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Hawkins has final say in UNLV’s 68-65 triumph over Wisconsin

Sophomore guard’s late steal and ensuing free throws ice Rebels’ victory in an ugly affair


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins greets fans after Saturday’s game with Wisconsin. In the final seconds, Hawkins stole an inbound pass, was fouled and made two free throws as UNLV upset 25th-ranked Wisconsin 68-65.

UNLV vs. Wisconsin

UNLV knocked off Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, 68-65, behind a career-high 25 points from Chace Stanback and clutch late-game heroics by Justin Hawkins on defense and at the free throw line.

UNLV vs. Wisconsin Basketball

UNLV players, from left, Todd Hanni, Brice Massamba, Carlos Lopez and Karam Mashour celebrate as Justin Hawkins makes a free throw to cement their win over Wisconsin on Saturday. UNLV beat the 25th-ranked Wisconsin 68-65. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

WISCONSIN POSTGAME: Rebels survive the grinder

Ryan Greene and Case Keefer take a closer look at a grinder of a 68-65 win for the UNLV men's basketball team on Saturday afternoon at home against Wisconsin. It was far from pretty, but the Rebels improved to 3-0 and now have a few days off before the start of the 76 Classic on Thanksgiving night. The guys take a look at the struggles of UNLV's big men, the defensive prowess of Justin Hawkins, the offensive heroics of Chace Stanback and assess Tre'Von Willis's return from a 4-game suspension.

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In a matter of eight seconds, Justin Hawkins managed to provide an uplifting ending to an afternoon that was equal parts frustrating and satisfying for UNLV on Saturday afternoon.

The sophomore guard, with his team holding a late one-point lead over Wisconsin, stole a critical inbounds pass, then hit two free throws that iced a 68-65 victory in front of a raucous Thomas & Mack Center crowd of nearly 15,000.

"We knew coming in that it would be a tough battle," Hawkins said afterward. "We didn't get our heads down when we weren't scoring, because we knew it would be back and forth."

Back and forth was right.

The fast-paced, smooth-looking Rebels that ran through what were essentially two tune-ups leading into Saturday's clash were thrown out of their comfort zone right away.

Wisconsin (2-1), with its big lineup and grind-it-out Big Ten style, threw UNLV (3-0), especially on the offensive end.

With the Rebels keying on slowing down Badgers star senior forward Jon Leuer and, on the other side, Wisconsin focusing on UNLV's wing tandem of Anthony Marshall and Chace Stanback, the first half turned into a duel between the two teams' junior point guards.

UNLV's Oscar Bellfield and Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor each tallied 16 points in the first half, with Bellfield hitting four 3-pointers and Taylor going 8-of-9 from the free throw line.

Even with a 34-33 halftime lead, though, the Rebels appeared to have a bit of an uphill battle ahead of them.

UNLV had a tough time establishing itself at all on the glass in the first 20 minutes. Foul trouble was also mounting, as each of the Rebels' three big men — Quintrell Thomas, Brice Massamba and Carlos Lopez — had two against them.

The biggest concern, though, was the offensive ineffectiveness of the shooting guards.

Anthony Marshall, who had been arguably UNLV's best player so far entering Saturday, was scoreless on just 0-for-1 shooting, while Tre'Von Willis, making his 2010-11 debut on the heels of a four-game suspension, missed his only two tries while finding his footing and acting more as a facilitator.

The second half would have to be won largely on the defensive end, and Hawkins knew he'd factor into that heavily.

"Coach is always talking about personal battles in practice and in the locker room," Hawkins recalled. "So I was gonna take it upon myself to take on the personal battle against Taylor, because I felt he was the only person keeping them in the game, since the rest of our team was keeping Leuer and (Keaton) Nankivil in check."

Nankivil and Leuer combined for only three points in the first half, and in his 10 second half minutes, Hawkins did exactly what he wanted to against Taylor. The Badgers' floor general scored only three points on 1-of-4 shooting after the break.

Meanwhile, in a game that was tightly called by the refs going both ways, Stanback provided just enough offense at crucial times for UNLV.

The junior forward scored 17 of his career-high 25 points after the break, including three long balls that helped the Rebels stay neck-and-neck with the visitors.

"Chace has really been shooting the ball well for us," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "We couldn't get a stop on the other end to create any margin, but we kept scoring at critical times."

Stanback's biggest shot was an 18-footer from the left wing with 54 seconds to play that gave UNLV a 66-65 lead.

A little later, the stage was set for Hawkins.

Kruger and Wisconsin's Bo Ryan called back-to-back timeouts before the Badgers inbounded the ball under the UNLV hoop with eight seconds left on the clock, turning it into a strategic chess match of sorts.

"I just didn't like the look there with Leuer sitting right in front of the ball and was afraid they were just gonna dump it to him at four feet (from the basket)," Kruger recalled. "I called a timeout to get our inbounds guy in his lap."

The guy assigned to the 6-foot-10 Leuer was 6-foot-6 Derrick Jasper, but Kruger instructed his players to switch their coverages if a screen was set.

One was, and that put the 6-foot-3 Hawkins on the preseason All-Big Ten selection.

Hawkins' outstanding defensive instincts shone through when he saw Wisconsin's Mike Bruesewitz, instead of throw a pass of high to Leuer, push in a low bouncer. Hawkins swam around Leuer for a clean swipe, then held onto the ball for dear life before drawing a foul two seconds later.

The Mack quieted enough to help him sink two free throws that ended up clinching the exhausting win.

"I could say it was the biggest play of my life," Hawkins said afterward.

Added Kruger: "Justin's really good defensively, whether he's on the ball or off the ball, and he's got a great feel for it. He solidifies everything while he's out there."

The Rebels, in the wake of everything, were left with a win that will be huge a few months down the road when analysts far and wide — and the NCAA selection committee — are breaking down teams' resumés.

On the plus side, they were a key 9-of-18 from 3-point range and shot 49 percent from the floor as a team while holding Wisconsin to a 36.5 showing. They held Leuer, who came in averaging 23.5 points per game, to only 10 on 3-of-11 shooting.

But before their next game — Thursday at 8:30 p.m. to open the 76 Classic against Tulsa in Anaheim, Calif. — there are several key areas needing to be addressed.

The most obvious was that the Rebels were out-rebounded 37-29, and the Badgers all afternoon had their way in terms of getting position underneath the glass/

There were more, too, but Kruger was happy in the end that the intangibles helped secure a win that could go a long way.

The rest will be dealt with when UNLV returns to practice on Monday.

"I liked their fight, liked their battle in a game that didn't have much margin on the scoreboard throughout," he said. "A lot of good things from it, and a lot of learning opportunities from it. Really, a good early season test."

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  1. wow. talk about intense. missed that feeling, and hate that feeling all at the same time. Justin goes in for defense and proved why he does. Fun fun game. See you in CALI Rebels!!

  2. Go Rebels!!!!!!!!! What an excellant mid Nov. game with a March Madness feel to it. I loved the way the team made plays in the crucial moments to win the game. We still have some areas to improve on but this was an excellant win against a ranked Wisconsin team. I feel we can definetly take the 76 tourney this coming week.

  3. Worst officiating game I've ever seen and with the UNLV line at the bookies being so close, its so hard to take ANY sport in america seriously with stuff like this happening.

    Nonetheless, this win is going to be excellent come march. Luckily its still November, and with this tournament coming UNLV can get alot more experience but like what Kruger said, they weren't calling the switches out there. Wisconsin scored almost 20 pts wide open which is preposterous. The defense was the worst I've seen out of the rebels in years and massamba was absolutely clueless ONCE again. Lopez got ran by and the player finished with the dunk but overall he was the best big man out there. Thomas didn't even play in my book. Tre'Von should've never came in the most crucial parts of the game and he won't be in full form until the K-State game and we'll need him somewhat but him, and bellfield are garbage turnover machines. I don't care how many points you can put up, anyone on the team can put up 20 pts with ease, but when you turn the ball over 3 times, you're dooming the entire squad. No inside presence and the rebounding was HORRIFIC. So rebels have SOOOOOO much work to do and Kruger seriously better get his stuff together too because yesterdays game was ugly, and the worst officiating ever. I don't care how the game ended and how close it was.

  4. Nice win, overcoming some absolutely horrendous officiating (the technical against Lopez in the 1st half...??? Took the zebras 15 minutes to come up with that? Wow)and an almost complete absence of rebounding to win a close one. Great job by the 'D', shutting down Leuer. This team will definitely do well against teams that rely on one star player if this game is any indication, but, again, it seems rebounding will be an Achilles' heel.

  5. Good win. I feel the rebounding will improve with time. As Lopez and Q get comfortable they should start to be a force inside.

  6. there were some horrible calls during the game, but the Rebels were able to prevent the zebras from gift wrapping the game for the Badgers. Good Job Rebels!

  7. This felt like a tournament game on the line. Great job rebels.


    The Wisconsin Game Blog is fun to read. they thought the fouls were only one sided.

  9. I was watchin on tv and during the TO before the inbounds play..Hawkins kept pointing at himself asking to go in..and he gets in and wins the game for us.

    Look no further for our future PG fellas. Dont need Guerrero, Dinwiddie, Hinds, or Boatright.. Justin Hawkins will do just fine.

  10. Yeah Zero...that blog is both hilarious & delusional. UW was in the double bonus with like 10+ minutes to go in BOTH halves! I think the fouls were like 8-2 at one pt in the 2nd half. And UW doesnt play physcial too? Yeah, Right!! So many BS touch fouls on us played right into UW's MO too of grinding u down & getting to the line.

    What a gutsy call by Kruger to go small at the end. I saw what he was doing immediately and didnt like it AT ALL! I wanted more size out there. I wasnt afraid of them carving us on an inbounds set but of a put back...I had visions of Hobson & the UNM game last year. They got a second chance too (nice no call for UW with that guy all over Tre's back) but Justin stole the ball...although had he lobbed that pass...I'd be right and we'd all be sick. Never been happier to be wrong in my life! lol

  11. Give rebounding a minute to develop. Chase tre Jasper all took about a half a season to feel comfortable and find thier place. Thomas and Lopez will follow suite. Who knew jhawk was so clutch. One of my favorites.

  12. As far as the fouls, they were Big 10 officials, so no real excuse for UW.

  13. I was at the game and from what I saw it seemed like the officials were horrible.. Tons of inconsistencies, questionable calls both ways, and they really hurt the momentum and flow of the game.. It did help that they weren't giving continuation on anything though because they took like 6-8 points away from Wisconsin and made them earn it from the line.

    Marshall had a tough game because of the way Wisconsin was playing him.. He's going to have to keep working on his outside shooting and develop a mid range shot or a floater in order to be affective against teams with good bigs inside. Tre looked a little out of rythym shooting but I liked the way he was distributing and I think he led the team in assists.

    We can't say enough about J Hawks defense.. He reminds me of a shutdown corner in football because he has the ability to take a guard completely out of the game. He still needs to work on his shooting and passing if he wants to be a point guard, but he definitely has skills.

  14. I was at the game and didn't notice bad calls go against UW. There were multiple times the student body was chanting "it goes both ways." But how the heck on a fast break can you stop the ball and slide over to the guy coming in off the wing and beat the ball and still be there long enough to draw the charge. That was such a bull crap call against Chace.

  15. The game was an intense, grind it out, big ten officiated game, was glad to see the Rebels pull out the victory. It was an outcome we all expected, Rebels in a tough match-up against a biger more physical team. In the end, team speed , defensive pressure, depth and the crowd , won out in a close contest.

    You have to love Hawks play at the end, he is a selfless defender who does whatever the team needs and coaches ask of him. Nobody mentions how Oscar was bouncing like a pogo stick so rapid and high negating the lob attempt and forcing the bounce pass. Coach stated in an inteirview he called the timeout seeing a lob coming. I'm sure he let Oscar know of his concerns.


  16. Not liking the "Bigs" again. Massamba has gotten a little better each year, but is still no great shakes. Lopez could be the real two years. And Q is the worst player I have seen in a Rebel Uniform since Richard Robinson. What a Hacker- no talent in the least.

  17. It's been tough going for Q these last few games, I agree. Calling him the worst since RR is a little strong at this point. I was at both exhibitions and the first two warm-up games, and he was doing ok except for the Riverside game where he started leaping in the air everytime going for the big block. Needs to be alittle more like a Wisconsin, Bo Ryan type big guy on D. He has a good wide center of gravity, if he would just move his feet and keep the hands up instead of swatting and leaping around, he will be fine.

    J-Hawk as a PG? I'm not sure about his handle, but I am really impressed with his tenacity and quickness on 'D'...dare I say, Gary Graham-esque? Clutch too, judging from this contest.

  18. Delusional rose. Massamba is still extremely clumsy, especially in handling the ball, and balance, but still an asset. Lopez is doing fine for his first couple big games. Thomas just needs to work on defending without fouling. He's good though.

  19. He certainly has time, but so far Thomas has not looked good. He plays 100 mph which leads to mistakes and fouls. Can't be productive on the bench in foul trouble. Hopefully if he is unable to slow down over the next game or two, and stays in foul trouble, Kruger will move him to the bench in favor of Lopez or Massamba (preferably Lopez). Maybe coming off the bench and spoting him minutes will help Thomas slow down some. A different perspective may do him some good.

  20. It's a little too early to jump on QT, I think. Remember, he hasn't played a full collegiate game until this season. He hardly saw the floor as a frosh at Kansas, was hurt for half of last season then spent the other half working back into shape. I'm not making excuses for him, but it was pretty clear coming into the season that he probably wouldn't be rounding into form until conference play. Gotta give him time. He's the best rebounder between the three big men and is going to have to be a valuable asset down the road. He knows that.

  21. Look at rose bringing out Ricky Rob! I can be as impatient as any fan and my first view of Q was this game as well. No he was not impressive. My first thoughts were that he was very similar to Santee which is not a good thing. However I am willing to give it a few more games to see how he develops. I think Brice is coming along nicely and when he does get touches in the paint finishes strong. Carlos I think gives us a legitimate shot blocker and has a great feel for the game. This is something that it appears Q does not have. Carlos just seems to be in a bit of a rush. When he gets comfortable and the game slows down for him, I think he can be very helpful. After watching Saturday I am not sure our inside game will be much better than last year but I am hopeful they all continue to improve. I know one thing, we gave up way to many offensive rebounds. If that was SDSU we would have gotten creamed. Even the guards for Wisc were getting a bunch. That has to be cleaned up quickly. Excited about this week. Would love to face Va Tech or Ok State. Runnin' Rebels!

  22. San deigo st might get more rebounds but we wouldn't got creamed cause they cannt shoot. It takes them 3 off rebounds to score. And how can you say we are not better on the boards when Brice is another year older and no doubt Carlos is better than anyone else last year. We were only out rebounded by 8 which shows room for improvement but was against a solid rebounding team. To be blown out in rebounding is has to be double digets to me.

  23. I never said we got "blown out" in rebounding. I said we gave up way too many offensive rebounds. They got 14 offensive boards. Gasser, a guard, got 4 himself. SDSU is much more athletic and pursues the ball better than Wisconsin. Ask Gonzaga. They have two seven footers and got ripped on the boards against the Aztecs giving up 18 offensive rebounds. Yes SDSU can't shoot but when you get everything on the glass you do not have too. I do think the UNLV bigs will improve but right now we have a long ways to go inside.