UNLV-Hawaii: Another Defensive Gem In a 77-53 Rebels Win

Richard MarshSenior Analyst IDecember 24, 2009

LAS VEGAS - MARCH 12:  Ryan Amoroso #43 of the San Diego State Aztecs tries to keep the ball from Rene Rougeau #24 and Tre'Von Willis #33 of the UNLV Rebels during a quarterfinal game of the Conoco Mountain West Conference Basketball Championships at the Thomas & Mack Center March 12, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Aztecs won 71-57.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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 its home court. Just as UNLV 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-for-10 shooting, along with seven rebounds, three assists and two 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.

For the second night in a row, Kruger used 11 players. This time each one of them were in on the scoring. Every Rebels player had at least 10 minutes on the floor. Kruger's plan was not to wear his team down. With their style of pressure defense playing three games in four nights might be too draining.

The biggest difference in the two games UNLV has played so far was 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 semifinal match-up.

This Christmas day showdown pits a USC squad who, like the Rebels, have beaten 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 UNLV 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 weeksm Mountain West Conference play starts. I will preview the conference team-by-team and reveal my findings and picks by New Year's 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?