It’s not often you see a four-point play in a college basketball game. But don’t trying telling that to UNLV guard Kendall Wallace.
The fifth-year senior from Mesa, Ariz., who started his college career with a key four-point play in a 83-74 victory at Northern Arizona in 2007, delivered another huge four-point play in the second half Saturday night to highlight UNLV’s 74-63 Senior Night victory over Wyoming before a sellout crowd of 18,577 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The 17th-ranked Runnin’ Rebels (25-7, 9-5) ended up Mountain West play in third place and will face the sixth-place Cowboys (20-10, 6-8) again on Thursday night at 8:30 in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament at the Thomas & Mack.
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Wallace, who sat out the 2010-11 season while rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee, finished with a season-high 14 points, including 3 of 4 beyond the arc. He broke the game open midway through the second half with back-to-back treys that found him crashing to the floor in front of the UNLV bench each time. Wyoming guard Francisco Cruz was whistled for a foul on the second one and Wallace sank the ensuing free throw to complete the four-point play and increase UNLV’s lead to 57-47.
“I couldn’t have planned it any better,” Wallace said of his big Senior Night performance. “It was kind of a storybook kind of thing going on today.”
Wyoming, which had cut UNLV’s lead to three points, 50-47, on a 3-pointer by Cruz before Wallace’s scoring outburst, never got closer than eight points the rest of the way.
“I felt a sense of relief when I saw a couple of shots going in,” Wallace, who had sank just three 3-pointers in his previous seven games combined, said. “It was like a monkey was off my back it felt. To get rid of that was quite a relief.”
“Our guys pull so hard for Kendall. It could not happen for a better teammate,” UNLV coach Dave Rice, who started his four seniors, said. “He’s made so many shots in so many big games throughout his career, and this was a huge game for us.”
Ironically, Mike Adras, who was the Northern Arizona coach when Wallace had his first four-point play for the Rebels over five years ago, was seated in the second row behind the Wyoming bench Saturday night. Karma?
It also was a big Senior Night for center Brice Massamba, who finished with a career-high 15 points, and point guard Oscar Bellfield (7 points, 9 assists, 2 steals).
“I didn’t even know I had a career high,” Massamba said with a smile. “It was special to finish up with a bang.”
The fourth Rebel senior, forward Chace Stanback, failed to score in 15 foul-plagued minutes, the first time in 55 games he didn’t score a point in a game dating back to last season’s 82-70 win at Nevada.
The Rebels also got a much-needed big game from sophomore forward Mike Moser who finished with game-highs in scoring (17 points) and rebounds (12) for his first double-double since Valentine’s Day at TCU. Junior guard Anthony Marshall, who gave up his starting spot to Wallace for Senior Night, came off the bench to score 12 points.
UNLV improved to 16-0 at the Thomas & Mack this season where the league tournament begins on Thursday. San Diego State (24-6, 10-4) and New Mexico (24-6, 10-4) tied for the Mountain West championship with the Aztecs earning the tourney’s No. 1 seed by virtue of a tie-breaker for their sweep of TCU.
“It all started with our seniors,” Rice said. “The only thing that matters today is sending our seniors out on a positive note.”