Wallace leads hot-shooting Rebels past NAU

There's something about Northern Arizona that seems to bring out the best of UNLV guard Kendall Wallace. The 6-foot-4 sophomore from Mesa, Ariz., who was recruited by the home-state Lumberjacks but decided to head a few hours northwest to Las Vegas instead, had his career-high nine points in his Division I debut against NAU last year in Flagstaff.

Wallace topped that mark in the first half on Thursday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, scoring 11 of his 14 points while helping lead the hot-shooting Runnin' Rebels (3-0) to an easy 87-71 victory.

"Home state, and I just want to come out and play well in front of them," Wallace said when asked the reason for his success against the Lumberjacks (1-2). "Luckily I've been able to do that twice. I'm just trying to come out and play hard every day, and shots just fell in this game. And it just happened to be NAU."

UNLV, which came into the game shooting just 37.5 percent from the floor and a dismal 24.6 percent from 3-point range, blistered the nets against the L-Jacks, shooting 58.8 percent (30-of-51) from the floor while connecting on 57.9 percent (11-of-19) of their 3-point tries.

The Rebels were particularly sharp in the first half, shooting 64.3 percent (18-of-28) including 7-of-10 treys (70.0 percent).

Senior guard Wink Adams led the way with 18 points while Wallace (14) and senior forwards Joe Darger (11) and Rene Rougeau (11) also scored in double-figures.

"It can come from anybody (on) any night," Wallace said. "I think that is really going to help us because people can't really trigger on one person. That's an exciting part of this team."

Wallace was 5-of-9 from the floor, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range. He hit two treys in the final 59 seconds of the first half, including one at the buzzer that capped a 14-0 run and gave the Rebels a 54-31 lead.

"Great to see Kendall making shots," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "He's worked hard to improve the shooting percentage. To see him jump up there and shoot it with confidence … he's been doing that the last feaw days in practice. Teammates are really excited for him. Any time your bench can step in and score and be productive, that just helps everyone."

"I saw the passes coming so I was able to step in and I was ready to shoot them," Wallace said. "I got my legs into it and knocked them down."

Unlike the first two games of the season, the Rebels made a much more concerted effort to get the ball inside at the start of their offensive sets. That seemed to free things up more on the perimeter.

"I think tonight we did a great job of getting each other open and getting the shots we really wanted," Adams said. "I think these last couple of games we've been just settling behind the 3-point line too much. At practice we put an emphasis of actually stepping up on the 3-point line and getting a better percentage shot. Most of our three's had been two or three feet behind the 3-point line."

Funny how one foot or so can make such a big difference in shooting percentage?

"You never expect it but one foot can make a big difference in your jumper," Adams said. "The more of those we shoot, the easier it will be for us to score."

"I thought we took big steps tonight over the previous two ballgames," UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. "A good attack offensively. We worked harder to get better shots from (3-point range) and shot for a big percentage. Guys made a lot of good plays for each other. I thought we really shared the ball, especially in the first half. We finished the first half with a big run that really set the stage for the rest of the game."

Twelve Rebels played in the game including 10 who logged at least 10 minutes of action.

It was far from a perfect game for UNLV. The Rebels finished with an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers and seemed to unravel at times against Northern Arizona's press in the second half. But thanks to the hot-shooting first half, the Rebels were in position to overcome the miscues.

"I like the direction we're going," Kruger said. "The guys understand we've got a lot of work to do and a lot of areas we need to improve upon and a lot of games ahead.


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