Thursday, December 24, 2009
Smothering Defense Ignites Rebels Win
UNLV's Runnin'Rebels defense led the way for it's second straight blowout in the first Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. This time the victim was the host team, the University of Hawaii on it's home court. Just as they did the previous night to SMU the Rebels started fast and took the Rainbow Warriors and their crowd right out of the game.
By the end of the first half the Rebels had built a 23 point lead at 44-31. Leading the way for Lon Kruger's Rebels was Derrick Jasper who in 29 minutes had 14 points on 5-10 shooting, along with 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals. It was Jasper's best game by far in a Rebels uniform.
The back court tandem of Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield also reached double figures in scoring with 12 and 10 points respectively.
Again for the second night in a row Lon Kruger used 11 players and this time each one of them were in on the scoring. Every player on the team had at least 10 minutes on the floor. Kruger's plan was not to wear his team down knowing that with their style of pressure defense throughout the game, that three games in four nights might be too draining.
The biggest difference in the two games the Rebels have played so far was in this latest victory the Rebels didn't let up in the second half as they coasted to a 77-53 win.
With these two 'road' victories the Rebels will meet the red hot USC Trojans who disposed of the highly touted St.Mary's squad in the other semi-final match-up. This Christmas day showdown pits a USC squad who,like the Rebels,have beat a highly ranked team with a victory over Tennessee.
The USC Trojans will be hard pressed to generate a sustained offense against a team that has held their two previous opponents to 53 points each.
Once again this is the best total Rebels team I have seen since the Rebels ruled the college basketball world 20 years ago. This is a very unselfish team where on any given night any one of the 11 players can lead the way.
In two weeks play starts in the Mountain West Conference. I will preview the conference team by team and reveal my findings and my picks by New Years Day.
For all who read this I wish you a very happy, healthy, and prosperous holiday season and New Year. Can the UNLV Runnin' Rebels repeat their National Championship of 20 years ago?