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UNLV advances to face San Diego State on Friday night with 69-53 victory over Air Force

Rebels bomb away and hit 11 3-pointers, setting up epic Friday night of semis


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

UNLV’s Carlos Lopez (L) and Derrick Jasper congratulate Tre’Von Willis at the conclusion of their Mountain West Conference Championship game against Air Force Thursday, March 10, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 69-53.

Updated Thursday, March 10, 2011 | 11:20 p.m.

MWC Tournament - UNLV vs. Air Force

UNLV guard Justin Hawkins celebrates a play against Air Force during their Mountain West Conference Championship game Thursday, March 10, 2011 at the Thomas & Mack Center. UNLV won the game 69-53. Launch slideshow »

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Final, UNLV wins 69-53

UNLV hit 11 3-pointers on Thursday night, easily dispatching of Air Force in the Mountain West Conference tournament quarterfinals.

That sets up what promises to be an awesome night of hoops at the Mack, with the first semifinal at 6 p.m. featuring New Mexico and BYU, followed by UNLV and San Diego State at 8:30.

Chace Stanback was responsible for six of those bombs, scoring 20 points. Tre'Von Willis also tallied 20 for the Rebels to go with his eight assists and seven rebounds.

Quintrell Thomas had eight points, six rebounds and five blocks for UNLV, who is now 24-7 on the season and likely will be playing on Friday night to keep itself off of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 line in next weekend's NCAA tournament.

As a team, UNLV was 24-of-48 from the floor, 11-of-20 from three and out-rebounded Air Force 34-29.

For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to lasvegassun.com.

11:38, First Half, UNLV leads 50-36

Chace Stanback is making sure that UNLV's double-digit lead doesn't slip.

The junior forward now has five 3-pointers for the Rebels, who lead Air Force mid-way through the second half, 50-36.

Quintrell Thomas is still performing well in the paint, as he now has five points, five rebounds and five blocked shots.

It's been a pretty sound night overall for UNLV, who is subbing a bit more regularly tonight than normal. It's hard to blame Lon Kruger for doing so, as there are legs to be saved with a meeting with a Top-10 opponent on the horizon now in less than 24 hours.

Halftime, UNLV leads 37-23

Well, half-way through their quarterfinal match-up with Air Force, the Rebels look primed to advance to tomorrow's semifinal of the Mountain West tournament against San Diego State.

UNLV is up 37-23 on Air Force, who is having trouble doing much of anything against the Rebels.

A big reason for that has been the interior presence of Quintrell Thomas, whose nice first half included four points, three rebounds and three blocks.

Chace Stanback leads all scorers with 11 points, while Tre'Von Willis has 10 points, five assists and four rebounds for UNLV.

UNLV was 13-of-23 from the floor in the first half and 5-of-11 from deep. They appear loose coming back onto the floor for the second half, and just need to not screw around much to get win No. 24.

3:44, First Half, UNLV leads 29-19

The Rebels are starting to create some separation on the scoreboard thanks to the long ball.

Chace Stanback hit back-to-back 3-pointers, while Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield each added one of their own, helping UNLV create a 29-19 margin on Air Force late in the first half.

UNLV is now 5-of-10 from deep, and hasn't allowed an offensive rebound to Air Force in almost 10 minutes.

Tre'Von Willis also had a nice finish underneath, and is continuing his hot play of late tonight. So far, he has eight points, four assists and three rebounds on his line in 15 minutes.

11:38, First Half, UNLV leads 11-7

UNLV got off to a 7-0 start on Air Force tonight in crisp fashion, but the Falcons' four offensive rebounds have led to extended possessions within their slowed-down, Princeton offense.

After hitting some shots, the Falcons have closed to within four at 11-7.

Chace Stanback hit a three on UNLV's first possession of the game, and Carlos Lopez then added three buckets in a five-minute run off of the bench.

Maybe the most intriguing aspect of the game so far is the lack of fire from what should be a big home crowd for the Rebels. Of the 'Big Four' programs taking part in the tournament, UNLV has by far the smallest crowd here tonight. It's made for a pretty docile atmosphere so far.

The Rebels will have to keep providing their own energy, it appears.


If you thought there couldn't be a repeat of that epic semifinal Friday night from last year's Mountain West Conference tournament, you could be wrong.

We're now three-quarters of the way there, as BYU, New Mexico and San Diego State have all advanced here already on Thursday. The winner of the UNLV-Air Force nightcap gets the Aztecs, who just easily bounced Utah, 64-50.

This is a game UNLV is pretty fired up for despite not needing to do any more work to secure itself into the NCAA tournament's field of 68. The Rebels' current 5-game win streak began with a 49-42 victory over Air Force on Feb. 15 which the players said felt more like a loss because of their poor play.

It was just as ugly to watch from press row.

Here are three things I'll be watching for tonight from the third match-up between the Rebels and Falcons.

1) Tre'Von Willis has been a 50 percent shooter since finally busting himself back out in the second half of that Air Force slop-fest. Can he keep up the hot first half shooting of late? If he can, the Rebels could get some much-wanted separation in the first half and get rid of an Air Force team they don't want to hang around too long with.

2) The Falcons haven't had too much trouble getting 3-point looks against the Rebels this season. They've attempted 49 in two games. The problem for them is that they've only made 12. UNLV might not want to flirt with fire too much in that department and defend the perimeter better, because these guys can get hot.

3) Quintrell Thomas has been such an efficient, physical presence in the paint of late for the Rebels on both ends. If he can stay on that pace, it gives UNLV a marked advantage, because Air Force has no one big enough or physical enough to match him when he's rolling like he has the last three games.

As for a prediction tonight, I'm taking UNLV in a fairly comfortable one, 65-55. My Pick to Click is Tre'Von Willis. He was here for most of the San Diego State game and has a pretty hungry look on his face. He was as upset about the last Air Force game as anyone, and I could see him having a strong night.

I'll talk to you all again soon. Remember, join the conversation below via Twitter by adding the #unlvmbb tag to your in-game tweets, or give me a follow at twitter.com/ryanmgreene.

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  1. My favorite thing: BLOCK PARTY!! 8 Blocks, 5 from Quintrell Thomas!


  2. Error note: Sun has in the "Next up" collumn that we play Utah on Friday -- please fix