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UNLV escapes Wisconsin 68-65 in Sin City thriller

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UNLV got its first big win of the season on Saturday, outlasting 25th ranked Wisconsin on Saturday. This game was close the whole time with the biggest lead being a 16-11 advantage for UNLV. This game was a defensive struggle through and through, even though the score doesn't refelct that. This game seemed to drag on forever because of two five minute stretches where literally every possession had a foul.

Throughout the first half the momentum swung back and forth but the crowd wasn't really into the game. For instance, Chace Stanback would hit a three and instead of the usual response of deafening roars, there were a few claps to be heard. That helped Wisconsin out a lot in the first half and Wisconsin looked as if they were going to take a lead into halftime before a buzzer beater by Chace Stanback put the Rebels up by one at the half.

UNLV came out in the second half with a purpose, feeding the ball inside, getting the shot clock down under 10 seconds, but what kept Wisconsin in the game at that point was fouls. Wisconsin would get into tough positions with the shot clock winding down and then UNLV would make a mistake like reaching in and trying to get a steal but instead being called for a foul and the shot clock resets. UNLV had the momentum on their side throughout the first half, and with every shot going down, the crowd going insane. Three times in the second half Wisconsin had to call a 30 second timeout to quiet the crowd down.

With 2:07 left in the game, Chace Stanback sinked two free throws to give the Rebels a 64-61 lead. Wisconsin flew down the court and missed a jump shot but the Badgers got yet another offensive rebound (Their 12th of the night) and got a second chance. Brice Massamba then fell backwards (not touched) as Mike Bruesewitz was driving to the basket and was called for a foul. Bruesewitz drained both his free throws to narrow the gap to one point with 1:40 remaining in the game.

On the next possession UNLV took the shot clock down to about 15 seconds before setting up an isolation play for Tre'Von Willis. Willis then literally broke his defender's ankles only to dribble the ball off his own foot and start a fastbreak for Wisconsin that ended with a Justin Hawkins foul under the basket on Ryan Evans. Evans drained both free throws, even with a crowd that was so loud to the point that I couldn't hear myself all screaming at him to give Wisconsin the lead with 1:13 left in the game.

Lon Kruger called timeout to set up a play with only 1:08 now remaining and it worked to perfection. Chace Stanback ended up wide open in the corner where he had been scorching the defense from all night long and drained a two pointer to regain the lead with 54 seconds remaining. Wisconsin then took 21 seconds off the clock before Jordan Taylor missed a jumper that would have given the Badgers the lead again. Taylor then fouled Oscar Bellfield, sending him to the line with only 30 seconds left on the clock.

Making both of these free throws, in a one and one situation, would be huge since it would force Wisconsin to have to take a three instead of drive the ball in for a foul or easy layup and would make it impossible for Wisconsin to take the lead on the next possession. Even though Bellfield had been hot from 15 feet or further away all night long, he couldn't get the first free throw to go down and Wisconsin brought the ball down the court with only 30 seconds left on the clock.

Wisconsin got trapped in the corner and had to call a timeout. Wisconsin took full advantage of this, using a full timeout to set up a play designed to get the ball to their Pre-Season All-American guard Jon Leuer for a jump shot. Leuer missed the shot but the Badgers got lucky and were able to get the offensive rebound and call timeout with eight seconds remaining and another chance.

Now comes the play of the game. Wisconsin had to call timeout on the first inbounds play due to stifling defense by the Rebels but on the second inbounds play Wisconsin couldn't call timeout. They had to inbound the ball and they did, just to the wrong guy. Justin Hawkins tipped the ball away and was fouled with 6 seconds left to go the line and ice the game. Hawkins made both free throws and Jon Leuer flew down the court and put up a last second three pointer that air balled to end an exciting finish to a great game between great teams.

A couple notes from the game was that Tre'Von Willis did not start and was not effective at all, scoring only two points all game. Unlike last season, the rest of the team was able to pick up the slack and not rely entirely on Willis to score points. Chace Stanback had a season-high 25 points and Oscar Bellfield hit jump shot after jump shot on his way to 18 points.

For the first time this season, Derrick Jasper did not lead the Rebels in rebounding with both Carlos Lopez and Oscar Bellfield having five. Lopez played great post defense, offense and rebounded well. This is the difference between last year's team, where we had no post presence, and this year's team.


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