Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010 | 8:02 p.m.
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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's 70-39 victory over Colorado State on Saturday, which snapped a 3-game skid. Plenty of fans decided to stay home, but those who showed up at the Mack saw a well-rounded performance, highlighted by Anthony Marshall's first career triple-double. With a further thinned-out rotation, can the Rebels keep it up throughout the rest of their stretch run?
Of course, the Rebels still have a lot of work to do to truly negate what happened during a recent 3-game losing streak.
But with a 70-39 romp over Colorado State on Saturday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV at least gave off the impression that it never happened.
Thanks to a quick start in both halves, the Rebels (20-7 overall, 8-5 Mountain West) were once again able to let out a sigh of relief towards the end.
"Just coming out like we did just built our confidence up, and that's something we need," guard Oscar Bellfield said. "We need to keep it going through our next few games."
After suffering a 66-61 upset defeat at Utah on Wednesday night, it was widely assumed that to remain in the race as a contender for a potential at-large NCAA tournament bid, the Rebels — at the very least — had to close out the regular season a perfect 4-0.
Including Colorado State on Saturday, those four games were slated against four of the five teams directly below UNLV in the Mountain West standings, and the Rebels kept the Rams right there with blunt force.
Before many in attendance could even get comfortable in their seats, UNLV used scores by seven different players to grab an 18-2 lead, capped by a 3-pointer from Kendall Wallace .
After that, the evening was seemingly a blur for the Rams, who in the first half were just 4-of-25 from the floor and managed only one basket from inside of 3-point range.
While UNLV worked from the inside out on the offensive end, putting away 20 points in the paint by game's end, CSU managed only six.
"The key is Colorado State not getting many points (inside), because (Andy) Ogide is such a good player. You have to keep him from getting comfortable in there, I thought Darris (Santee) and Brice (Massamba) did a good job with that."
Santee, off of a great effort in place of the injured Matt Shaw on Wednesday, drew his first start of the season on the interior. He had two points and three boards while being limited to just 12 minutes after straining a muscle in his abdominal region late in the first half. Massamba ate up the extra minutes, recording seven points, a career-high five blocks and three rebounds in 25 minutes.
The duo helped hold Ogide to eight points on 2-of-7, which was below his season average of 11.6 coming in. He had just four points and two rebounds in the first meeting on Jan. 20.
Massamba wasn't the only one to step up and help cover up yet another injury hitting the already-thinned UNLV rotation.
Freshman guard Anthony Marshall highlighted the effort by posting his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He scored early and often for the Rebels, using repeated slashes to the bucket followed by acrobatic finishes.
Chace Stanback, who had not scored in double-figures in UNLV's last four games, finished with 12 points, including a 3-for-3 performance from beyond the arc.
Also hitting a trio of deep balls was Kendall Wallace, who also snapped a drought after not hitting a three in UNLV's last two games.
Bellfield's numbers didn't make a huge surge, but as he scored nine points, grabbed three rebounds and dished four assists, he showed more explosiveness working off of his bruised left knee than he had in the previous three games after suffering the injury who Saturdays ago against BYU.
"It felt a lot better," said Bellfield, who on Friday self-diagnosed the knee to be at about '75 percent.' "Since the incident happened, this is the best it felt. After shootaround, just icing it a little bit, that numbed it up a bit. Whatever works."
As a team, the Rebels avoided being out-rebounded by their fourth straight opponent, winning the battle of the boards, 37-34, and the eight 3-pointers made were more than they'd hit in the last two games combined.
At Friday morning's practice, anyone who watched could sense that the team had hit a boiling point after dropping three in a row. With guys verbally getting into one another to try and get back on track as a whole.
"Guys were bothered," Kruger said. "They had their heads down a little bit, but I thought they came out today with good aggressiveness, good enthusiasm and they bounced back like you hoped they would."
However, UNLV needs Saturday to be just the start of a late season surge, rather than just a singular spike. Unless they want to face more pressure in the Mountain West tournament, the Rebels must sweep their three remaining regular season tilts.
That run begins with TCU coming to town for an 8 p.m. tip on Wednesday night. The Rebels knocked off the Horned Frogs down in Fort Worth on Jan. 23, 79-70.
Still, a weight was clearly lifted off of the team's shoulders by simply winning a game.
With three minutes left, Kruger emptied his bench by inserting walk-ons Todd Hanni, Tyler Norman and Mychal Martinez, leaving the rotation guys on the rotation guys all smiling and appearing relaxed for a change.
"Definitely," Stanback said when asked if he felt somewhat relieved. "But we've got to come out and do the same thing next game."