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UNLV hoops notebook: Team sees early improvements

UNLV vs. UTEP

UNLV coach Lon Kruger instructs Tre'von Willis during the second half against UTEP on Monday in El Paso, Texas. Launch slideshow »
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UTEP POSTGAME: Victory on Glory Road

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's passing of its first road test of the season Monday night at UTEP. The Rebels were powered by the backcourt trio of Wink Adams, Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield. Plus, the guys look inside at Lon Kruger's ever-solidifying rotation now that audition time appears to be done.

Box score

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Next game

  • Opponent: California
  • Where: Thomas & Mack
  • When: Friday, Nov. 28, 5 p.m.

EL PASO – For the second time this early season, UNLV sank at least half of its shots in both halves Monday night against Texas-El Paso at the Don Haskins Center.

The Rebels went 13-for-26 in the first half and 13-for-25 in the second, finishing at 51 percent.

Last Thursday in an 87-71 victory over Northern Arizona at the Thomas & Mack Center, UNLV was 18-for-28 in the first 20 minutes and 12-for-23 in the second 20 minutes.

That happened three times last season.

Adams likes what he sees

UNLV senior guard Wink Adams had a sterling evening, tying for game-high honors with 20 points and making his presence felt everywhere in his return to Texas.

Afterward, the Houston native beamed about his team.

“I see that we’re definitely getting better and better,” he said. “It was our first road game … and everyone kept their composure. They went on a little run, and we never got on each other.

“We told each other to makes plays, step up big and make stops. Everyone is on the same page. I think we’ll get better and better.”

The visitors showed poise

UNLV has two new point guards in Oscar Bellfield and Tre’Von Willis, but they played like upper classmen to UTEP senior guard Stefon Jackson.

Throw in seniors Wink Adams, Rene Rougeau, Joe Darger and Mo Rutledge, and Jackson nearly rolled his eyes in a cold tunnel late Monday night.

“That’s a real veteran team,” Jackson said of the Rebels. “In the end, they made us work for every shot, they didn’t take quick shots and they know how to work the clock.”

Rolling Rebels

When UNLV trailed UTEP by 13 in the first half, Rougeau said he had a sense of what was coming.

“There was a feeling that we’d come back,” he said. “They went on a good run, but we had to settled down and play some good defense. Once we got that going, it was downhill from there.”

Kareem who?

Playing a team with a 7-foot center named Kareem can be a daunting task.

But that wasn’t UCLA of the late-1960s on Monday night that went up against UNLV.

Kareem Cooper, the 7-foot, 285-pound junior from Washington, D.C., had more personal fouls (four) than points (three) against the Rebels.

Odder still, his points came on one shot, a 3-pointer from the left side that cut the Rebels’ edge to 49-45.

Cooper and Wayne Portalatin only had those three points and four rebounds in a combined 22 minutes.

UNLV’s centers (Darris Santee, Brice Massamba and Beas Hamga) had eight points – all by Santee – and five boards. None of those five post players blocked a shot Monday night.

Up next

UNLV plays host to California on Friday night in the Global Sports Classic, then plays either Cincinnati or Florida State on Saturday in the final round of the event at the Thomas & Mack Center.

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  1. I'm with you Lenny....that's all I want for Xmas.

    I was worried we would not fight back from the 13 point defecit, but as usual, Coach's teams always fight and scrap back.

    Once again Double R showed his heart and hustled the entire second half.

    Go Rebs!

  2. Undefeated into Louisville. Wow, THAT would be a big one. It's starting to roll a bit, and that three-guard lineup with O, Tre and Wink is formidable. Down by 13 to win by 13? Not bad at all for their first road lesson.

  3. Yes the team is starting to gel for sure. Hopefully they will contimure to learn and improve.

    Hey Rob, don't you think Coach Kruger could have scheduled some tougher competition this year?

    I hate to be negative but, so far the Strength of schedule is pretty weak.

  4. I think so rebeltom, but I'm not the coach. Kruger shaped this for a reason, and it has some merit. A tough opener (well, it could have been A LOT tougher), three home, uh, "easy" ones to test and experiment, a bit of a challenger in El Paso, two tough ones this weekend (albeit at home against a Mike Montgomery-led team in its first season Friday vs. Cal) ... this entire preseason leads up to that NY's Eve tilt at Louisville. THAT will be a good benchmark of where this team stands. Although, as young and not-so-smart as I thought UTEP was last night, UNLV came from 13 down to win by 13 on the road. That's a good sign.

  5. Now if we could only get some more rebounding and blocks from our post players.....

    It was a solid game and one to be proud of. Santee played solid and made some nice plays down the stretch. Lookin good so far.

    Ryland

  6. Look for Santee to be better this weekend Ry...
    That smaller lineup, like it was last season, was very effective. Gives Kruger the best ball-handling and free-throw shooting down the stretch. As we saw vs Kansas last March, however, those big guys had better be prepared to produce when it's a big-time foe... like, uh, Louisville on New Year's Eve...