Jasper goes down, but UNLV rises to overcome Air Force, 60-50

After junior guard injures left knee, Wallace & Co. pick up the slack, earn third consecutive victory


Justin M. Bowen

UNLV players from left, Steve Jones, Brice Massamba and Matt Shaw, celebrate a late score on Tuesday in the Rebels’ 60-50 victory over Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Air Force vs UNLV

UNLV managed to overcome both a sluggish offense and a Derrick Jasper knee injury in the first half to beat Air Force 60-50 Tuesday night.

UNLV-Air Force Basketball

Brice Massamba lays it in for two of his six first half point as UNLV takes on Air Force at the Thomas & Mack Tuesday. Launch slideshow »

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With Derrick Jasper out for roughly five weeks, who do you want to see get more minutes on the floor?

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The Rebel Room

AIR FORCE POSTGAME: Jasper goes down, Kendall rises up

Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's 60-50 triumph over Air Force on Tuesday night at the Mack. Kendall Wallace helped get the Rebels going in the second half, while Derrick Jasper hurting his left knee was the hot topic of the night. The guys take a look at who could emerge if the UNLV junior misses any extended period of time.

Kendall Wallace admits that serving as a replacement for Derrick Jasper is no easy task.

But after Jasper went down late in Tuesday night's first half at the Thomas & Mack Center with a left knee injury — initially diagnosed as a sprain — the UNLV junior reserve filled the void by doing what he does best — firing up 3-pointer after 3-pointer.

After missing all three of his attempts in the first half, Wallace hit four straight during a torrid run out of the halftime locker room, ultimately helping lift the Rebels to a 60-50 triumph over a pesky, scrappy Air Force club.

"He does a lot out there on the floor. He's able to create for people, rebound and he's able to score, so I just went out there and tried to do the best I could," Wallace said. "I think we picked up our defense, too, at that time. We were able to get a couple of stops, knock down a couple of shots and when you're able to do that, you're able to get some momentum going. We were able to pull away a little bit there and come out with a win."

Jasper going down in a heap on the defensive end was the toughest blow for UNLV (17-4 overall, 5-2 Mountain West) to absorb in a first half which was nothing short of sluggish.

It happened with just 76 seconds left before the half, as Air Force's Tom Fow drove to the bucket. UNLV forward Matt Shaw stood tall and drew a charge on Fow. As he fell backward, Shaw rolled up on Jasper's left knee.

That's the same knee which Jasper spent his entire redshirt year at UNLV rehabbing following his transfer from Kentucky. While at Kentucky, he had microfracture surgery on the knee following his freshman season. He came back to play his sophomore campaign for the Wildcats before it was fully healed and, in turn, needed to build it back up all over again last year.

He was helped to the bench by head trainer Dave Tomchek, then aided to the locker room with his arms draped over the shoulders of Tomchek and strength and conditioning coach Jason Kabo, with tears welling in his eyes.

Tomchek confirmed later that Jasper will see a doctor on Wednesday morning for further tests and examination.

"It's just one of those freak injuries," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "Everyone's concerned for Derrick. He's battled knee injuries over the last couple, three years. You feel for him because he's worked, fought and rehabbed to get back healthy, and he'd done everything and more that he could do. Now we'll wait and see what happens with this.

"We won't know until we get some MRIs or X-rays or more detail than that. It doesn't feel real good right now, he said. We'll know more in the morning."

Coincidentally, at the time of the injury, he was replaced on the floor by a longtime friend and teammate dating back to their days on the summer prep circuits, Tre'Von Willis.

"I'm not going to lie, that really was tough for me," Willis said. "When you see something like that, it definitely gets your adrenaline going a lot more than it already is. But I definitely feel it. That's like my brother, and I'm just hoping he's all right."

The injury came as Jasper was playing one of his finest halves of basketball in his young UNLV career. At the time, he'd posted three points, four rebounds and four assists in 13 minutes.

In that first half, UNLV had allowed Air Force to set the tone completely, as the Falcons (8-11, 0-6) regularly milked the shot clock for all it was worth and tried to lull the Rebels to sleep.

After trailing by as many as nine points, UNLV chipped away to pull within three at halftime, 24-21. It was the lowest-scoring first half this season.

"The pace of the game was certainly to Air Force's credit and favor," Kruger said of the team that came in allowing fewer points per game than anyone in the league. "They did the things they needed to do to control it. We sped it up on occasion by trapping both three-quarter and half-court, but still, for the most part, Air Force controlled the tempo as they wanted to."

But the Rebels clearly were motivated across the board after returning from the locker room without Jasper.

Willis opened it up with a layup to pull the Rebels within a point, then Wallace buried the first of his four treys from the corner right in front of the student section to give UNLV a lead it would never let go of, helping bust up Air Force's zone defense more and more as he got hotter and hotter.

The Rebels never truly pulled away but were able to hit timely shots late, highlighted by a 3-pointer from Willis with 48 seconds left to put UNLV up by eight.

Overall, the tamed pace of the game partially covered up the fact that UNLV was at least somewhat efficient on the offensive end, shooting 50 percent (22-of-44) from the floor, despite going 7-of-23 from long range.

Willis led all scorers with 13 points, while Chace Stanback and Wallace each added 12 for the Rebels. Meanwhile, Oscar Bellfield was a steadying influence all night from his point guard post, finishing with a career-high 10 assists and no turnovers to go with his four points and four rebounds. Nine of those helpers came in the second half.

Air Force, which dropped its 22nd consecutive Mountain West Conference game, was led by Fow and Grant Parker, who each scored 11 points in reserve roles.

UNLV is off from until next Wednesday's road game at Wyoming. Plenty regarding the team's rotation will be determined between now and then.

In the immediate aftermath of the victory, the Rebels' minds were clearly on Jasper's well-being. Steve Jones, Darris Santee and several other teammates all shared their prayers and well wishes via Twitter.

The team's most notable tribute to Jasper, though, was the second half, which pushed UNLV into its brief layoff with at least something to smile about.

"It wasn't a good feeling, because I know pretty much everything about him and that's crushing if this is serious," Willis said. "I felt for him and it hit me a little bit. I definitely wanted to come out and at least finish this off and get the win for him."

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  1. I have been an avid reader of the sun's coverage of UNLV basketball for the past two years, and I think the job that Rob, Ryan, Ron, Christine, Ray, and Alex have done has been unbelievable I also enjoy reading the reader comments at the end of each article because they are, for the most part, very well thought out and allow me to see the perspectives of other die-hard Rebel fans such as myself. I'm not even gonna bother with soccerfan because he's not worth it, but I felt the need to address kenns or ksifferman (not sure if they're 2 people or the same guy). As someone else has already said: WE GET IT! You don't think Chop should have a UNLV uniform much less see the court. Every game, every time he checks in it is the worst thing to happen to UNLV basketball and he is the source of all our problems. Look I'm not gonna pretend that Chop's game is pretty or I don't wonder sometimes why he is in the game. However, when I watch him out on the court, I see someone who never takes a play off and is more supportive of his fellow teammates than any Rebel I can remember. I'm assuming you don't go to every practice (I don't either), but from what Ryan and Rob before him have reported, Chop is the same way on the practice floor- day in and day out. If Kruger wants to reward a Senior (who was voted Most Inspirational as a redshirt) that busts his hump and sets a tremendous example for his younger teammates with 5-7 min a game, I say let him. We're 17-4. The obsession with Chop has become a little over the top ("Hello, Clarice") and, while you guys are completely within your right to not want him in the game, repeating your distaste in every article for a 2 month period is a bit much. Walk your dog, kiss your wife (lol, I'm reaching with that one), or do anything besides take another minute out of your day to bash a 22 year old kid who wants our favorite college bball team to win more than anyone on this site.
    As for your guys' new target- Ryan- people look at this team in several ways. Ryan apparently doesn't think Chop is as much of a cancer on the court as you guys do. He stands up to you, and now you guys decide to start bashing him! It's gotten to be like a third grade classroom in here with the admins constantly having to remove posts because of personal attacks. Why all the hate? This is Ryan's job, the way he makes a living. Naturally it is a public forum, but how would you feel if someone came to your job everyday, told you how terrible you were at it, and tried to get others to do the same? Ya, 84 points would be a lot to put up on Air Force, but that prediction doesn't all of the sudden make him incompetent. Who cares?
    I consider the Sun to be a blessing as a Rebel fan, let's not waste it.

  2. If Jasper is out the only thing Rebs will miss from him is his rebounding and for a team that struggles with that topic this could lead to disaster.

  3. Jasper was trash. Although he rebounded well....someone better man up now but given the fact inconsistent wallace starts now the defense has a major hole in it. Unlv may be doomed for good.

  4. @drivendish: Well said. I agree 100%.

  5. Drivendish.. Another thumbs up for your post ...

    But.. I bet the Rebels would be ...say... 17 and 4 if Jones didn't get his minutes!

  6. Comment removed by moderator. There was nothing wrong with this comment; however, it referenced an inappropriate comment that has been removed.

  7. This really sux for Jasper. I've had problems with both of my knees(miniscus,ACL) and watching what happened and the pain he was in just did not look good at all for him. My thoughts would be that we are losing Jasper for the year. Even it is just a sprain it could easily take 2 months to recover at a minimum and then another month to get back to playing shape which would put him out the rest of the year. Hopefully it is just a sprain and not some kind of tear, cause if its a tear his playing career at UNLV could be over completly. Very sad cause this guy is a good baller. Well best wishes to you Jasper and hopefully it's not as bad as it looked. As for Chop i think he brings great energy and heart to the team. He does the job on the boards and actually plays pretty good D despite what some of you think. Ya he lacks offensive ability but not everyone on every team is a scoring machine. He plays his role and he plays it just fine. Go Rebels!!!

  8. Really felt bad for Jasper when he went down. I was hoping it wasn't a re-fracture. If it is just a sprain, thats the best outcome, even though it is the worst when it's the knee.

    Jasper may not have been the offensive powerhouse, but he is/was superb on defense, and getting the boards. Even in the 1st half he came down with a few boards. Heal up Jasper!

  9. You know for a guy whose team has not seen the NCAA tourney since Richie McKay was coach and whose program has not been relevant since Dave "Death Penalty" Bliss was at the helm, lobo69 sure likes to chime in on UNLV alot. Btw how would you know what an NBA scout looks like? I am not sure you have ever seen one in Albuquerque.

  10. who else on the team has an alley oop slam dunk? ClosetBYUFanataic shows his true colors day in and day out. Not only is Jasper our best rebounder, he also provides those momentum building/changing dunks. My hope is that it's just tweaked and that was more psychological pain he was feeling on the court. If he's out for the rest of the season that would be a huge blow for the team. Wallace did a good job, but who plays when Wallace sits. Marshall is the sub at PG, Chop doesn't have the skills to fill in for 50% of the game, and Hawkins was a no-show last night. I don't even remember J-Hawk taking his warm-ups off. We may have to actually play with two big men on the court for more of the game, with Stanbeck and Shaw sharing the 4 spot (keeping Stanbeck on the floor a little longer switching him over to the 3) and Santee and Massamba at the 5. I definitely have been impressed with Massamba's progression as a player. He was scrapping for rebounds and showed no hesitation diving for that loose ball. Hopefully he can carry it over to the games against more talented competition coming up.

  11. That would be a new look if Kruger went with a somewhat conventional lineup of Bellfield, Willis, Stanback, Shaw, and Massamba. My guess is that if Jasper is out that Wallace will be the new starter. Would like to see a little bigger lineup though. Just to see what it does for us. Best wishes for Derrick.

  12. BYU will destroy that bigger line-up. Bad match up against teams that don't play a 5. I don't believe that Massamba can guard a 4 or Shaw guard a 3. Losing Jasper will hurt most on D. I think Marshall could be the best replacement because he is the only one that is as, if not more, athletic than Jasper, but he would need to grow up fast. It would be fun to watch him drive from the wing.

  13. I agree 100% Driven.
    Some people take this stuff way too seriously.
    My best to Jasper.

  14. Ryan,

    I'm assuming in some way you may have told Kruger to start Massamba these last two games after my comments about him. Just kidding =)

    I'm telling you, he is playing some good basketball - besides that small miscommunication towards the end of the game, he is moving around under the basket and drawing his opponents in before putting up the high percentage looks. He's still gotta muscle up and get those boards, but he's looking more confident each day.

    I'm hope all three of our bigs show up over the next couple of games. =)

  15. When I used to build exhibits for the trade show industry a long time ago, there was a saying, "always look busy", even if you didn't have anything to do. The reason was because you were being paid alot of money and the clients didn't like to see you standing around. Which reminds me of Chop, he looks "busy" on the court, but nothing is getting done.

    Now don't get your panty's in a bunch all you rah rah's out there. Its just an observation.

    I think the Chop issue gets so much attention is because it's unlike anything we've ever seen before. 11th man talent is the first off the bench. It would be like Chris Mihm being the first player off the bench for the Lakers last year. And to top it off, he would come in for a guard with him being a center. Chop usually replaces Stanback so he is guarding the other teams power forward. Against weak teams it doesn't hurt as much, but against good teams it can mean the difference of the game. That's why it's such a lightning rod.

  16. Jasper is going to be missed more than any of us realize. My thoughts are out to this young man and what he has been through.

    To all of the players - thanks for all you do. Keep playing hard and representing our universtiy, community and program. We've got your backs. Come together and overcome this loss. U-N-L-V!

  17. Steve Jones last night vs. Air Force;
    10 minutes played, 0 points, 0 Rebounds, 0 Assist, 0 Steals, and 1 personal foul.

  18. REALLY hoping for some good news to come out today regarding Derrick Jasper. At this point, I don't even care about what we might miss on the court. It would just really suck for him with all he's already been through.

  19. I hope that Jasper's injury is more of a scare than anything else. When watching him, you can tell that he's capable of one of those eruptions in March that get the team a win they might not have otherwise.

    When you see players get hurt, though, it's good to remember that these are kids (expect when you're talking about BYU) and they're out there doing their best. No matter the result, you have to wish them all well (including Chop).

  20. Amen drivendish, Amen

  21. Bigfish - I am not saying that a big line up would be good against every team. I would just like to see Kruger change it up from time to time if Jasper is unavailable. Like to see what Massamba and Shaw could do in the game together. Maybe even some high - low post play. Since I have not seen that since 2006-07 that would be a nice change. Might help us get some post production. Probably just dreaming though.

  22. Agree with Gumby, I would love to see Shaw and either Santee or Massamba on the floor at the same time.

  23. Everything about last night's game was painful but the final score, and maybe that's the reality about this team we need to accept.

    I pray that Jasper's injury isn't serious, as I would hate to see such a nice, hard working kid be set back again.

    Brice had a great game, keeping us going in the first half offensively, and with solid defense in the second half.

    The post game radio show, however, was blowing just a little too much sunshine. Yes, we're a respectable 17-4. During the show, the hosts were bristling against the callers who suggested this team lacks grit. I agree with them. The Rebels would not be where they are this season without demonstrating integrity, heart, and pride. However, I don't think UNLV possesses a killer instinct, at least not one that's been demonstrated this season. There's a big difference between the two.

    Every time the Rebels get a chance to really put their "foot on the throat" of their opponents, they back off. This has happened in every league game so far this year, and cost us victories against BYU and Utah.

    The only time the Rebs play with any sense of urgency is when it really is urgent, time's winding down, and they've allowed their opponents back in the game.

    It's forty minutes, Rebels. I'd like to see a more consistent effort throughout the game, not just you putting it together at the end of games to avoid embarrassment.

    I know this is a pretty harsh assessment. Believe me, I still live and die with this team no matter what the outcome. But, there's no denying the fact that these last few "10 point" victories were nowhere near that close. Also, teams have been beating Air Force by an average of twenty points this season, yet it took us until the waning minutes of a home game to put them away?

    The Rebels are talented, and capable of great things. I'm certainly not turning my nose up at a 17-4 record at this point in the season. But, most of those seventeen wins have been almost as frustrating to watch as the losses.

    You're better than this, Rebs. There are two reasons why Jerry Tarkanian was called "Tark the Shark." One: it rhymes, and two: his teams could always smell blood in the water.

    When you slip the knife in, you've got to learn how to twist it.

  24. Hey guys, should have some Jasper news at some point this afternoon, so stay tuned. You guys are right on in what UNLV could potentially be without on the defensive end and on the glass. Jasper's offensive game was still coming around, but remember, the 6.7 points he's averaging this season is more than he averaged in either of his two seasons at Kentucky. At the college level, he hasn't been a major point producer. At the same time, he's the team's second-leading rebounder (4.9 rpg) and having that 6-foot-6, springy presence coming in from the wing to crash the glass at the defensive end has been huge of late for UNLV. He had nine defensive boards at both TCU and CSU, and was on his way to a similar night last night with four at the time he went down. When UNLV needed to shut down opponents on the offensive glass, he was the one who really rose to the occasion.

    There's a lot of theories on which way the team goes as far as dishing out those minutes if Jasper misses any time. I'd not be surprised to see Anthony Marshall get some extended run if that's the case. Not only are they physically similar in terms of frame and leaping ability, but if this kid is going to be a major part of the team's future over the next three years, it might not be a bad time to throw him into the fire a little further, force him to get some confidence back in his jumper and help him improve on the defensive end by doing more. Just my two cents. Your thoughts?

  25. Bring back Meich!!

    I agree with Warrior 100%. Chop sucks.

    I disagree with DrivenDish 100%. Ryan's job as a journalist is to report the news. In this case, about UNLV basketball. His job IS NOT to coddle a Division I Basketball player.

    My God....we need Derrick Jasper...

  26. I agree, Ryan. Marshall seems like the heir apparent if Jasper's injury is season ending. However, they'll need someone specific to sub Oscar at the one spot. I'm not all that comfortable with the whole "point guard by committee" thing the Rebs have tried at times throughout the year.

  27. Marshall would definitely help fill the defensive void that Jasper would leave, he has tremendous athletic ability, but his shot leaves a lot to be desired (1 of 21 from three, for example).

  28. Yeah, you'd have to think that shot will come around at some point. At this point, I'm convinced it's just a confidence issue. I saw him play multiple times at Mojave and over the summer with the LV Prospects. He can shoot the ball, it's in there. I think right now it's just all a part of the growth process in transitioning into major D-I ball ...

  29. Ryan-

    Derrick Jasper update would be greatly appreciated by all... Please bring us up to speed as soon as something is known.


    Take the Rebel out of your name scrub, before the REBEL faithful do it for you. Your a true SCRUB to say something like that about a class act kid.

  30. @J-Rocafella ... Promise that as soon as I have news, you will have news

  31. Rebelnsoccer is Sufferin'. Do not believe otherwise.

  32. THANK GOD!!!! we are lucky S O B's

  33. Ryan,

    Thank you for the interim update.

    It still amazes me that a lot of our "fans" think every player on the floor is supposed to be a 20/10 guy. We need folks that fill the stat column as much as we need scoring. DJ has been a great asset to the team this year and I love his game.

    I am one of the people that has repeatedly commented on the playing time that Chop gets, it still makes me scratch my head.

    Keep up the good work guys!!

  34. thank god we had jasper during the hardest part of our schedule.... we would have lost at UNM and prolly at home to SDSU without jasper..... hopefully he didnt hurt himself too bad..... if he tore anything we are in trouble.... thats like a year to recover (see matt shaw)

    any news would be much appreciated Ryan.

  35. Jasper will miss five weeks with second-degree MCL sprain ... (story is also on the front of our site)

    He definitely caught a break, guys ...

  36. The Air Force game was ugly, but there was some upside. We won a game while Tre'Von had a less than stellar performance and Masamba scored every time he touched the ball in the post.
    However, the negatives were there too. We let a horrible Air Force team dictate the game and I can't believe that part of the student section really was booing Chop. Thats out of line and totally wrong. He is still a member of our team and he works as hard if not harder than anybody else on the team.