UNLV survives thriller

TUCSON, Ariz. — In a dramatic game that seemed it might never end, Tre’Von Willis took charge as UNLV’s leader and made one big play after another.

But it was Derrick Jasper who ended up hitting the biggest shot.

On the road for the first time this season, the 24th-ranked Rebels survived and advanced to 6-0 as Willis and Jasper put on a show Wednesday night.

Willis scored 25 points, and Jasper made a 3-pointer with 1:39 remaining in the second overtime to lift UNLV to a thrilling 74-72 victory over Arizona at the McKale Center.

“We fought, fought, fought and hung in there,” said Willis, who scored 23 points after halftime. “This is a very exciting win for us.”

With the Rebels trailing 68-67, Jasper circled behind the defense and spotted up from 21 feet. His jumper hit all net.

“I knew I was going to shoot it because I was wide open,” Jasper said. “I just drained it.”

Willis made two free throws with 26 seconds left to put UNLV up 72-68. After the Wildcats’ Nic Wise made two free throws, the Rebels’ Matt Shaw was fouled with 11 seconds to go. Shaw made the first free throw and missed the second.

UNLV coach Lon Kruger instructed his players to foul Wise and prevent him from getting off a potential tying 3-pointer. Wise made both free throws.

The Rebels’ Kendall Wallace was fouled with 5.8 seconds left. Wallace missed the first free throw and made the second. Wise took the inbounds pass and dribbled to the top of the key, where he was double-teamed by Willis and freshman Justin Hawkins. Wise double-pumped from 3-point range, and his attempt to get a shot off was denied as time expired, silencing the crowd of 13,485.

The game featured 21 lead changes and 16 ties.

“There was not much margin either way,” Kruger said. “It wasn’t easy to come in here. It took some toughness. We like what we’ve done. It’s early, but if you win and make progress, it’s obviously huge for us.”

Freshman forward Derrick Williams, described as a “monster” by Kruger, dominated inside and scored 28 points for Arizona (3-3).

“It was pretty physical,” Williams said. “We played hard, but it was a tough loss. Somebody had to lose, and we were just on the wrong side of the coin.”

Wise had 19 points, seven rebounds and six assists. Wise shot 3-for-13 from the field but 12-for-12 on free throws. Williams and Wise each scored nine points as the Wildcats took a 34-29 halftime lead.

“The first 10 or 15 minutes, Wise was killing us,” Willis said. “But we started trapping him as soon as he crossed half-court. We wanted someone else to beat us.”

Williams almost did bury the Rebels. He scored nine straight points for Arizona, and Wise made two free throws to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 52-47 with 3:20 left in regulation.

Willis responded with a three-point play, Darris Santee scored on a layup to tie the score, and Wallace hit a fallaway 20-foot jumper to put UNLV back on top 54-52 with 1:14 to play.

Wallace (eight points, five rebounds) came away with a crucial offensive rebound during that stretch, and Santee (nine points, six rebounds) made a strong effort inside.

Willis cut through the defense for a layup as the Rebels scored first in the second overtime. Willis made several determined drives to the lane and shot 9-for-19 from the field, 6-for-6 on free throws.

“Willis wants the ball in the clutch, and he’s going to deliver for us,” said Jasper, who finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Wise missed a 3-point try with four seconds to go, and Jasper swatted away the rebound, sending the teams to overtime tied at 54.

Willis missed a short runner at the buzzer in the first overtime, leading to the Rebels’ first double-overtime game since a 97-94 victory over Utah on Jan. 3, 2007.

“I don’t know that anyone expected it,” Kruger said of UNLV’s 6-0 start. “I’m proud of what these guys accomplished.”

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

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