Sunday, Dec. 14, 2008 | 6:21 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 70-61
It was probably closer than the UNLV faithful who traveled to the Orleans Arena on Sunday afternoon expected, but, as has beent he case for much of the young season, a win is a win. Behind a scrappy 18 points from Wink Adams, the Rebels improved to 8-2 with a 70-61 victory over now-2-8 Western Michigan.
UNLV led 34-27 at the half thanks to 3-pointers late in the frame by Oscar Bellfield and Joe Darger, which accounted for two of UNLV's three long balls on the afternoon. They came after UNLV had fallen behind, 24-23.
In the second half, the Rebels worked inside plenty and earned a slew of trips to the free throw line. However, UNLV was just 21-of-34 at the line, including an 8-of-14 performance from Adams. René Rougeau was solid at the Orleans for the second straight year, scoring 11 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking three shots.
UNLV now returns to the Thomas & Mack Center for two games this week, beginning with Wednesday night's 7:30 p.m. tip against Santa Clara. That will be followed by a noon tip on Saturday at the Mack against Arizona, who knocked off No. 4 Gonzaga earlier Sunday afternoon.
3:43, second half, UNLV leads 63-54
With under four minutes to play at the Orleans Arena, UNLV looks to be heading towards win No. 8 on the season, up nine on the Broncos.
The lead was padded in the last couple minutes by a René Rougeau layup and some tough perimeter defense, as UNLV isn't allowing Western Michigan the 3-point looks it got so frequently earlier in the game.
UNLV is just 16-of-28 at the line following another Wink Adams miss (he's 5-of-10), and is 3-of-18 from long range. The week off didn't cure the shooting woes, but they've scored when they've absolutely needed buckets. You can't argue that.
7:31, second half, UNLV leads 53-48
No, the Broncos have no plans of going away any time soon. UNLV's leading Western Michigan, 53-48, and the Rebels are leaving points off of the board all over the place, between missed shots and free throws. But give WMU some credit, as Andre Ricks has hit some key shots, as has leading scorer David Kool. They're going to stick around in this one until the end.
Brice Massamb has looked as aggressive as he has all season on the offensive end, but he's had to do much of his damage at the free throw line. There, he's only 2-of-5, and UNLV as a team is just 12-of-23.
This one has been ugly, but I guess the underrated factor here is that UNLV hasn't played a game since last Saturday. Neither has Western Michigan, though.
15:42, second half, UNLV leads 41-29
Wink Adams missed a pair of free throws on a trip to the line to start the second half, making the senior 2-of-6 from the stripe today with four straight misfires. Can't imagine that's happened for him in a game situation in a long, long time.
Darris Santee has five points out of the gate for the Rebels, including a tough and-one to get things going, while Oscar Bellfield hit a baseline jumper just before the media timeout to put UNLV up by 12 points. But it sure doesn't feel like that big of a lead. UNLV's offense tonight has clicked for more than a couple of trips at a time. All they really need right now is a stretch of about four minutes where it all fires.
Halftime, UNLV leads 34-27
With one expletive at the top of his lungs, UNLV's Wink Adams summed up the first half for the Rebels.
After missing an open 3-pointer late in the first half, Adams was visibly upset for a few moments before hitting a two-point jumper heading in the half, pushing the Rebels ahead of Western Michigan, 34-27, at the break.
A David Kool 3-pointer actually gave the Broncos a lead late in the first half, but UNLV came back with deep balls from Oscar Bellfield and Joe Darger to reclaim the edge. But those were UNLV's only threes of the half, as they were 2-of-12 as a team from deep.
The Rebels were rough again from the field, going 13-of-32, and were just 6-of-12 from the free throw line.
Some numbers ...
-Adams leads the Rebels with eight points on 3-of-8 shooting, but he had a few open looks miss late. He also missed a pair of free throws towards the half's end.
-UNLV only turned the ball over twice, and forced 11 Western Michigan turnovers.
-The Rebels were outrebounded 22-16 through 20 minutes.
-WMU is 5-of-12 from 3-point range, which is the big reason the Broncos have kept the pace.
-Darris Santee and Brice Massamba, in 16 minutes of play, have combined for one rebounds.
UNLV's going to win this game. If they don't I'd be shocked. But they've got to clean some things up. There's no reason for the Rebels to feel pressured right now, with the fall semester now officially behind the guys. Plus, with Santa Clara and Arizona on the horizon, a second half here today that was like the first wouldn't be the best foot to go into that stretch off of.
7:51, first half, UNLV leads 17-13
It's certainly not pretty, but the Rebels are holding steady with a four-point edge on Western Michigan, thanks in large part to a couple of nice breaks.
The most obvious of those came a couple of possessions ago, when against a draining shot clock, Kendall Wallace had to force up a three from the corner under pressure. The rebound was taken down by Mo Rutledge, who slipped in an and-one layup. He missed the free throw, though, and that's been a big story so far for UNLV, who has yet to pull away from the 7-2 Broncos.
UNLV is just 3-of-7 at the line so far.
A big pat on the back so far should go to the Western Michigan. They're by far the chattiest bench I've seen in a long time, coaches and players combined. They're helping WMU on that end of the floor for sure.
10:59, first half, UNLV leads 13-7
A little bit of offense coming as a byproduct of defense gave UNLV its first cushion on the scoreboard tonight. First, Wink Adams jumped a passing lane and scooted in for an uncontested layup. Then, René Rougeau did the same, mixing in a nifty behind-the-back dribble after his swipe, and UNLV leads 13-7 mid-way through the first half in the Orleans Arena.
The outside shots are still not falling, and Rougeau is still helping the Rebels atone for that more than anyone. After a Mo Rutledge three-miss from the corner, he took the carom and went up for an easy two. He has seven of UNLV's 13 points so far.
The Rebels to this point are 6-of-16 from the floor, while Western Michigan is an equally scratchy 2-of-11.
Lon Kruger's going deep into the bench earlier than normal tonight, with 10 Rebels having seen the floor so far -- everyone but Scotty Hoffman.
Also, I forgot to mention in the first post, that Oscar Bellfield started at the point for the second straight game.
15:56, first half, game tied 4-4
Wink Adams hit a jumper on the game's opening possession to signal that maybe UNLV could get off to a rare hot start from the floor, but the Rebels have yet to hit an outside shot ever since. However, René Rougeau's little-bit-of-everything act has this game tied through four-plus minutes, 4-4.
He swatted a Martelle McLemore jumper after Flenard Whitfield put in Western Michigan's first two points of the game. He then followed a Darris Santee miss with an easy deuce off the glass.
Rougeau got himself to the line just before the first media timeout with a tough take inside.
He hit one of the two charities out of the timeout, and a little chime came from over the P.A. system. That's a little different.
Then again, so is the stink from the fireworks residue.
All of the typical pre-home game routines are being run through here this afternoon as UNLV gets set to take on Western Michigan.
The staff dimmed the lights and practiced the pre-starting lineup intro show while the Broncos were warming up. The dance team warmed up at midcourt before anyone took the floor. The pep band and the cheerleaders just made their entrance.
But it's only a pseudo-home game today, as UNLV and WMU will square off down the street from the Thomas & Mack Center at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels play their first game in Las Vegas since a 67-65 loss to Cincinnati in the Global Sports Classic 15 days ago in the Mack. They'll return to their official home floor on Wednesday against Santa Clara.
WMU is struggling so far this season, at just 2-7 this season, but their losses have come by an average margin of just over seven points. They've only lost twice by double-digits.
Still, it's going to be interesting to see if Beas Hamga's departure has an effect either way on the Rebels. Even though he was a favorite among his teammates, his body language on the bench over the past couple of weeks was pretty tough to watch.
Anyways, on to the three big predictions for this fine Sunday afternoon in Sin City ...
1) As always, we start with picks to click. Rob is going with René Rougeau, banking on Orleans magic to strike twice in two years. I'm going with Wink Adams, who I'm convinced snaps the shooting funk today. Then again, I say that almost every game.
2) Don't be surprised to see Joe Darger flex inside a bit more. WIth Hamga no longer in play, he'd probably be UNLV's third option in the post should Santee and Massamba get into foul trouble. But with a shoot-happy team like Western Michigan, that might not be too big of a factor today. Still, the UNLV staff might want to start getting Darger used to the idea of it again.
3) UNLV 84, Western Michigan 58.
Talk to you shortly.