Notebook: Kruger continues to search for answers to rebounding woes

UNLV coach says he’s open to suggestions from players on new drills to improve presence in paint


Justin M. Bowen

UNLV forward Brice Massamba pulls down a rebound during the game against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday. The Rebels won, 76-66.

San Diego State vs UNLV

Led by the scoring duo of Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback, UNLV avenged three 2009 losses to San Diego State, beating the Aztecs, 76-66.

UNLV-SDSU Basketball

UNLV's Tre'Von Willis and Matt Shaw celebrate after Willis scored and drew a foul during the game against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center on Wednesday. The Rebels won, 76-66. Launch slideshow »

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The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: Another second half surge, another UNLV win

Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss what again was a tale of two halves for UNLV, as the Rebels used a second half surge keyed by defense and the offensive precision of Tre'Von Willis and Chace Stanback to down San Diego State, 76-66. Plus, a look at a recurring issue for the Rebels and why the team is set up for a nice run coming up.

Whether he was serious or not, UNLV coach Lon Kruger is right about one thing — his team's rebounding production must improve soon.

The Rebels fell behind early in the first half of Wednesday's 76-66 victory against San Diego State at the Thomas & Mack Center thanks to the Aztecs outrebounding the Rebels, 23-16, and outscoring them in the paint, 24-10, thanks largely to second-chance baskets before the break.

That prompted Kruger to say in his postgame press conference that he'd open up the floor to suggestions from his players for ways to improve.

"Sixteen points off of offensive boards, that's a big chunk, and you just can't afford to keep giving that up," he said. "They'll come back to nip us if we don't improve that. We've got to focus on that.

"I told the guys, they've got to come up with drills now, because mine in practice aren't working. We've got to do a better job of being more creative in practice, because we know what our problem is, we just haven't taken care of it."

In three Mountain West Conference games so far, UNLV is allowing 15.3 offensive rebounds per game and being outrebounded by nine boards per contest.

The Rebels are, however, 2-1. In the two wins, those struggles down low were covered by outstanding offensive efficiency in the second half.

The fact that SDSU committed 20 turnovers and was 2-of-16 from 3-point range didn't hurt, either.

"We're very much aware of our deficit in almost every ball game (on the glass)," Kruger said. "We can't continue to be comfortable with that. Obviously we got it back on the turnover differential (against SDSU), but it's not always going to be that way. We've got to do a better job on the boards."

Quality minutes from Marshall

Oscar Bellfield was relegated to only six minutes on the floor in the first half thanks to foul trouble.

Picking up the slack was freshman Anthony Marshall, who put in a good night's work in 23 minutes.

The Mojave High grad grabbed five defensive rebounds, had an assist and two steals. His only two points on the night came on a drive down the right baseline, as he hammered home a dunk over a surprised SDSU defender.

The 6-foot-3 guard also displayed his combination of excellent reach thanks to his long arms and leaping ability when making the crowd collectively grin on a blocked shot that didn't even count.

A foul was whistled against UNLV in the paint in the first half. After action semi-stopped, 6-foot-8 Aztec forward Billy White went up to shoot the ball, with Marshall going up from a still position to stuff the attempt underneath.

Inside the numbers

• San Diego State showed enormous potential with its young front-court. Junior Malcolm Thomas was aggressive in finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds, while preseason MWC Freshman of the Year Kawhi Leonard had team-highs with 13 points and 10 rebounds.

• Consistent, steady play from junior point guard D.J. Gay held the key to SDSU's potential success at the Mack. He played 32 minutes, finishing with five points, two assists and five turnovers.

• UNLV junior guard Kendall Wallace, fresh off of a 7-of-10 3-point performance on Saturday at New Mexico, forced the crowd to erupt when he nailed his first deep ball of the night in the first half. However, he couldn't find consistent touch from long range the rest of the night, finishing 2-of-8.

Faces in the crowd

On hand were a few recognizable figures, including future Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux, former UNLV golfer and current PGA pro Charley Hoffman and Mirage resident entertainer Terry Fator.

Fator sang the national anthem, while former UNLV quarterback and current ESPN personality Kenny Mayne delivered the "Lights, please" intro to the player introductions on the video board. He recorded the segment from Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., and sent the tape to UNLV via FedEx.

What's on tap?

The Rebels welcome 8-8 Utah to town for a 7 p.m. Saturday game. UNLV split the regular season series with the Utes last season, with each team winning on its home floor.

Jim Boylen's club was smacked by New Mexico on Wednesday night in Albuquerque, 74-57.

The Utes have struggled in much the same way as the Aztecs this season, yearning for consistent point guard play.

High-flying junior guard Carlon Brown leads the Utes in scoring, averaging 12.7 points per game to go with 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists an outing.

The final word

SDSU coach Steve Fisher, comparing last year's UNLV team — which his team beat three times — to this year's club: "They are significantly better than they were last year. They are really good and they go 10 or 11 deep."

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  1. I forgot Greg Maddux has season tickets to Rebels games. Good to see the people who make the lights shine so bright in Vegas are makin it out to the games. Hope to see more of them too.

    Wouldn't that be great to have Mayweather (even tho I don't like him), Holly Madison, or someone like that (celebrity that lives in LV) make it out to games?

    Holly Madison on Gucci Row could help recruiting too :D

  2. Ya i wish Holly Madison would come sit in Gucci Row with me. She can come sit with me in my courtside seats anytime she wants.

  3. So much of rebounding is about heart and desire, not coaching. At some point the players have to make a decision that they want to do that. Hopefully they can.

    Fellas, Holly was at a game earlier in the season. Remember seeing her wearing one of the LB3 t-shirts. She also did one of the first lights please videos. The students sure liked that!

    14-3. Like that. Go Rebels!

  4. I believe that rebounding is about effort. I saw one SDSU offensive tip-in where Jasper looked like he was glued to the floor. Many of the SDSU offensive boards were loose balls where an Aztec was just quicker to the punch. As the game went on, it felt like our desire to get after balls went up.

  5. @thedlr

    I didn't see a lot of loose balls anywhere in the game last night. I saw a bunch of Rebels inside the paint as you stated with glue stuck to their feet not putting a body on someone. They were getting out-muscled the entire game point blank. Kruger needs to recruit more athletes like Steve Fisher, but I guess that's not his style of play. Until then, we'll have a tough time beating teams like KSU, SDSU, or USC. We're not tough enough inside. This game won't be close when they play in Feb.

  6. If Lon's looking for suggestions on rebounding, here's an unorthodox idea: How about the players yell out or growl every time they yank down a board, a la Moses Scurry and David Butler back in the day? It always fired up the crowd, intimidated the opposing players, and sent a message that the Rebels took every facet of the game seriously.

    It would also remind the other UNLV players on the floor of their commitment to protecting the glass.

  7. It is totally a mixture of all of the problems above! Stanback is the only one who follows his shots! Wallace is the worst, before the ball even touches the rim he is already at half court. They just have to decide they want to attack the basket no matter who they are playing.

  8. @ rebel dad, Wallace isn't exactly the best guy to rebound here. I'd rather have him in the back court looking for the opposing team to cherry pick. 2-3 guys should fight for an offense board, 4 for a defensive board.

  9. Playing 3 and four guards at the same time doesn't help. I wouldn't mind seeing Shaw and Massamba in the game together once in a while.

  10. watching the New Mexico game i saw wallace gettin in other guys faces about getting boards and boxing out under the rim a few times.

  11. I know that the rebounding problems suck, but they make up for it with defense, forcing TOs, and getting steals..oh and MAKING our FTs

  12. With ya on that one patticcus.

  13. That's a nice shot Fisher took at Rene, Joe, and Wink in that last quote. Somewhat deserving, but harsh.

  14. NevadaSouthern, I like that idea. Growl every time you make a board.
    At the moment we look like a bunch of girl scouts under the basket. BOX OUT!!

  15. On TV, everytime they showed a replay of a SDSU O-Board, no one of UNLV was boxing out. We were all in the paint and we jumped for rebounds, but nobody boxed out. We tried to out-jump them and obvisouly it didn't work. If we continue to try and out-jump our opponents we will struggle against the teams that are more athletic than us (SDSU, USC, Kansas St, etc.) Lets BOX-OUT!!!
    BTW, its so much better to talk about things we need to improve on after a WIN, than a loss!! Rebels!!

  16. Boost rebounds by subbing Santee in for Chace once in a while instead of Chop.

    Or move Shaw to the 4 once in a while when Brice or Santee are in at center.

    Keep Chop on the bench at all times, and box out for position.

    That's my coaching advice. BTW, another great win last night, Coach!! :)

  17. @BasirWaahid Sorry I guess I didn't mean loose balls, but caroms off the rim where an SDSU player just got there quicker. And that was probably just the first few minutes of the game and the image stuck in my mind.

    I did love one particular rebound in the last few minutes where Chace practically ripped the ball away from SDSU. That's the type of intensity we need.