UNLV holds on for 63-59 win over short-handed No. 11 Kansas State

Bellfield’s block, 3-pointer in crunch time helps shut the door, improves Rebels to 11-2


Charlie Riedel / AP

Kansas State guard Will Spradling, right, tries to steal the ball from UNLV guard Derrick Jasper during the first half of Tuesday’s game in Kansas City, Mo.

Updated Tuesday, Dec. 21, 2010 | 8:32 p.m.

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Final, UNLV wins 63-59

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — UNLV couldn't buy a 3-pointer for much of the night, and a short-handed Kansas State team held close and kept its sell-out crowd into the game until the closing minutes.

Then Oscar Bellfield delivered in a big game yet again.

The junior point guard preserved a late 3-point lead with a big open-court block from behind on 6-foot-8 Jamar Samuels, then leading by two, hit the team's second trey of the game with just over a minute to go.

UNLV held on for a 63-59 win, improving to 11-2 heading into an extended holiday break. The Rebels aren't back in action until Dec. 30 at home against Central Michigan.

Kansas State was without star seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, who just before the game were ruled ineligible by the NCAA for committing a secondary violation.

Without them, K-State got surprising performances early from reserves such as sophomore Nick Russell, whose half-court heave at the buzzer sent the Cats to the locker room with a 34-32 edge. But UNLV buckled down defensively after the break, Tre'Von Willis was big on both ends in helping the Rebels construct a 6-point lead, and Lon Kruger's club held on.

Willis led the Rebels with 16 points, while Bellfield had 13.

The Rebels were just 2-of-14 from 3-point range, but got just enough offense by attacking the rim aggressively in the second half, only attempting four threes after the break. As a team, UNLV was 21-of-55 from the floor and a solid 19-of-24 from the free throw line.

Russell and Samuels each had 11 for K-State, who dropped to 9-3 and will be without Pullen for three games. The punishment for Kelly is not yet determined.

For full postgame coverage, stay tuned to

3:06, Second Half, UNLV leads 56-53

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — UNLV isn't just trying to cling to a 3-point lead late at the Sprint Center over No. 11 Kansas State, but also trying to keep a loud, wild sell-out crowd quiet in the process.

Oscar Bellfield was huge in that effort just before the timeout, after missing a 3-pointer that made the Rebels just 1-of-12 on the night from deep.

The outlet pass found 6-foot-8 Jamar Samuels open for a dunk with no one in front of him. Bellfield swooped in and swatted it away, as the Rebels protected a 56-53 lead heading into the game's final TV timeout.

Both teams are in the double bonus now as we head to the stretch, and UNLV is 6-of-9 since entering the bonus with 9:20 left. K-State has been strong, but, remember, on the year is a 54.5 percent free throw shooting team.

11:47, Second Half, UNLV leads 48-42

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Rebels have calmed down on the defensive end, quieted a sell-out crowd at the Sprint Center and strung up enough offense to take a 48-42 lead on No. 11 Kansas State with 11:47 left to play.

Willis has six points so far this half, and assisted a Quintrell Thomas layup just before a recent K-State timeout to help push a current Rebels lead that also saw him score on an aggressive drive. In the middle was a strong, reverse and-one finish by Derrick Jasper, as the Rebels have started attacking the rim more rather than settling for outside looks.

Meanwhile, Kansas State's young ballhandlers are starting to look the part. Will Spradling and Nick Russell are both seeing traps and double-teams, and while they're not turning it over frequently, the Wildcats offense is having a tough time getting set up.

Halftime, K-State leads 34-32

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — UNLV didn't score a field goal in almost eight minutes to close out the first half, while short-handed Kansas State came alive. The Cats capped their comeback with a half-court heave from Nick Russell at the halftime buzzer to give them a 34-32 lead at the break.

On the stat sheet, K-State has been far from spectacular, but the Rebels are having more than a tough time looking comfortable in front of a hostile crowd that is now alive.

UNLV was just 12-of-33 from the floor and 1-of-8 from deep in the first half. Meanwhile, K-State has 3 assists, 12 turnovers and is 6-of-12 from the free throw line. But Russell has been monstrous, filling in for the ineligible Jake Pullen.

The little-used sophomore has a game-high 11 points and three rebounds.

For UNLV, Tre'Von Willis has a team-high eight points, while Chace Stanback has struggled mightily from the outside, going 1-of-5 from the floor.

The most crucial stretch of this game for UNLV might be the first five minutes of the second half, because if Kansas State keeps this up, the crowd might swallow what's left of the Rebels' collective confidence.

7:50, Second Half, UNLV leads 23-17

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Rebels have gone cold from long range at the Sprint Center, but now are starting to attack Kansas State at the rim and are holding on to a 23-17 lead.

UNLV is also staying somewhat strong on the defensive end as K-State is without two of its top scorers.

The Rebels are 10-of-22 from the floor and just 1-of-8 from deep, while the Cats are an efficient, conservative 7-of-15 overall.

UNLV is having some struggles defending the interior, as Lon Kruger is subbing out his three big men after every foul. It's hard to tell if its made them play any tighter, but it's certainly not helping.

Meanwhile, the Rebels have started attacking the rim hard as the outside shots aren't falling. Just before the latest TV timeout, Derrick Jasper dropped in a nice and-one finish off of a backdoor feed from Oscar Bellfield. Also coming on now is Anthony Marshall, who has made a couple of nice drives to the goal after missing an outside look after first coming in off of the bench.

15:49, First Half, UNLV leads 10-7

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Early on, UNLV is attacking Kansas State where it is now the weakest.

First, the Rebels went inside to Quintrell Thomas, who slipped free for two buckets against an interior defense that is without Curtis Kelly. Then Tre'Von Willis, guarded by the inexperienced Nick Russell as opposed to Jake Pullen, drove for two more hoops.

Kansas State is keeping it close, though, by attacking the offensive glass. Even without Kelly, Frank Martin still has four big bodies to throw at UNLV, and on one key possession, the Cats grabbed three offensive caroms, ultimately getting a triple from Will Spradling at the end.

The Rebels definitely look like the more confident team, as K-State is going to have to have at least two or three unlikely suspects step up with its two senior leaders out.

Pregame (cont.)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — UNLV just got its upper hand, and we're still 45 minutes from tip-off.

K-State seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, two of the team's three leading scorers, are both out for tonight's game.

The school put out a release that it is completing a review of a secondary violation of NCAA rules and is seeking reinstatement of both.

Both were declared ineligible on Monday by K-State after they were declared to have received impermissible benefits on the purchase of clothing at a local department store.

Pullen will be out for three games, while a final ruling on Kelly has yet to be made.

This puts that much more pressure on K-State guards Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder to handle the Rebels' heavy pressure defense.

Gotta also change my prediction. UNLV 75, K-State 60.


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Well, if UNLV has one thing going its way here tonight that's already apparent, it's that the Rebels have already seen their share of hostile road environments. They've also gotten used to life on the road, playing six of their first 12 games outside of the 702 area code.

Yes, this is supposed to be a 'neutral court' game against No. 11 Kansas State, but as was the case last year when the Wildcats had to play at the Orleans Arena, the Rebels won't have many in their corner.

A sell-out crowd of nearly 19,000 is expected to fill the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City tonight, and not many will be wearing red. That's already apparent by walking the revitalized area around the arena more than two hours before tip-off.

Both teams are still licking some pretty fresh wounds, though, which should add some fire to an already highly-anticipated showdown.

The Wildcats suffered a tough 57-44 loss at Florida on Saturday, going just 15-of-55 from the floor and completely shutting down offensively in the second half after starting it with a 23-20 edge.

As for UNLV, while a 72-50 romp over Southern Utah on Saturday felt nice, the Rebels still have to regain their edge and swagger from earlier this season that was somewhat lost during a two-game losing skid a week ago.

This game has already been analyzed from every possible angle, but as we narrow the scope nearing tip-off, here are three things to watch maybe closer than anything else during tonight's contest.

1) Taking the upper hand

Both teams play tough, physical defense, and UNLV will try to extend it into the full-court as it did against so many teams early this season. The Rebels have forced 217 turnovers this season, and K-State doesn't have quite the backcourt depth it did a year ago.

If the Rebels can assert themselves early and get into the kitchens of the Wildcats' younger guards — freshman Will Spradling and sophomore Rodney McGruder — they could potentially take the upper hand and dictate the game much the same way K-State did last year in a 95-80 rout at the Orleans.

K-State, on the other hand, will need Spradling and Pullen to play as turnover-free as humanly possible.

2) Making some big noise

While the Rebels hold an edge in overall talent and depth in the backcourt, the Wildcats have it up front.

UNLV's 6-foot-8 sophomore Quintrell Thomas might be able to fare against K-State's bigs better than any of his teammates, but that will also involve him staying out of foul trouble

If he's not on the floor, it could potentially be a big night for K-State's top duo of big men in senior Curtis Kelly and junior Jamar Samuels. Frank Martin also has three other strong frontcourt options at his disposal in Freddy Asprilla, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Wally Judge.

However, both Kelly and Samuels killed the Rebels a year ago, combining for 27 points, and both are struggling so far this season for various reasons. This could be a big opportunity for both of them to get back on track with Big 12 play looming near.

3) The x-factors

For UNLV, it is sophomore guard Anthony Marshall, who goes back to his role as a reserve behind Tre'Von Willis following a spot start in place of Derrick Jasper on Saturday night.

While playing Jasper's part, Marshall got back to his roots, using his length, athleticism and finishing skills to break apart Southern Utah's defensive scheme and keep UNLV ahead.

After not relying on his struggling outside shot, Marshall torched SUU for a career-high 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, also adding three assists, no turnovers, two steals and two rebounds.

On the other side, Spradling probably holds the key to everything.

He's taken over the point guard duties from Pullen, who is again being relied on to simply score. If UNLV can pressure Spradling — a one-time Rebels recruiting target — and force him into turnovers, it could keep the game at the chaotic pace it prefers. Plus, the Rebels could leave Spradling no choice but to adapt, because Martin doesn't really have a reliable point guard option behind the baby-faced frosh.

As for a prediction for tonight, I'm still leaning towards Kansas State, 73-71. I think UNLV has a better chance of winning here than it did at Louisville two weeks ago, as K-State appears to have some internal issues that could spill over badly onto the floor at any point. I'm predicting a two-point game mostly because absolutely nothing would surprise me in terms of an outcome.

For tonight's Pick to Click, I'm going with Tre'Von Willis, who is only shooting 42.7 percent this season (down from 47.8 a year ago), but is now rounding back into strong form. He has a knack for showing up in a big way for games like this in his UNLV career, and is well-rested after only playing 17 minutes on Saturday.

Stay tuned for updates as the action unfolds tonight, and, as always, join the conversation with me during the game by adding the #unlvmbb hashtag to your tweets. Or, you can give me a follow at

Talk to you shortly after tip-off.

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Previous Discussion: 53 comments so far…

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  1. Prediction:
    Pick to Click: Oscar Bellfield.
    UNLV wins 78-74 in OT.

  2. Wow, ok, just saw that pullen/kelly both out. Definitely a must win now.

  3. Can't lose this one with this version of a basketball Christmas gift granted.

  4. I guess with Pullen and Kelly out ESPN must not care too much about the game. We get to watch Geno give away a flippin Wii...great.

  5. there are no words to describe how much i hate ESPN when it comes to covering UNLV. Why are they showing the WII giveaway after the women's WOMEN's UConn win...seriously?

  6. Move this uconn shenanigans to espnnews

  7. Big game for the Rebels. Let's hope they can capitalize on their early momentum.

  8. Live and die by the three

  9. I wouldn't mind seeing that stupid 3 point streak come to an end. I would like to see more inside scoring from the Rebs.
    Must win this one.

  10. I dont know about you guys but I am absolutley fed up with the way they are playing. This is totally ridiculous. No d, no rebounding, turns of stupid turnovers, and moronic fouls. We are an extremely mediocre team and getting worse. Unbelievable!!!!

  11. Way to finish the half Rebs. Total embarrasment. Just a bunch of pretty boys out there thinking someone is going to just lay down and give it to you. If Lon is not laying down a heavy barage of four letter words I will be very disappointed. Unacceptable.

  12. It's time to just face the fact that refs will not be giving us the benefit of the doubt, we're UNLV, so we will not get the call. Play through it and quit whining or appealing to the officials, it won't help.
    Just not a very mentally tough team I am afraid to say. As soon as they get hit some adversity, they just fall apart. Letting these guys just barrel down the lane, no one gets in front to take a charge, did we forget how to take a charge? that's fundamental guys...have to agree we are mediocre and we better shape up because a lot of teams in the MWC are definitely NOT mediocre.

  13. Pretty embarrassing that KSU is winning without almost 40% of their offense. Then you look at the numbers: KSU is +9 in the rebounding margin. That will more than likely only grow in the second half.

    The real problem though is once again the Rebs half court offense. Shooting 36% from the floor at the half. That isn't going to get it done against even an average team like KSU. I can't recall one dump into the low post in the first half to anyone, much less a big.

    Like him or not but Vitale is right, losing this one would be embarrassing no matter how one tries to spin it. Hopefully the shots start falling but I hope we see more guys attacking the basket and punish them for overplaying like we saw a few times in the first half.

  14. I didn't see the UCSB game, but this is the worst I've seen UNLV play this season. Their defense looks soft and sluggish, and they have absolutely no clue on offense. They're playing like it's their first game of the season. They're lucky KSU is shorthanded, or they'd be getting blown out. They're probably still going to lose.

  15. having said all that, it's true we're only down 2 pts. time to come out with a strong second half, like we know this team can do, and just finish strong. the crowd is definitely in it now, but if we can just cut down on the fouls (sorry but all three calls against Massambe were absolutely ridiculous) we just might turn it around.

  16. If the Rebels break the rim with their shooting, does UNLV have to pay for its replacement?

  17. Please keep taking it to the rim!

  18. I don't know about busting rims but I do wish we could sub in Mo Scurry to bust that Samuels kid in the chops.

  19. Is there anyone in a black jersey that can block out???

  20. Huge basket by Marshall. He has been the Rebs best player tonight.

  21. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...Mr. Samuels? you just got REJECTED booyyyyyyy

  22. Amazing play by Bellfield on the block.

  23. Another game where lousy free throw shooting and failure behind the arc are killing us.

  24. wow jasper was wide open and Oscar didnt see it

  25. Turnovers and poor foul shooting doing KSU in.

  26. I'd like to just say, as ugly and as physical as this game has been, this is the most fun I've had watching a Rebel game since the sweet 16 run.

  27. My neighbors officially hate me for yelling so loud.

    Say what you will, it was a good game. Again with the 3pt shooting woes, but Kruger recognized it and we immediately started driving. Bellfield with the clutch 3pt at the end, and highlight SWAT!!!

  28. Is Frank Martin related to Mike Stoops? Way to go Rebels!

  29. Liljoe really? I cannot remember a game I have enjoyed watching less. How in the heck did we win that game? Outrebounded 40-24; 15% from 3; 38% from the field; 10 assists versus 12 turnovers. I am still shocked. Horrible basketball.

  30. It was a close game, but I'd hardly call it a good game. Both teams played like crap, and the refs seemed to call a foul just about every possession.

  31. Now I know the sports "experts" will look at this game and say UNLV should have won anyway since KSU was without their two best offensive players, but I think we can be take some level of satifaction that we beat a very very tough defensive team on their home court and had to overcome some questionable officiating as well. Hit some key FTs and made plays when we had to. And for this observer, that sweet block by Oscar against Samuels as he went in for a break away dunk, talking all night and screaming and carrying on all night, and to see that boy's confidence just drop after the play, that will be ingrained in my memory for awhile. Fun game to watch, and bottom line we come away with a W.

    What happened to Stanback? And Tre needs to be smarter with the ball in the half court.

  32. If that was a basketball game that I just watched, then I officially hate the sport. What a disgusting game to watch. Dr. James Naismith must be rolling over in his grave after that game, YUCK. Neither one of those teams should ever be allowed to play on national television again!

  33. I agree, gumby. It was the most unsatisfying win I've experienced in recent memory. We're just lucky they were without their two best players.

    Still beats a loss, though.

  34. Pretty good win, but make no mistake about it if Pullen and Kelly play KSU wins by a good 14-15 points or so (and if they knew how to shoot foul shots they may have still won the game).

    Half court offense woes continue. Thankfully they got more aggressive taking it to the basket in the second half. Still saw some bad shots even around the rim but they were able to generate some points that way, especially with the backdoor cuts.

  35. Gumby, to answer your question, true it was an ugly game, but in my opinion it was an impressive win nonetheless, showed some toughness in beating those guys on their home floor. We certainly have issues to address, but I still count this as a quality win against a tough (albeit shorthanded) opponent on the road in an exciting, hard-nosed, 90s NBA style slugfest. I guess I found it entertaining because we played so tough.

  36. Let's not forget the key play in the 14-2 run that turned the game around for the good guys? Jasper stepping in and drawing a charge.

  37. The teams did not play badly, both teams just played excellent d. Good d makes teams look bad, when both sides play good d they both look sloppy on offense.

  38. Let's not forget the fact that we played this game without two players as well; Shaw and Wallace. Granted they are not normally the caliber of players that K-State was missing but you play the hand you are dealt!

    Good win in a hostile environment, I'll tate it!

  39. Where has Chaces shot gone? He is what has been missing the last few games. Since the UL game he has shot poor. Have to find a way to make a jumper. A win is a win but makeing shots sets up so much of what we do with the press. Guys are open jsut knock it down!

  40. *make that "I'll take it!"

  41. "Pretty good win, but make no mistake about it if Pullen and Kelly play KSU wins by a good 14-15 points or so (and if they knew how to shoot foul shots they may have still won the game)."

    Let's make excuses for K-State all night long. Please. THEY LOST.

  42. Some of the people on this post are seriously not smart. K state and UNLV are two of the best defensive teams in the country. That means the game is never going to be pretty. They make us and we make them play that way. Also if you dont like games like this then you need to just watch washington play with fast break or nothing style. They will get killed by UNLV I might add. If UNLV is guilty of anything it is only their inability to put a team away. They usually still win but sometimes it just get you. They did it with wisconsin and louisville and it will happen with MWC teams too. People should just understand by now that we play to the team that we are playing (when it comes to good teams). If they have Pullen, it would be a dog fight win. If they dont have Pullen, it will be a dog fight win. Not just putting teams away is our Kryptonite.

  43. Oh yeah and any person who thinks that we are not the best or second best in the MWC just should check the scheduals for the other top teams. Ours was by far the hardest and we came out 3-1 in reguards to teams that have been ranked. Most, if not all, of those teams will be ranked again too before its all over.
    I have no excuse for UCSB though. We just sucked that night.

  44. No kidding. There are some commenters here that are just trolls for negativity. As per usual, anonymity = lame.

  45. Frank Martin on Jacob Pullen:

    "Now, on to the other issues. If you're going to call out the fans, then you'd better make certain you're going by the book. I've been a fan of Jacob Pullen since his freshman year, but I lost a lot of respect for the young man with the revelations tonight."


    "As for Curtis Kelly, he can never wear the purple and white as far as I'm concerned. To paraphrase Denny Green, he is who we thought he was. "

    even worse.. haha

  46. After all this time of being a rebel fan, through thick and thin, I finally will do something I am totally against. Tre sit down you suck!! You are slow, couldn't defend my grandma, a ball hog, make the team stand around and cant sniff the rim. I know this is your senior year but suck it up and fill in where you can. They play so much better with Marshall and Hawk in the game that its rediculous Kruger continues to play you. Thought I'd never bash a college kid or a rebel but its time for Tre to be unselfish and play for the team.

  47. @Zerocals

    Quick correction about the statements. Those statements were not made by Frank Martin. They were written by a K-State fan known as TB.

    Nice win by UNLV. A win is a win and all that it will say in the end is that UNLV had a win over a preseason top 10 team and currently ranked 11 team. It doesn't matter who was or wasn't playing.

  48. ...Stanback certainly didn't show up to play.

  49. @pdid


    i must be getting tired.. haha

  50. Rebs are good. If they could just hit the open shots from the perimiter we would be tough to beat.

  51. @Zerocals, those quotes are not from Frank Martin

  52. That Frank Martin video, Ryan, is insane. The guy is a monster.

  53. The full, unedited video of the press conference is linked within the text in my game story. Worth a watch. He was hot.