AP Photo/Garry Jones
Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010 | 2:15 a.m.
- Box Score: Louisville 77, UNLV 69
- One day after announcing transfer from UCLA, Carlino a hot commodity (12-11-2010)
- Instant Analysis: Watching UNLV on ESPN an attractive way to start the day (12-11-2010)
- Live Game Blog: Louisville’s big second half leads to UNLV’s first loss of season, 77-69 (12-11-2010)
- UNLV, Louisville reverse roles heading into Saturday’s battle of unbeatens (12-10-2010)
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
But what seemed to irk the No. 20 Rebels more than anything was that they stood around a lot on the other end of the floor.
UNLV's offense went stale after the intermission at the noisy, brand new KFC Yum! Center in downtown Louisville. Meanwhile, the No. 24 Cardinals got stronger, handing the Rebels their first loss of the 2010-11 season behind an inspired performance in the game's final 20 minutes.
"Kind of at a point, yeah, we were just standing around, waiting for somebody to do something," UNLV guard Oscar Bellfield said. "It's something we've got to learn from."
UNLV (9-1) kept a monster crowd of 22,489 mostly silent in the first half by going 7-of-12 from 3-point range, taking a 38-33 lead into the half. The Rebels even were able to keep the momentum going early in the second stanza, leading 45-36 with just under 17 minutes left to play.
To that point, only one of the five Louisville (8-0) starters had scored a point in a choppy team performance.
All of a sudden, though, everything clicked.
Kick-started by a 3-pointer from reserve guard Kyle Kuric, the Cardinals began a 21-6 run.
Scoring 11 of those 21 points was senior guard Preston Knowles, who wasn't heard from at all in the first half but scored both by driving to the bucket and cashing threes en route to 20 second-half points.
The momentum seeped over and beefed up Louisville's defense. Without being able to use 3-point shooting as such a reliable crutch anymore, UNLV struggled to simply create.
The Cards flexed back and forth between man-to-man defense and a hybrid of a 2-3 zone. Mixed in there, they keyed strongly on UNLV leading scorer Chace Stanback, forcing him to put the ball on the floor instead of spotting up from the outside. Also, they switched several times along the perimeter, with 6-foot-9 forward Terrence Jennings moving over to keep Bellfield from firing away on the perimeter.
Bellfield, who in the last two years has been both heroic and dominant at times in two wins against Louisville, scored 11 points off of 3-of-4 3-point shooting in the first half. He scored five more quick points in the first five minutes of the second but was never heard from again.
"Their zone, they play that zone a lot and they're good with it," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Their zone's active, it's spread, it's wide, with a lot of man thoughts to it. It got us standing a little bit in the second half, and I thought that hurt us a bit."
As Bellfield was quieted as both a scorer and facilitator, UNLV was led into being mostly a one-on-one offensive team, and in many cases, while one guy dribbled around looking to make a play, everyone else on the floor was stagnant.
"We've got to communicate better and we'll be all right," Stanback said.
In the second half, UNLV would finish with just four assists and 10 turnovers, with Louisville scoring 15 points off of those mistakes. The Rebels were also just 9-of-21 from the floor after the break, with three of those baskets coming in the final two minutes and the game already decided.
Even after that 21-6 run, UNLV was able to stay within close enough range for a comeback, but it all fell apart during a crippling stretch starting with 6:23 left to play. At that point, the team went nearly four minutes without a bucket, only getting four shot attempts off and turning it over thrice.
"When you're on the road, you've got to try to curb those runs of the home team," Kruger said. "We didn't do a really good job of slowing down their run and they played it all the way through."
Some might say that UNLV's sloppy second halves in back-to-back wins leading into Saturday over Nevada-Reno and Boise State were a harbinger of things to come. In those games, UNLV looked more like it let off of the gas with a big lead, whereas Louisville imposed its will on the Rebels in a way no one had to this point in the season.
Behind Knowles' huge second half, Kuric and fellow back-up Chris Smith were the team's catalysts, each scoring 17 points. The duo combined to hit eight 3-pointers.
UNLV out-shot Louisville in terms of percentages (46.7 to 41.4), but the Rebels' big men were largely ineffective on the boards, as the Cards racked up 12 offensive caroms.
Thought it never showed, if the Rebels were starting to get even a little bit complacent while moving up the national rankings, Kruger thinks that Saturday will ultimately help reset the focus altogether.
Their next chance to show it will come on Wednesday, when the team plays its first game at the Thomas & Mack Center since a 68-65 victory over Wisconsin on Nov. 20. The Rebels will host UC Santa Barbara (4-3), which hasn't played since winning at Santa Clara, 80-69, last Saturday.
"This group's made consistently pretty good progress, even with the wins," Kruger said. "When you lose, it gets their attention a little bit more, typically. Time will tell. I would imagine we'll come back even a little bit more focused.
"When you lose, it is kind of a jolt, a little bit humbling."
• Louisville's win came without a single point contributed by sophomore guard Mike Marra, who entered the game as the team's leading scorer (11.6 ppg). Marra was 0-for-9 from the floor and 0-for-5 from long range. He played 13 minutes in the first half, but was benched to start the second half and only played three minutes after the intermission. Without him on the floor for most of it, Louisville was an efficient and impressive 13-of-24 from the field in the second half.
• Other UNLV stats of note: In his first game back in Kentucky since transferring to UNLV from UK three years ago, Derrick Jasper had 10 points, three rebounds and three assists, but also committed a game-high six turnovers … UNLV's trio of big men - Quintrell Thomas, Carlos Lopez and Brice Massamba - combined for only one point and eight rebounds. Thomas left the game 26 seconds in after picking up his first foul, and only played five minutes total … Anthony Marshall had a game-high 11 rebounds.