Friday, Nov. 21, 2008 | 2:05 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech talk about the bench's repeat performance of it's Tuesday magic in Thursday's 87-71 victory over Northern Arizona. Plus, Wink Adams and Joe Darger break out of their droughts, and a look ahead at what's on the horizon for the Rebels in this NBA-like stretch to start the season.
- Opponent: North Carolina A&T
- Where: Thomas & Mack Center
- When: Saturday, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
In the closing minutes Thursday night, many UNLV fans focused on the possibility of getting free tacos if the Rebels could score 90 points.
Northern Arizona coach Mike Adras — much to the displeasure of Rebels fans — was thinking about the future.
During the final 2:05 of UNLV's 87-71 victory over NAU, Adras made 10 substitutions and had his team full-court pressing the Rebels. While this game may not have been winnable at that juncture, the Bishop Gorman High alum and former Gaels coach knew that his team would be in similar situations down the road.
A little practice never hurt anyone.
"We sub a lot anyways," Adras said. "One of the reasons is we play at 7,000 feet, so guys can't go for extended periods of time. Maybe at the end there was a lot more substituting than normal, but I was trying to get our best defensive group out there, and they did a nice job for us."
Down 87-69, with 28 seconds left, Adras put a dog-tired Josh Wilson back into the game.
“We don’t give up,” Wilson said. “That’s one thing I like about my coach, and it’s how I feel, too. Plus, we wanted to work on that situation for later in the season.
“If we’re in a close situation … we took the opportunity to work on that right now.”
Adras also wanted to salvage something defensively from the trip to the Thomas & Mack Center, since his team's lapses on that end of the court helped the Rebels race to a 54-31 halftime edge.
"We didn't defend very well," he said. "They made open shots. Give them credit, because they hadn't been making those shots, and they stepped up and nailed them tonight."
On top of trying to defend the perimeter well, Adras and his staff also had hoped that UNLV's long-range shooting woes would carry over to Thursday. Between their one exhibition contest and first two regular-season games, the Rebels were a combined 19-of-79 from long range.
Thursday, they went 11-of-19, including a 7-of-10 showing in the first half.
"Guys like (Joe) Darger, I believed, were gonna break out of it,” Adras said. “I'm praying he's gonna stay in the slump, but I know he's got the ability. You expect Darger, you expect Wink (Adams) to go put some points on the board.
"I don't expect (Mo) Rutledge to score two 3-pointers like he did. But what happens is they get off to a good start, and all of a sudden everybody's feeling good on the bench. Now the basket looks huge and everyone's dropping shots."
Give the Lumberjacks some credit, as their scrappy offense — topped by 18 points apiece from Wilson and Matt Johnson — got them back to within 12 points of the Rebels in the second half.
But in the end, UNLV's depth played a deciding role as Rebels coach Lon Kruger continued to throw fresh legs at an overmatched NAU club.
Adras said his team probably wouldn't be the only one to feel the wrath of that depth this season.
"I think their depth is probably gonna be the biggest key for them," he said. "I think they're really good and can be very special defensively. I don't know if they've got the Curtis Terry guy who could get them going offensively when they hit that offensive struggle."
A slew of bodies was just what Adras expected, since NAU fell in the middle of a busy schedule in which the Rebels play five times in 10 days. Even though Kruger is toying around with lineups and substitution patterns, Adras was impressed with UNLV.
"I think Lon created the schedule with the intent that he was gonna find out a lot about his guys early on here, and then step back and evaluate where they're at," he said. "As of right now, you've got to feel pretty good about the progress."