UNLV Basketball: No "Runnin" for These Rebels

Richard MarshSenior Analyst IDecember 26, 2009

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 4:  Mike Gerrity #1 of Mater Dei High School on the court during the Ninth Pangos Dream Classic game against St. Vincent-St. Mary High School at Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus on January 4, 2003 in Los Angeles, California.  St. Vincent-St. Mary won 64-58.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

The USC Trojans took a page right out of Lon Kruger's play book and put on a defensive clinic, as the UNLV's Runnin' Rebels lost the championship game at the Inaugural Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic 67-56.

As good as the Rebels looked in the first two games of the tourney, that's how bad they were as the Trojans with a two-time transfer, Mike Gerrity, led the way for the Trojans' fourth straight victory. In fact, the Trojans have not lost a game since Gerrity's arrival and now will definitely be a factor in the Pac-10 conference play.

Gerrity is no stranger to UNLV basketball. As a member of the 2005 Pepperdine squad, Gerrity came into the Thomas and Mack and like last night almost single-handedly destroyed the Rebels on their home court.

Although it was only the second loss of the season and with wins against Louisville and Arizona the Rebels will still find themselves either in the top 25 or just a few spots out of it.

UNLV has two glaring weaknesses this year and if a team has some size in the frontcourt and a point guard who is relentless and can play 38-40 minutes, the Rebels will find themselves in big trouble.

The Rebels also showed that they are not a very good half court team that likes to play a slow down game. In order for them to be effective they must be able to impose their stifling defense and score from turnovers.

Last night, that didn't happen as the Rebels turned the ball over 15 times as compared to seven by the Trojans.

Even with that said, the Rebels closed the gap to nine points late in the game but couldn't score on four straight possessions that could have put them back in contention.

Players including Tre'von Willis, who was named to the all tourney team, Derrick Jasper and Chase Stanbeck literally seemed not to show up for the championship game as they scored 12 points between them. Oscar Bellfield led the Rebels with 17 points along with three rebounds and three assists.

Lon Kruger had hoped this tourney would prepare the Rebels for the intensity of Mountain West Conference play which begins for the Rebels on the road at BYU and New Mexico, the two other co-favorites in the conference.

So now the Rebels come home and lick their wounds from their two losses against Kansas State and USC, both teams that will most probably be ranked by seasons end.

I must admit I might have been biased while overly stating that this is the best Rebels team I've seen in 15 years. They are good and could still prove to be great if they've learned from these losses and can improve their half court game.

We will see.