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UNLV BASKETBALL:

Rebels avoid pitfall, keep focus in 88-58 blowout

Marshall’s block, Massamba’s moves byproducts of defensive intensity in rout

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Leila Navidi

UNLV guard Derrick Jasper tries for a layup during Saturday’s game against South Carolina Upstate at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Sunday, Dec. 20, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.

USC Upstate vs UNLV

Kendall Wallace and Oscar Bellfield led the Rebels with 16 points each as UNLV cruised to an 88-58 victory over South Carolina Upstate on Saturday night.

UNLV vs. South Carolina Upstate

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The Rebel Room

SC UPSTATE POSTGAME: Maturity prevails for UNLV

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Ryan Greene and Ray Brewer discuss UNLV's 88-58 victory over South Carolina Upstate on Saturday night, as the Rebels showed solid maturity in what could have been a sloppy look-ahead effort 12 hours before taking off for Hawaii.

UNLV's game against South Carolina Upstate had all the makings of a potential slop-fest Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center.

UNLV (10-1) took the floor with a commercial flight to Honolulu — for a week in paradise at the Diamond Head Classic — just 12 hours away, the bags literally already packed in the locker room.

South Carolina Upstate came in with a 1-8 record, and the seats in the building were far from full.

Instead, the Rebels showed a good amount of maturity, avoiding taking a step back and playing the Spartans as if they were the Los Angeles Lakers. Using 40 minutes of consistent intensity — especially on the defensive end — UNLV stifled USCU in an 88-58 rout.

"We're getting better each game at staying focused, knowing what our task is and finishing it off," sophomore guard Oscar Bellfield said. "It says we're mature."

Bellfield was part of a starting five that set the tone right from tip-off, as the Rebels used heavy backcourt pressure to get the Spartans winded early on, then capitalized by building a 7-0 lead in less than two minutes.

UNLV scored 28 points off 20 Upstate turnovers.

"We always pressure full-court, but we trapped out of it a little bit more tonight," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "I thought our intensity was pretty consistent from start to finish.

"We opened the ball game with really good activity, forcing some turnovers and creating some offense from that. Even given the margin, I thought their enthusiasm defensively remained good the last 20 minutes, so I'm really pleased to see that."

Eventually, that defensive intensity opened up opportunities for a few oddities late in the game, and members of the crowd of 11,300 who left early missed a couple true gems.

The first came with just more than five minutes left when UNLV sophomore Brice Massamba — all 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds of him — stole the ball at mid-court from Ryan LeGates. Instead of distributing to a teammate, Massamba rumbled down the floor and finished with a graceful bucket.

"With Brice, I was like, 'Oh my God, Brice ... OK, cool, cool,'" Bellfield said with a smile. "For his size and ability to really finish it, he did a great job. I think he has ability to do that."

The other unusual highlight came from freshman guard Anthony Marshall, who continued to impress with his ability to produce key hustle plays. He finished the night with six points, five steals, four rebounds and one memorable blocked shot.

With 1:17 to go, Upstate's 7-foot-3 Nick Schneiders — who had a great night with 22 points, seven boards and five swats — went up for a short jumper on the left block.

Standing face-to-face with the giant, Marshall rose and got the ball — and maybe a hint of Schneiders' wrist — drawing rave reviews from spectators.

"I tried to jump off the ground right before he did, and I just happened to get a piece of it," he said. "So I guess it was a good night."

The final stat sheet was littered with positives for the Rebels.

Bellfield and junior guard Kendall Wallace shared top scoring honors for UNLV, tallying 16 points apiece. The two combined to go 8-of-13 from 3-point range, and UNLV as a team was 10-of-28.

The Rebels also took care of the ball pretty well, finishing with 17 assists and only seven turnovers, which was especially impressive with reserves eating up many of the second-half minutes.

UNLV also was without leading scorer Tre'Von Willis, who averages 16.1 points per outing through nine games. On top of some minor back pain, Willis turned his ankle in the first half of Thursday's 72-63 victory over Weber State.

"He'll be fine in a couple of days," Kruger said. "I think probably if it was a playoff game tonight or a tournament game, he probably could have (played), but not quite."

Kruger said he expects Willis to be a go Tuesday, when the Rebels open up a stretch of three games in four days in Honolulu against SMU at 7:30 p.m. Las Vegas time.

And after seeing his team not overlook the Spartans, he expects the same across the board.

"(The) potential for losing focus was certainly there," he said. "And I thought our guys did a pretty good job of maintaining focus, especially with the intensity."

Ryan Greene can be reached at ryan.greene@lasvegassun.com or 702-948-7844.

Discussion: 15 comments so far…

  1. Nice journalistic flair/narrative drama to make this game sound semi-important. What cliche writing there...

  2. Every game is important, especially for a young team. It's not just about winning or losing, but getting better each game.

  3. You never see the same guy make two four point plays, a freshman make a block on a guy a foot tall than him, and a 240 pound center run a fast break. I am happy I was there, because I'll never see all of that in the same game again. This team needed a blowout win and get some confidence just incase Tre is out for any prolonged period of time.

  4. If you're saying that you never see all of those things in the same game. I'll accept your point. But if you want to see a player, a Rebel player at that, make 2 4-point plays in the same game, look no further than 2007. Kevin Kruger pulled it off. My recollection is that it was vs. TCU, but I may be mistaken.

    Anyway, I'm glad you enjoyed the game...

  5. I ask again...Where are the fans? 10-1 should demand a sellout every game-regardless of who they are playing. You will find a lot of top 20 programs that sell out everygame regardless of who they play. UNLV may draw more than any other arena out west but this is no excuse in a metro area with this many people and no other game in town. UNLV is doing their best to upgrade the AD & find a great coach for football, but keep in mind lack of support from the community does nothing to help the situation.

    I can't stand fair weather fans and bandwagon fans, which this city is composed of and always will be. I find the posts comments to be very laughable most of the time, filled with so-called experts DEMANDING that so and so better be hired or they will no longer support the school. You need to one thing and one thing only. Trust the officials at UNLV to make the best hire they possibly can. SHOW UP AT THE GAMES AND SUPPORT THE REBELS!!!!!

  6. Last I checked, UNLV is not a top 20 program and hasn't been for many years (except for a few brief moments). And with rebelheart's attitude of I'm-worthy-of-supporting-the-rebels-but-the-rest-of-you-aren't, I'm sure we'll soon fill the stands. Don't be a hater.

  7. @bob,

    I'm not a hater, just a very passionate fan of UNLV who thinks it deserves much better from the townfolk. Your comment is exactly what I am talking about-You will get to it when it is convenient for you. Sounds like a classic, fair-weather fan indeed!

  8. I saw the Duke game a few days back vs a cupcake and it wasn't very full..may be mistaken though

  9. How many of you saw the Uconn game today? Look at their stands, and they are consistantly a powerhouse top 20 team. Go to espn360.com, and you can replay the game if you like and see how empty it was.

    UNLV does have fans.

  10. I'm surprised no one has mentioned this yet but ummmmm it does happen to be winter break and I like many other students are not in Las Vegas, I havent missed any home games until now and support the team a lot. Winter break however causes many students to miss games seeing as how they are NOT in Las Vegas

  11. KDub's double quads were freaking awesome. Not to mention they were like 90 sec apart. DJazz had a beautiful breakaway fast break dunk and almost ripped the rim right off. I am loving this team!!! Go Rebels, good luck in Hawaii.

  12. You may have missed it, but Las Vegas is in a pretty big recession with an unemployment rate amongst the highest in the nation.

    I don't go to as many games as I'd like (though I did go to this one), but if rebelheart wants to buy me season tickets, I promise to go to every game I can.

  13. Great game, let's make it happen in Hawaii. @ Rebheart, dude the Mack holds 18,500, that is one of the biggest in NCAA basketball, if we had a little 9k seating gym like Puke we would sell them all out. Just enjoy the victory.

    Let's go Rebels

  14. I am kind of with rebelheart on getting more fans in the T&M... It was pretty disappointing to see how small the crowd was on a Saturday...

    Tickets to that game on Saturday were cheaper then the movie I saw the night before... They were $7 for the balcony... And concessions have always been pretty reasonable...

    Considering the limited amount of sports venues in this town this should be a no brainier, with a population between 1.5 and 2 million that place should have no problem putting fans in the seats...

    As far as season tickets are concerned, I paid 90 for the whole season... That is really cheap they end up with a face value of a bit over $5 a seat... There should be plenty of people who can afford that...

    That being said I can't wait for conference play and fans need to be out in force at those games this team seems to live off of crowd energy... It sucks it is almost a month before they are back...

  15. Rebs moved to 20 in the coaches poll. 27th in the votes for the AP. Kansas St. is ranked 12 in the AP and we can't get any love? New Mexico is 13th in the AP.

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