Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008 | 1:42 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 79-64
Maybe Wink Adams was just waiting for a near-capacity crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center to push himself over the hump. Whatever keyed it, it was Adams' six straight 3-pointers -- by far the highlight of his 25-point effort -- that led UNLV to a 79-64 blowout of Arizona.
Adams didn't score his first bucket -- go figure, a three -- until late in the first half. Moments later, he hit another trey just before the halftime buzzer to give the Rebels a five-point lead at the break.
But in the second half, he truly busted out. He hit two more trifectas during a 15-0 UNLV run early in the half which bumped the Rebels' lead from four points to 16.
Arizona made one more push before Adams hit his final three of the day, and Tre'Von Willis put in two deep balls of his own to seal the Wildcats' fate.
Willis finished with 19 points, while René Rougeau had 12 points, nine rebounds, six blocks and three steals.
Arizona, who came in as the nation's No. 2 team in 3-point shooting, only got off four attempts. Only one went in. Chase Budinger led the 'Cats with 22 points, while Jordan Hill had 16 points and 13 rebounds -- right near his season averages.
The Rebels now improve to 10-2 on the season, and will face Southern Utah on Tuesday night. It will be the final tune-up before a Dec. 31 showdown at Louisville.
7:02, second half, UNLV leads 67-48
Wink Adams hit his seventh straight 3-pointer, and then Tre'Von Willis did his best Adams impersonation, hitting back-to-back treys of his own, and UNLV continues to hold a monster lead over Arizona, 67-48, with 7:02 to play.
Adams popped his collar on the way back up the floor after hitting 3-pointer No. 7, then Willis' threes in the corner forced Russ Pennell to call a timeout, as they stemmed his team's modest comeback effort.
UNLV has 14 3-pointers on the afternoon. All season, people have wondered what this team could look like if it hit shots. Well, here's your answer. They're up on an NCAA Tournament team by 19 points in the second half.
11:31, second half, UNLV leads 53-36
Wink Adams' 3-point streak was extended to six, and the Rebels' run as a team right now is at 12-0. Arizona is completely flustered, and UNLV leads 53-36 as the now-filled in Thomas & Mack Center only gets louder and louder.
Arizona certainly has the pieces to be able to catch up. After all, the 'Cats are second in the nation as a team in 3-point shooting. But they just can't get the looks, so a comeback is looking like a longshot. The Wildcats' only open 3-point look today was their only make from deep -- a Chase Budinger hit in the first half.
The Rebels are resting up some of the regulars right now for the stretch run. That's when it looks like they'll be putting U of A away for good.
15:31, second half, UNLV leads 45-36
If Wink Adams sort-of busted his shooting slump on Wednesday night, he's flat-out blowing the doors off of it right now. The senior guard has hit five straight 3-pointers, including three so far in the second half, and UNLV's extended its lead to nine points at 45-36 on Arizona.
It's opened things up for everyone, too. On the Rebels' last offensive possession, Tre'Von Willis drove, and when the defense drifted to the suddenly-hot Adams, he fed Brice Massamba inside for an easy layin.
Jordan Hill's offense which appeared late in the first half has carried over into the second half, but UNLV is trading threes for twos.
Chase Budinger missed a 3-point attempt early in the second half, making him just 1-of-3 from deep so far.
Halftime, UNLV leads 32-27
Just as he did on Wednesday night, Wink Adams ended the first half against Arizona with a 3-pointer to give UNLV some bounce in its step heading into halftime.
Adams hit two treys in the first half, but didn't hit his first until late -- his first points of the game.
The second of those was a nice response to Arizona's late first-half push, and UNLV is up five at the half, 32-27.
UNLV hit seven 3-pointers in the first half, and held Arizona without a field goal for a solid seven minutes in the middle of the opening frame. Here are some other numbers from the first half ...
-Joe Darger leads the Rebels with eight points, but no one's had the overall impact René Rougeau has so far. He's got six points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocked shots.
-Arizona is just 9-of-29 from the floor, and the nation's second-best 3-point shooting team only has three attempts so far from deep. Chase Budinger is 1-of-2.
-Jordan Hill has six points, but didn't hit his first field goal until the final two minutes of the half. The Arizona forward, though, has seven rebounds. He just appeared to get comfortable late in the first half. Look for him to keep that up in the second half.
UNLV for the most part has taken Chase Budinger and Jordan Hill out of the game on the offensive end. Holding the 'Cats to three 3-point attempts cannot be underrated. UNLV's defended like crazy so far, but now the challenge is doing the same for the next 20 minutes. If they match it, this lead probably holds.
Talk to you in a bit.
7:56, first half, UNLV leads 20-15
Oscar Bellfield tried for his own Kendall Wallace moment just a second ago, attempting to erupt the crowd. It didn't work so well, right away, but some scrappiness got the points for the Rebels anyway.
Bellfield took in a steal at midcourt and flashed the other way, attempting to throw down a one-handed jam in the open floor. He rejected himself against the rim, though. A second later, however, Mo Rutledge slipped in two off the glass. Bellfield stayed aggressive looking to make up for the gaffe, helping produce another steal off the inbounds pass.
That's the way UNLV's been defensively on Arizona all afternoon so far. Chase Budinger just hit his first three of the game, and it was his first true open look of the game. It came 11 minutes in.
Now it's going to be interesting to watch the fatigue factor. UNLV's already played nine guys, whereas Arizona's big three -- Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill -- all look like they'll be playing close to the full 40 today.
11:22, first half, UNLV leads 16-10
Nic Wise ended Arizona's offensive drought with an impressive fastbreak finish off the glass, then Kendall Wallace ended a scoreless stretch for UNLV, but in much grander fashion.
After Wink Adams missed a couple of deep shots Wallace spotted up fresh off the bench and canned a three from the wing.
Then, Arizona had four chances at a bucket on a loose ball inside, but Chase Budinger missed twice, Jordan Hill and Alex Jacobson missed once each, and after Darris Santee finally controlled possession for the Rebels, Wallace took a feed in the corner on the other end, forcing the crowd to explode as his second 3-point attempt in a minute splashed through.
UNLV's going deep into the bench early as always. The only starter on the floor right now is René Rougeau, but the Rebels haven't skipped a beat.
15:05, first half, UNLV leads 10-8
René Rougeau drew an offensive foul on Chase Budinger to take the game into its first full break, but that was just a piece of the senior's early exploits, which have played a big part in UNLV holding a 10-8 lead on Arizona.
Rougeau's already blocked two Nic Wise layups and scored six points, as UNLV is currently on a 5-0 run.
Joe Darger started the recent run with his second 3-pointer of the game. He's 2-of-4 from deep, and is definitely looking for any window to fire away from deep. He's been far from hesitant.
For Arizona, Budinger looks comfortable early. He flew down the baseline for a slam on the game's opening possession. He also hit a jumper from up top. Rougeau's seen plenty of time on him, and look for that to continue.
Well, the remaining aroma from the NFR is just about gone from the Thomas & Mack, and it couldn't be heading out at a better time. Even though UNLV welcomed itself back to the Mack on Wednesday night, games like today's are what this building was built for.
The 9-2 Rebels host 7-2 Arizona in the season's most highly-anticipated non-con home game. And the feel so far in the ball yard gives that vibe. We're about 35 minutes from tip-off, and this is typically when the first wave of fans begins to show up. Today, a couple thousand of them have already been here since the doors opened up.
Heck, students even sprinted to grab the best seats in their section moments after they were admitted. There's a distinct buzz in the building today.
It will be a near-capacity crowd this afternoon, though there's expected to be plenty of Arizona backers in the stands, considering their football team plays in the Las Vegas Bowl in about six hours.
UNLV had the look last time out -- a 78-66 victory over Santa Clara -- of a team that was relaxed from start to finish. Maybe it was the emptier-than-normal stands in the aftermath of the blizzard. Or maybe it was something else.
You would have to assume that a key is finding that comfort level early on today -- blocking out the crowd and the game's overall magnitude.
That magnitude? UNLV's need for a signature non-conference win. Even though the Rebels have a better-than-good shot at securing an NCAA berth, it's never too early to think about that resumé. Considering that Arizona will probably play prominently in the field of 65, this one wouldn't hurt to have for Lon Kruger's club.
On to the three big predictions ...
1) Pick to Click: Since Miech doesn't feel like responding to his phone, I'm flying solo with this one. I'll take René Rougeau. (Blogger's note: Miech finally texted back ... he took Tre'Von Willis)
2) Chase Budinger won't repeat his miserable 2-of-10 shooting performance from his trip to the Mack a year ago. That's not to say he'll live up to the 60 percent he's shooting from 3-point range, either. But he should hit that average of 18.8 ppg. He's looking like the freshman year version of Budinger again as a junior. That's dangerous.
3) Arizona 70, UNLV 69. And you know what I say about one-point predictions -- They mean you really have no clue who to pick. But I don't think I've picked against the Rebs this year. Call it a change of pace.
Talk to you after tip-off.