Notebook: First half a trial by fire for Lopez

Redshirt freshman sees highs and lows while playing extended minutes early against Wisconsin

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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The first half of UNLV's 68-65 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday afternoon quickly became a trial by fire for redshirt freshman forward Carlos Lopez.

Sophomore Quintrell Thomas and junior Brice Massamba both found themselves in early foul trouble, and Lopez was asked to go for longer than normal in the game's first 20 minutes.

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."

Willis returns

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.

Next up

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.

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  1. Lopez did a good job I thought. He did get burned pretty bad on a few plays defensively, and I think he could be a little more aggressive and use his size better down in the post, but he was ok. I also think he got called for a foul on a block that had me reeling, and the swinging of the elbows rule is way too vague in my opinion.

  2. It looked like to me he was up for the rebound and when he came down, the Badger player was underneath him. You can't hold the ball with your hands down to your side. Its a lame rule. You should be able to protect the ball.

  3. I was extremely surpised that they called a tech on Carlos. They showedthe replay about 100 times from several different angles (that no doubt the refs saw as well).
    A. Carlos was leaning away from the other guy and he swung his arms up and away from the defender, not towards. And B. He didn't get 3 inches away from carrot top's nose, which is saying something since the dude had a BEAK!
    Terrible call, especialy in a close game, to give the otehr team 2 freebies and possesion. Especially when they had 15 minutes to see what I saw in 2-3 takes.