Sunday, Nov. 21, 2010 | 2:13 a.m.
- Box Score: UNLV 68, Wisconsin 65
- Hawkins has final say in UNLV’s 68-65 triumph over Wisconsin
- UNLV defense clamps down on Wisconsin, Jon Leuer
- Instant Analysis: Rebels gain victory, invaluable experience against Wisconsin
- Live Game Blog: Hawkins saves the day as UNLV hangs on for 68-65 victory over Wisconsin
- 2010-11 UNLV Schedule
- All Sun UNLV men's basketball coverage
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.
While Massamba and Thomas played a combined 11 minutes before the break, Lopez played 11 on his own.
It was the biggest challenge yet of his young collegiate career, and Lopez didn't hold back when giving out a self-assessment.
"I'm always going to critique myself and always want to get better," Lopez said. "I didn't do so good."
Lopez backed off of himself some, though.
"I feel like I played OK, but I have a lot of space to improve."
Lopez did pick up two fouls of his own in the first half, but also added five points, four rebounds and two blocks before heading to the locker room. That included hitting a 10-foot baseline jumper at the buzzer to give UNLV a 34-33 halftime lead.
The 6-foot-11 Lopez did get burned a handful of times on the defensive end, but felt like he was ready enough to provide the plug that the Rebels needed in the lineup.
"You always have to be ready for situations like that," he added. "Thank God I was."
Coming into his first game action since last March, UNLV senior guard Tre'Von Willis said he thought that getting back into game shape would be his biggest hurdle.
While scoring four points and dishing five assists in 23 minutes during the Rebels' 68-65 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon, his conditioning appeared to be fine.
The next step for the Rebels' leading scorer from a year will simply be regaining his feel for the game.
"I thought Tre did a good job of letting it happen," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said afterward. "He just needs to attack and not worry about the other stuff. I thought his conditioning looked good, and we tried to keep him fresh early in the game. When he got back in in the second half, I thought he looked pretty fresh."
In his return from a four-game suspension to start the season, Willis's excitement for the occasion was apparent 90 minutes before the game, when he was the first Rebel to come out of the locker room to shoot. He worked feverishly for an hour, getting more of a sweat going than normal while also talking to himself for much of the time.
In the first half, Willis acted more as a facilitator within the offense than the score-first shooting guard he'd played as a year ago in earning first team All-Mountain West honors.
It certainly wasn't detrimental to the team, as he recorded three assists in the opening stanza after entering five minutes in to a wild roar from the nearly 15,000 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center.
However, as the Rebels were scratching and clawing for offense after the break, Willis had trouble at times breaking defenders down in one-on-one situations and creating clean looks.
He was 2-for-7 from the floor on the afternoon, but the two buckets came at crucial times in the second half.
Willis after the game confessed to one lapse in judgment that ended up not hurting the Rebels, but also goes in the category of feel that he simply needs to regain.
After Justin Hawkins' late free throws with six seconds left to play that put the Rebels up by three, Willis was supposed to foul Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor and send him to the free throw line before he could get up a look at a game-tying shot.
"Tre said he meant to foul but didn't — I don't know exactly what that means," Kruger said with a grin.
Thomas in a foul funk
After fouling out in only eight minutes in Wednesday's victory over Southeastern Louisiana, Quintrell Thomas couldn't buy any help from the officials three days later.
He posted no points and no rebounds in seven minutes, again plagued by foul trouble.
Thomas's first infraction was called 43 seconds into the game, and he was quickly lifted in favor of Brice Massamba. He'd pick up another before the half, then after getting called for another one after only playing two second half minutes, his day was done.
The Rebels are off on Sunday, then will hit the floor for two practices — one on Monday afternoon, another on Tuesday morning — before taking off for Anaheim, Calif.
There, UNLV will open up play in the 76 Classic at 8:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night against Tulsa, who is 2-1 following a 62-50 victory over Missouri State on Friday night.
If victorious, the Rebels will again play at 8:30 p.m. on Friday night against the winner between Murray State and Stanford.