Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008 | 2:10 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss what was a somewhat surprising 0-2 weekend for UNLV in the Global Sports Classic, which was capped with a 67-65 loss to Cincinnati on Saturday night. The guys talk about Wink Adams' slump, Joe Darger's hot hand, Tre'Von Willis' emerging leadership, Cincy's post domination and what's next for the Rebels.
Larry Davis Sr. tapped the right shoulder of his son, Cincinnati sophomore guard Larry Jr., when Joe Darger walked by the Bearcats’ locker room Saturday night.
Junior, sitting down, had his right ankle heavily wrapped in ice. Senior, standing up against a wall, nodded at UNLV’s senior power forward.
“That’s a shooter there!” Senior said to Junior. “He wore you guys out!”
Darger, who went 6-for-9 from 3-point range for 18 points, heard Larry Sr. and gave an ever-so-slight cordial nod back to the former SMU forward.
But Darger knew he and his teammates didn’t do enough against the Bearcats. He lowered his head and walked on by.
In what amounted to the consolation game of the Global Sports Classic, Cincinnati (5-1) hung on for a 67-65 victory over UNLV (5-2) before 11,080 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Along with Friday night’s loss to California, it was the first time in 28 seasons that the Rebels lost home games on consecutive days.
That last happened on Jan. 2 and 3, 1981, when UNLV under coach Jerry Tarkanian lost to Utah (76-75) and BYU (92-90, in double overtime) on back-to-back days.
“I never felt like this before,” said UNLV senior forward Rene Rougeau. “It definitely hurts. Guys are definitely sad in the locker room. We definitely have a lot of work ahead of us.”
UNLV fifth-year coach Lon Kruger said his team attacked better, and played with more aggressiveness and effort, against Cincinnati than it did against California.
“I liked their fight and energy much better,” Kruger said, “(but) we have a long way to go.”
The Bearcats pulled away with about three minutes remaining, when Alvin Mitchell, a sophomore forward from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., hit 3-pointers on consecutive possessions for a 63-59 lead.
Before that explosion, Mitchell had scored two points.
“I was just thinking that we need to put some points up so we could get this win,” Mitchell said. “The first shot came in rhythm off a broken-down play, off a kick-out from Mike Williams. I shot it. It went in.
“So I felt confident with the next one.”
During a cold weekend in which he went 5-for-25 from the field, UNLV senior guard Wink Adams missed a 3-point shot that turned into Mitchell’s first long shot.
That came off a missed layup by junior point guard Deonta Vaughn. But Bearcats junior center Steve Toyloy yanked down the rebound, and Williams found Mitchell open on the perimeter.
Rebels sophomore point guard Tre’Von Willis missed a 3-pointer, Mitchell grabbed the board and again wound up with the ball in his hands at the other end.
“Alvin always makes shots like that in practice,” said Vaughn. “He makes the toughest shots on the team. Once he made the first one, we knew he’d make the second one.
“He doesn’t have a mind. He just shoots it.”
Williams drained a jumper from the left side, on Darger, to give Cincinnati a 65-59 edge with 2:08 left.
The rest of the game was a flurry that Willis nearly took over.
He hit two free throws with 1:53 left to get UNLV within four points, at 65-61.
Thirty-nine seconds later, he hit a jumper over Williams to cut the deficit to 65-63.
Vaughn missed a long shot, UNLV center Darris Santee was fouled underneath and missed both free throws, but Willis missed a flailing fling shot after snatching the rebound.
Darger came down with that rebound and called for a timeout with 15.9 seconds left. Kruger drew up a play for Adams, a drive on the left side.
Adams missed the shot, got hacked by Larry Jr. and then missed the first of his two free throws. He hit the second to get UNLV within a point, at 65-64, with 11 seconds left.
Rougeau fouled Williams with 6.6 seconds left, and Williams – 90.9 percent from the line this season – sank both free throws to make it 67-64.
Willis was fouled in the open court by Rashad Bishop three seconds later, hit his first free throw and missed the second, to give UNLV a chance for the desperation shot to tie it.
But Anthony McClain came down with it for Cincinnati and was fouled by Darger.
McClain had a one-and-one situation, since it was only the Rebels’ ninth foul, and the 53.3 percent free-throw shooter missed the first.
Rougeau grabbed it – no Bearcats were in the lane – then was short on a three-quarter length shot at the buzzer.
“I thought it was kind of going to be over after my second 3-point shot,” Mitchell said. “But they kept fighting. They never gave up. I thought they’d give in at that point. They didn’t.
“They stayed tough all the way to the end. I respect that from that team.”
Willis, who started at the point for the fourth consecutive game and might have locked up the position, played the final eight minutes with four fouls.
He went for a career-best 18 points, tying him with Darger for game-best scoring honors, but he felt empty at the end.
That errant 3-pointer from the right corner, in between Mitchell’s two big bombs that gave Cincinnati that cushion with three minutes left, still haunted Willis.
“Our best player (Adams) made a great play, he drove and kicked it to me, I was wide-open in the corner and I missed it,” Willis said. “That disappoints me.
“I could have done some things to alter the game, personally, but it wasn’t enough … I put this loss on me.”