11

  24. ur all over it

  25. milky buttr...good stuff...wer better wen we jus "D up" n "RUN"!!! as for Trevon hes our best player!! and this is a team...hes gotta use his team ther bunch of lil bad azzez...we will win!!!

  26. yes, i think Shaw has the POTENTIAL to turn into the #1 big man..but i think as of now it is Brice, hands down. The one thing I don't like about Shaw is that he doesn't have much inside play. I think each guy brings a different thing to the game, which is why they should all play about 15-20 min.

    *Brice: Offensive boards, always boxes out, gets fouled alot, scores most outta the bigs.
    *Santee: Best rebounder out of bigs, scores pretty well also, misses some easy shots, been playing with a lot of energy last 2 games.
    *Shaw: Can run w/ the small lineup, gets a few boards, scores some, havent seen his sweet stroke yet, needs to trim down.
    D is good w/ all 3. We will see who emerges as the best one..it will probably change on a game to game basis..depending on matchups! if we play a small team like biggest player is 6'7 i bet we could start Stanback at the 5 and just play smallball!

  27. rebelfan11, Shaw has the mentality of shooting 3's instead of bangin in downlow. If you keep Santee active and motivated he will produce. Massamba has the frame to big a major roll in the middle but he doesn't use it.

  28. Massamba has been producing thus far this season, you need to give him that AND STOP THINKING ABOUT LAST SEASON. The thing with Santee, (i agree with you) he needs to stay motivated to produce, so he needs to be off the bench no matter what, or he will get too comfortable and not produce

  29. The coaches have done an excellent job with recruiting. They've put the "runnin" back in the rebels!

  30. cant see shaws hands?? so nice off da glass over a bigger man, isnt he still comin off an injury & runnin well..will only get stronger..plus he's got real post season exp. dnt kid urself he'll be starting if not, better for us...must say do like the 3 rotation always fresh

  31. fkg, exactly ... always fresh down low, a few minutes of production from each, keep em rotating ... sounds like a decent recipe, at least so far. Need more evidence, so Sat will prove plenty. Salukis are tough all the way around. Chris Lowery runs an Izzo-like ship.

  32. at this point, Shaw is the last option of the 3..by conference play i think he will be the top option. i still think he should come off the bench b/c he cannot bang downlow. he is more of a shooter, which i dont really like about him. i hope he proves me wrong tho.

  33. i like havn a 5 that can get hot from 3...it brings our opponents big way out of the key...and im watchin this reno game for the 3rd time cuzz reno suks and looks like shaw iz bangin pretty tough down low??2nd half crunch time??

  34. i am not going to argue with you that Shaw has been able to hit 3s in the past..but im positive he hasnt made one yet this season...

    i prefer Brice at center because he can draw fouls and scores more points than the other bigs in less time..and Shaw just needs time to get back into the swing of things..so we can visit this topic again on the first day of 2010 when it will be much more appropriate to talk about, if you would like?

  35. Sounds good to me fan11. I just don't see Matt Shaw getting the minutes. Once Chase is healthier, he'll be a force to be wrecking with.(If only we had a shot blocker.........Lopez)

  36. yea there is not really much of a point to be arguing about Shaw and Brice because QT and Los will be the top 2 bigs next season. Henry Buckley will make a run for some PT also! Matt Shaw will be competing for time at the 3 and 4 next year, not the 5. Brice probably will will be playing some PF so he can sneak around and get some boards

  37. Don't be so sure about Buckley. Sounds like a project who is skinnier than Lopez. My guess is he will redshirt. Brice, Matt, Quintrell, and Carlos should be enough depth. Hopefully between the four of them one will have a back to the basket game that commands double teams.

  38. all good 11 coach krug will make the right choice...massamba still seems a lil wild thats all...luv to see them all working hard...they shuld all push eachother all year

  39. Buckley will not redshirt. the reason he wont is b/c he was graduated HS in the spring and is in a Prep school now (he is there instead of redshirting). so being at the prep school is just like taking a redshirt but not being at practice. so I do not see him redshirting unless UNLV wants him to transfer. Buckley can run the floor very well and block shots..thats what all you guys want, and you're gonna get it! he is skinny but it putting on weight at the prep school

  40. What I want is a guy who can score with his back to the basket. A reliable post up threat who can command double teams and create his own offense. If Buckley is that guy terrific. But with Matt, Brice, Carlos, and Quintrell I am not sure that Henry fits in until at least one graduates or leaves. We must all be crazy. The Rebs have only played two games this year and we are all talking about next year. What a bunch of fanatics!!!!!Runnin' Rebels!

  41. i know right? QT will be the man next yr