Rebels’ Hawkins, Bellfield lead game-closing 19-2 spurt to sink Air Force

AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. — A bad situation was getting worse for UNLV before Derrick Jasper blocked a shot and triggered a fast break.

On the other end, Justin Hawkins made a 3-pointer from the corner, and the Rebels were off and running en route to a 64-52 comeback victory over Air Force on Saturday at Clune Arena.

"It shows we can overcome adversity," Jasper said.

Junior forward Chace Stanback recorded his second career double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds as UNLV rallied to avoid falling to the bottom of the Mountain West Conference standings.

The Rebels (14-4, 2-2) trailed by five points with 7½ minutes remaining before closing the game with a 19-2 run.

Hawkins and Oscar Bellfield each made a 3-pointer while combining for 12 points in the stretch run.

"We were down midway in the second half, and we were struggling to make things work," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "It’s a huge road win. A lot of guys contributed, and that’s the key to it."

Bellfield and Anthony Marshall scored 12 points apiece for the Rebels, and Hawkins finished with 10.

Jasper scored only five points, but the senior guard contributed in other areas with 11 rebounds, six assists and a defensive play that helped turn the momentum.

The Falcons led 50-45 before Jasper hit two free throws. On Air Force’s next possession, Tom Fow beat Jasper on a back-door cut and was driving for a layup when Jasper recovered and blocked the shot. UNLV pushed the ball in transition, and Hawkins sank a 3 to tie it at 50 with 6:44 to go.

"Derrick’s blocked shot and his work on the boards was huge for us," Kruger said. "It’s been a long time since we’ve had two guys get double-figure boards."

A steal by Hawkins led to a Marshall free throw, and two free throws by Bellfield put UNLV ahead 53-50 with 4:41 left. A Bellfield 3 and a layup by Brice Massamba extended UNLV’s spurt to 13-0.

"Justin hit two shots and picked us up defensively, too," said Kruger, who credited the Rebels’ defense for tightening the screws and holding the Falcons without a field goal for 6:35.

Air Force (10-6, 1-2) took a 37-30 lead on a 3-pointer by Mike Fitzgerald four minutes into the second half. Marshall picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench with 15:29 left. Hawkins filled the void by hitting a 3 to pull the Rebels within 41-40 with 12:04 to go.

"Justin gave us a big spark," Marshall said. "He turned it up and kind of got everybody else in the flow. Seeing him out there running around and causing havoc, that spreads to the other guys."

UNLV was without senior guard Tre’Von Willis, the team’s No. 2 scorer. Willis remained in Las Vegas to receive treatment on a sore right knee, and it appeared for a while like he might be sorely missed.

The Rebels were plagued by poor perimeter shooting, hitting 1 of 12 from 3-point range and falling behind 28-23 at halftime.

Stanback found his touch in the second half, when he made two 3s to help UNLV finish 6-for-24 from behind the arc.

"It seems like the 3-ball wasn’t falling all night for me," Stanback said. "But I kind of have amnesia. I’m always confident that I’ll make the next shot, and if it doesn’t happen I’ll forget it five seconds later."

Fow scored his team’s first eight points and finished with 12 for the Falcons, who missed six straight free throws in the final three minutes.

Jasper, a no-show on the offensive end for about a month, emerged to boost the Rebels with his all-around effort.

"I’ve been struggling with my shooting, so Coach told me to really focus on rebounding and playing defense," Jasper said. "It’s good to actually have a good game, because I’ve been struggling.

"I’m just happy we won. A lot of teams are going to come here and lose in this arena. It’s really a confidence builder for our team."

Contact reporter Matt Youmans at myoumans@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2907.

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