Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 | 2 a.m.
UNLV Rebels (6-2) at UNR Wolf Pack (3-3)
- Where: Lawlor Events Center
- When: 7:30 p.m.
- Coaches: Lon Kruger is 97-44 in five seasons at UNLV and 415-277 in 23 overall seasons; Mark Fox is 105-33 in five seasons in Reno and overall.
- Series: UNLV leads, 50-19
- Last time: The Rebels won, 79-67, at the Thomas & Mack Center last season
- TV/Radio: None/ESPN Radio 1100-AM
- G Oscar Bellfield (6-2, 175) 6.4 ppg, 3.1 apg, 2.3 rpg
- G Wink Adams (6-0, 200) 14.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.1 apg
- F Rene Rougeau (6-6, 210) 8.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.3 bpg
- F Joe Darger (6-7, 225) 9.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg
- C Darris Santee (6-8, 225) 8.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg
- Bench: G Tre’Von Willis (6-4, 195) 10.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 2.3 apg; G Kendall Wallace (6-4, 190) 4.3 ppg; F Mo Rutledge (6-3, 225) 4.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg; C Brice Massamba (6-10, 255) 2.4 ppg.
- What to watch: Bellfield starts at the point for the first time in six games. Look for him and Willis, however, to play together in the second half. Adam is 10-for-40 in his past three games. Willis has scored 36 points in his last two games.
- G Armon Johnson (6-3, 195) 12.2 ppg, 5.5 apg, 4.8 rpg
- G Lyndale Burleson (6-3, 190) 7.2 ppg
- F Luke Babbitt (6-9, 225) 15.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg
- F Malik Cooke (6-6, 205) 9.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg
- F Dario Hunt (6-8, 230) 3.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg
- Bench: F Joey Shaw (6-6, 205) 11.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg; G Brandon Fields (6-4, 185) 5 ppg; G Ray Kraemer (6-4, 200) 3.5 ppg, 2.7 rpg.
- What to watch: The Pack only shoots 3-pointers as a team at a 28.1-percent clip. Of 330 Division-I programs, UNR is 293rd, in latest NCAA statistics, in shooting at .392. They improved that with a 30-for-58 effort in a victory at Colorado State on Tuesday.
Only UNLV senior guard Wink Adams knows what the Rebels are getting into, and what they’ll be up against, tonight against UNR in the Lawlor Events Center.
Only Adams played significant minutes in Reno two years ago, when the Rebels blistered the Wolf Pack in the first half and hung on for a 58-49 victory.
A near-sellout crowd of 11,368 played the role of a boisterous sixth man.
“Oh man, they’re very loud,” Adams said. “It’ll be a physical game, just intense. It’s always a big game against them."
Adams is the only current Rebel who started in that game. He went 3-for-9 from the field, and connected on only one of his five 3-point attempts, to finish with nine points.
He had four rebounds, three assists, a steal and no turnovers.
The Rebels have won road games against Texas-El Paso and Fresno State this season, but neither of those games had the hostility that awaits them in Reno.
“Yeah, this will be real hostile,” Adams said.
“It’ll be a great atmosphere,” said senior swingman Rene Rougeau. “We’re definitely hated up there, but we love that. We don’t like those guys. They don’t like us. It’ll be a lot of fun.
“We just have to go in there and play our best. I have a good feeling that we’ll pull this together.”
Rougeau played a minute two years ago.
Joe Darger, UNLV’s senior power forward, went 1-for-4 from 3-point land and grabbed two rebounds in seven minutes off the bench.
Wendell White led the Rebels with 12 points and center Gaston Essengue hit all five of his shots for 10 points.
UNLV led, 39-22, after 20 minutes, and it held on despite making only 25.9 percent of its attempts in the second half.
Nick Fazekas and Ramon Sessions led the Nevada comeback with 16 points apiece. Fazekas played in the NBA last season and is now in Belgium; Sessions is with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Wolf Pack is led by Reno product Luke Babbitt, who has team-best averages in points (15.3) and rebounds (7.8).
The 6-foot-9, 225-pound forward turned down offers from Arizona, UCLA and Ohio State, never visiting those suitors, to stay home.
He shoots 43.8 percent from the field.
“We have to get back in transition and contain Luke Babbitt,” Rougeau said. “He’s a very good player.”
UNLV has shot 3-pointers at only a 32.2-percent clip this season, but Reno is at 28.1 percent.
“But from the clips we saw, they were hitting a lot of ‘threes,’ ” Rougeau said. “Whatever it is, we have to contain them. They’ve got a few big guys we’ll have to box out.
“More than anything, we just have to work on containing the dribble. We’ll try to take them out of stuff, but we have to be able to guard the ball.”
Fifth-year Rebels coach Lon Kruger showed his players video of Reno’s games for about 90 minutes before Friday mornings practice inside the Cox Pavilion practice gym.
The team caught a chartered flight to Reno early Friday afternoon.
“They’re very good,” Kruger said of the Wolf Pack. “They execute their stuff. They’re very sound. They play very hard. There isn’t any one thing we have to take away.
“We have to do a solid job defensively, keep improving our awareness of all five guys on every possession.”
Kruger acknowledged that it will be a different crowd than the ones the Rebels contended with in El Paso and Fresno.
“It’s always a great crowd in Reno,” he said. “They’re always fired-up, really into it. It’s important we play with great strength and composure. A couple of road games under our belts help.”
It will be a new scenario for freshman guard Oscar Bellfield, who started and ran the Rebels in their first three games – all at home.
Sophomore point guard Tre’Von Willis will not start for a sixth consecutive game because he overslept and missed much of Friday’s practice.
He said he has been suffering from a chest cold, and medication kept him from hearing his alarm in the morning.
He apologized to his teammates when he showed up two hours late, and he vowed to do what’s necessary to return to the starting fold.
“All five guys have to talk, crash the boards well and box out,” Willis said. “We have to go yank one down.”
Expect Willis and Bellfield to play at the same time when Kruger opts for a smaller unit, to control the ball and play tight defense, in the second half.
Bellfield’s first start, against San Diego, was his finest. He had 13 points, on 5-of-8 shooting, to go with six assists, three steals, two boards and only two turnovers in 27 minutes.
Against Texas-Pan American and Northern Arizona, he had 13 total points, on 4-for-9 shooting, with nine assists and nine turnovers.
Mix in a rough crowd, and tonight’s game will be the toughest test yet for Bellfield.
“Their fans talk a lot of trash up there,” Rougeau said. “But it’s all a part of the game. It’s definitely a great atmosphere and a nice arena. We have a lot of respect for those guys.
“But we have to work on our game.”