Monday, Nov. 30, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene, Christine Killimayer and Ray Brewer discuss a busy day in UNLV athletics, including the hoops squad's resounding 76-71 victory over No. 16 Louisville at the Mack and the football team's sendoff to coach Mike Sanford and its 16 seniors coming in the form of a 28-24 come-from-behind victory at home over San Diego State.
- Box score: UNLV 76, Louisville 71
- Bellfield tolls again for UNLV in 76-71 win over Louisville
- Pitino doesn’t consider loss to UNLV a total loss
- Notebook: UNLV prospect Polee likes what he sees, and hears, at the Mack
- Live game blog: Bellfield, UNLV come through late, upset No. 16 Louisville, 76-71
- Complete UNLV Rebels coverage
Most everybody agrees UNLV’s 76-71 come-from-ahead victory over No. 16 Louisville at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday was big.
But how big?
In the instantaneous aftermath, it was a little hard to tell.
It was a big enough game that the student body was in full force despite it being the middle of the day on a holiday weekend. But when it was over, when Oscar Bellfield (eight points and a key steal in the final 5:22) finally put his foot on Louisville’s collective throat, there was a hesitation. Do we rush the court or not? A couple of hundred bodies eventually made their way from Kruger’s Corner onto the hardwood. Most of the Rebels already were headed to the dressing room following a job well done.
Tre'Von Willis, who made most of his shots close to the basket but missed most of the ones away from it, turned to where the students were now jumping up and down. Do I get into this or not? He jogged to the other end and jumped up and down a bit, too.
Somebody on the Sun Web site said unless it is to celebrate a conference championship or a victory against a top-five ranked opponent, UNLV fans should refrain from rushing the court. Sends the wrong message. His point was this was not Appalachian State beating Michigan in football (when everybody thought Michigan was still good in football). This was one good basketball program with a proud tradition beating another good basketball program with a proud tradition.
Act like you’ve been there before.
Act like constructing a 19-point lead against the top seed in last year’s NCAA’s Tournament — and then giving it all back — was no big deal. Act like you knew Bellfield was going to reprise his role from last year’s game against Louisville, making the big play (or plays) down the stretch to see the Rebels through. Act like Ohio State and Wisconsin and Penn State and just about everyone else these days when they score a touchdown against Michigan. Act like you’ve been to the end zone before.
That’s pretty much what coach Lon Kruger and the players did in the not-so-immediate aftermath of the big win. Happy to win? You bet. Humble to win? You bet, especially Kruger. Content to rest on laurels with another big game, this one on the road, against Arizona on Wednesday? Not a chance.
“That was a game going into it that regardless of the outcome, we knew we would learn a lot about our team. It’s a win, of course, and that’s an added bonus. Now we’ve got to get better this week,” Kruger said.
Act like you’ve been there before.
But then build upon it.
Don’t forget last year’s win at Louisville was a lot bigger than beating the Cardinals at home. Don’t forget the Rebels somehow turned that mountain into a molehill by losing three times to San Diego State (and others).
“The main thing is they don’t embrace this victory, then go on the road and lose,” said Rick Pitino, the Louisville coach, who was first to shake Kruger’s hand after failing to do so last year when chasing after the referees at Freedom Hall seemed more important.
“Because (of) the arrogance of success sometimes, you think you’re good, you lose the next game, then it wasn’t worth beating Louisville. You just have to stay humble, which I know they will, and they’ll just get better and better.”
Act like you’ve been there before. Act like you knew Darris Santee was going to play one of the best games of his career.
OK, you don’t have to act that way because that would have been foolhardy, based on last season.
Santee scored 13 points on 5-of-7 shooting and snared five rebounds in just 20 minutes. If the 6-foot-8 senior plays like that the rest of the way, the Rebels are going to beat a lot of people ranked No. 16 in the nation.
“Darris was terrific,” Kruger said.
Santee had a lot of helpers too. Once again, 11 Rebels played considerable minutes. Once again, 11 contributed something of value or significance, even if you had to decipher the scribbling in the margin of your scorecard to find it.
Steve “Chop” Jones has a funky shooting stroke which might explain, as was pointed out, why he is 1-for-10 from the field in 68 minutes against Division I competition. But he remains Kruger’s favorite walk-on since René Rougeau and Curtis Terry before that. A lot of people will forget he was the one who went flying into the Louisville bench to keep alive a ball that Willis lobbed to Derrick Jasper for a highlight reel alley-oop dunk. But coaches don’t forget those things.
I scribbled in the margin of my scorecard to make sure I remembered.
It was a big play in a big win that enabled the 5-0 Rebels, as the headline on Yahoo said late Saturday night, to “upset” No. 16 Louisville.
But it really didn’t seem like that stunning of an upset. It didn’t seem like one for which you’d normally rush the court.
And that’s big.