Sunday, Nov. 22, 2009 | 2:10 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun reporters Rob Miech and Ray Brewer dissect the UNLV basketball team's 78-69 victory on Saturday against Southern Illinois. Tre'Von Willis had a career high 25 points and appears to be the Rebels' team leader.
UNLV legends Jerry Tarkanian and Larry Johnson sat in the first row behind the Rebels’ bench Saturday night for the 78-69 victory over Southern Illinois.
Both were treated like rock stars, signing autographs and taking pictures with fans for most of the night.
Tarkanian, 79, also was popular with the roughly 200 Southern Illinois fans sitting behind the visitors’ bench.
Tarkanian told Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery how impressed he was with the Salukis of the Missouri Valley Conference when walking past their bench as he and Johnson headed toward the exit with less than a minute to play.
“Your kids played hard,” Tarkanian told Lowery.
The comment was greeted with smiles from SIU’s traveling party. It was also well received by Lowery, who thanked Tarkanian by jokingly saying he needed someone like Johnson to beat the Rebels.
Mo Valley showdown
The game was the first of a four-year Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge. In other matchups, Indiana State beat Colorado State, 65-60, on Friday, and BYU defeated Bradley, 70-60, on Nov. 13.
New Mexico plays host to Creighton, Utah plays host to Illinois State, Wyoming plays at Northern Iowa, TCU plays at Wichita State, San Diego State plays at Drake and Air Force plays at Missouri State.
That’s 15 fouls
In three games, UNLV coach Lon Kruger has had the luxury of a true low-post game.
The “three-headed monster” that Matt Shaw likes to call his group consists of him, Brice Massamba and Darris Santee.
That trio combined for 20 points and 11 rebounds, with 3 blocked shots, an assist and a turnover, in the opener against Pittsburg State.
Against UNR, it went for 16 points, 15 boards, an assist, two turnovers and a steal. Saturday, it accumulated 22 points, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, an assist and a turnover.
By the way, the Rebels have had the rebounding edge in all three of their games, 42-36 against Pittsburg State, 44-42 against UNR and 38-29 against the Salukis.
UNLV’s three opponents this season have shot 36.4 percent (Pittsburg State), 38.6 percent (UNR) and 35 percent (Southern Illinois) from the field … After being the lone Rebel to hit double figures in scoring in UNLV’s first two games, freshman guard Justin Hawkins had his first scoreless game against SIU. He missed his two shots, and he had three rebounds, three fouls and a block in 14 minutes … junior guard Kendall Wallace’s 2-for-5 day behind the arc made him 7-for-11 from long range on the season … Shaw’s 13 points represented his first double-digit scoring effort since March 13, 2008, when he had 11 against TCU in the opening round of the Mountain West tournament. Knee surgery sidelined him all of last season … Sources indicated that Dwayne Polee, a 6-6, 180-pound forward from Los Angeles Westchester High, is scheduled to visit UNLV this weekend for the Louisville game. The recruiting service Scout.com rates Polee, an electric finisher, as the No. 27 player at his position in his class. Rivals.com ranks him as a three-star athlete. He bailed on USC during its troubles and lists Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon and Washington, along with the Rebels, as programs he’s interested in. Polee’s father, Dwayne Sr., played at UNLV in 1981-82 before transferring to Pepperdine.