Notebook: Freshman Lopez comes out of shell in exhibition finale

6-foot-11 Findlay Prep grad caps big night with 17 points, five rebounds, strong overall effort

UNLV vs. Washburn Exhibition

UNLV forward Quintrell Thomas rejects a shot by Washburn forward Bobby Chipman during an exhibition game Tuesday. UNLV won the game 88-53. Launch slideshow »

Next Game

  • Opponent: UC Riverside
  • Where: Thomas & Mack Center
  • When: Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m.
  • TV: None
  • Radio: ESPN 1100 AM/98.9 FM

A week ago, even though he physically dwarfed anyone Grand Canyon could possibly throw at him, UNLV redshirt freshman forward Carlos Lopez couldn't get comfortable.

With a new body and a polished skill set after sitting out his first season on campus, the Findlay Prep product felt much more at home on the floor in the Rebels' 88-53 thrashing of Washburn on Tuesday night. The exhibition finale at the Thomas & Mack Center was the last tune-up before Friday's season opener back at home against UC Riverside.

Lopez came out of his shell gradually in front of the home crowd as the night wore on, ultimately tallying 17 points — including a 9-of-12 showing at the free throw line — and five rebounds in 20 minutes.

"I was more patient," a relieved Lopez said afterward. "Coach (Lon Kruger) talked to me; the guys talked to me, told me to be more patient and you'll figure it out eventually. In the first half, I was still kind of lost and nervous, but after the first few minutes, I did well. I'm just trying to do my best with rebounding and playing tough."

Last Tuesday, Lopez looked slow at times and out of place, despite finishing with 11 points and five rebounds against the Antelopes.

This time, his biggest leap came after the half, when he attacked the over-matched Ichabods inside repeatedly, using his crafty moves and size advantage to draw several trips to the free throw line. After going 9-of-12 on Tuesday, he's now 16-of-20 (80 percent) from the stripe in two outings. Both earning the trips to the line and hitting those shots are nice qualities for a big man who handles the ball in the post quite a bit to have.

Lopez also became more aggressive on the defensive end and even got a chance to show off his open-court handle on a 1-on-2 fast break opportunity that resulted in him drawing a foul while going up to the rim.

"When the coach gives you the trust to leave you on the floor for that long, you feel more comfortable," Lopez said. "You keep running the plays, keep playing defense, all together it just makes you more comfortable with your own team and your own things you have to do."

Willis on right path

Friday's regular season opener could be the final game of Tre'Von Willis's "at least three-games" suspension handed down by Kruger following the senior guard's off-season legal issues.

From the way Kruger made it sound, the possibility of Willis returning for next Wednesday's game at home against Southeastern Louisiana is strong.

"To this point, he's done fine," Kruger said of Willis meeting his on- and off-court expectations. "We wont' know until we get there. He's got to follow through on everything up to that point."

When Willis returns, the preseason All-Mountain West selection is no cinch to immediately snatch back his starting job from sophomore Anthony Marshall, who has looked great in each of the two exhibition outings. But physically, Kruger is encouraged by Willis's progress.

The Fresno, Calif., native had off-season arthroscopic knee surgery and missed the start of fall practices after it began to nag him some more.

"He's practicing well the last three or four days in a row, which is great coming off of the knee surgery," Kruger added. "He hadn't been able to do that up to that point. He's able to go and bounce back the next day."

Willis was UNLV's leading scorer last season, averaging 17.2 points to go with 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

Legends take the floor

Before Tuesday's game, UNLV hosted former players at the Mack for the annual Legends game.

Those taking part included Freddie Banks, Armon Gilliam and Moses Scurry.

Also in attendance was Greg Anthony, who watched both the Legends contest and the exhibition game in street clothes from the front row.

The highlight of the Legends scrimmage, without question, was the 46-year-old Gilliam driving to the bucket in the second half from the left wing, rising up and throwing down a strong one-handed slam.

Other numbers of note

More stats of interest from Tuesday's exhibition ...

• True freshman Karam Mashour had eight points and seven rebounds in 20 minutes of play. The 6-foot-6 Israeli had a couple of nice dunks, but still showed some lapses on defense. It will be decided later this week whether he will redshirt this season.

• UNLV was 7-of-18 from 3-point range, making the Rebels 12-of-24 in the two exhibitions from long range. Hitting a trey for the second game in a row was sophomore guard Anthony Marshall, who was just 1-of-23 from deep as a freshman. He's continuing to show off an improved outside shot.

• UNLV held Washburn to just 34.5 percent shooting for the game, including a 9-of-28 (32.1 percent) showing in the first half.

• The Rebels out-rebounded the Ichabods 41-23. Derrick Jasper's nine rebounds were a game-high, with eight of them coming on the defensive glass.

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  1. Looks like Mashour is pretty good at getting the rebounds as well on the team. I couldn't watch the game, but if his defense is a little suspect, maybe he should redshirt. I think either way we will be in good hands this year.

  2. Definitely liked what I saw in the Washburn game. Rebounding is going to be key in the more physical matchups like Kansas State, San Diego State and New Mexico. If we can out rebound our opponent then, will have greater a chance of winning those tough games.

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