May 19, 2019 Currently: 78° | Complete forecast

Ron Kantowski:

Now, Rebels must build on big Louisville win

Happy but humble team that beat Cardinals has another test coming in Arizona


Sam Morris

UNLV forward Brice Massamba and the rest of the Rebels celebrate their 76-71 win against 16th-ranked Louisville on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack. It was the Rebels’ second defeat of the Cardinals in two years.

No. 16 Louisville vs. UNLV

Despite losing a 19-point lead, UNLV held on to beat sixteenth-ranked Louisville 76-71 Saturday.

UNLV-Louisville Basketball

UNLV forward Brice Massamba and the rest of the Rebels celebrate their 76-71 upset of 16th-ranked Louisville Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

POSTGAME EDITION: Rebels produce winners across the board on busy day

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.

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.

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  1. Here are my thoughts on the issue. The students didn't "storm" the court. Thats when everyone runs down and goes crazy all over the court, like we did against BYU before (quick shout out to crazy Sarah Cummard, watch out!). The students were celebrating with our team near our bench. They were not near the Louisville players or bench, and no one was acting violently or abrasively. Its like the difference at a football game of the students going onto the field to sing the fight song and celebrate with the players, and games where the place goes nuts and tears the goal posts down and the other team has to run off the field so they don't get hurt.

    There was a lot of emotion playing Louisville. This is turning into quite a rivalry between two thoroughbred programs, which is only good for us. Pitino has some history here and we all know it. Its nice to win 2 in a row on him.

    So tell all the uptight adults in the office and media stations to loosen up a little. These are 18 to 25 year old college kids who are excited about the basketball program and deserve to celebrate with their team. Look at Brice's face during the post game action. I love it, and it looks like he does too.

  2. Oh and found this hilarious video on Youtube. Louisville crybabies at its best. There is something seriously wrong with the state of Kentucky.

  3. p.s. slightly NSFW (Foul Language)

  4. It was a great win over L'ville. But the Rebs need to fight for respect from the east coast media. The U of A is going to be a great testament of how humble and hungry our team is.

    Once again Wise is a scoring machine at A's point but I believe O and company with fluster him. And then U of A got sent one Hill off to the NBA and has gain another Hill. Both Hill and wise score at will in the Maui Tourney.

    I think the Rebels defensive depth at guard will frustrate and throw U of A out of the offense. Plus our length should create easily 15 turn overs.
    Plus I love watching these guys sharing (Assists, Assists, Assists) the ball so much and driving. Keep the DUNKS pouring!

  5. Has anyone seen Arizona this year? Their not very good. A loss would be a big letdown.

  6. Good column, Ron. As far as Arizona goes, that is going to be a test. Going to be tough to pull the first game out on the road. The Wildcats are very talented. Young, but so are our Rebels.

    The key is this being UNLV's first road game. We can never forget how hard it is for teams to win on the road. With a new coach, Arizona is going to be wanting this game for many different reasons. Actually trying to prepare myself for a loss, but hoping for more.

  7. Great column.....that's right, remember what happened last year! DO NOT MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE AGAIN!

    Continue the push and act like a big time program. Let's keep it up.


  8. unlv #21 in the coaches poll.... ap not released yet

  9. UNLV ranked #21 in the latest Coaches Poll on letdown in Arizona fellas!

  10. Don't let Arizona or Santa Clara fool you. Arizona's two losses were to quality opponents, and they got a very well conditioned program with their new head head coach. On the road and undefeated, there is no reason why Arizona would not bring their whole crowd with them to give UNLV what we gave Louisville at home.

    Santa Clara has defeated us before on the road as well. If UNLV can return to the Orleans Arena with an undefeated record, I will be VERY excited to open up conference play at the Marriott. Even with a loss, I am very impressed with how our deep bench is giving us W's.

    Rob, has Coach given you any indication of how much longer he is going to switch up his starting big men? We've seen both

  11. Sorry Rob,

    Has Coach given you any indication of how much longer he is goign to switch up his starting big men? We've seen both Brice and Santee start at some games, but I think we've seen a great confidence boost from Santee as of late? Is Coach talking about anything confirming who's going to start at Center? Or is he going to use the rest of Non-Conference to give them both more time to show their worth? Thanks!

  12. #24 in AP

  13. Rushing the court is contagious.

    I think most people knew it wasn't appropriate but once you see a few other fans out there you can't help but join in!

  14. rush court/dont rush court..either way is fine with me..we are ranked in both polls and things are great!

  15. Just a little off topic, but Runnin made a comment about Sarah Cummard. I recall the BYU folks saying things like it is disrespectful to storm the court, amongst other comments. Did anyone see what the BYU fans did after defeating Utah in football Saturday evening? Perhaps just a little hypocritical! GO REBS!

  16. The Rebels had such a disappointing letdown after last year's win at Freedom Hall. Let's hope this season's squad has learned from that. Arizona will be a true test of character for the Rebs, as will Santa Clara. By the end of the week, we should definitely have an idea of where to measure our expectations.

    I had no problem with the students rushing the floor Saturday afternoon. It was a hard fought, well earned victory against a program and a coach that has a history with this city. But, let's not forget that we are UNLV. We have every right to stand and be counted amongst the elite basketball programs in the country.

    We may not have fully returned to dominance yet, but anyone in attendance Saturday has no doubt that good things may very well be just around the corner.

  17. There is a consensus that Coach needs to narrow down to 8 or 9 members playing. Why? I say play with the 10-11 man rotation. Each person who comes off the bench has fresh legs that drains the energy out of our opponents. Look at the UNR game. Keep everybody fresh and happy and it shows. Good job Coach!

  18. Ron, it's been a pleasure reading you over the years. Sorry you and Miech have been laid off. Might was well go read the RJ.

  19. It is a shame that you were let go today. I'm not sure that I will continue to visit this site anymore. This article is in the list of Top 10 Most Read articles... makes no sense. Good luck and I hope to continue reading your work where ever you end up.