UNLV BASKETBALL:

Rebels fall at home on consecutive days for first time in 28 seasons

Cincinnati gets 67-65 win as UNLV loses both games in Global Sports Classic

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Justin M. Bowen

Joe Darger of UNLV fights for position against Steve Toyloy (left) and Dion Dixon of Cincinnati Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

An Unfamiliar Feeling

For the first time in nearly three decades, the Rebels lose back-to-back games on back-to-back days at home. Following a dominating win by California over UNLV on Friday, the Bearcats of Cincinnati bested the Rebels 67-65 Saturday.

UNLV vs. Cincinnati

Wink Adams lays it up and over the Cincinnati defense Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

CINCINNATI POSTGAME: Slumpin' Wink, Smokin' Joe, Rebels set to hit the road

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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.”

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  1. With the exception of the Louisville game which I just can't see a win, this makes the Arizona game and all of the rest of the non-conference games must wins if we are to get an at-large bid. A couple of more slip ups out of conference is going to make winning the MWC tourny a must.

  2. I agree, Lenny, but it shows how much that guy cares. Willis is really emerging as a leader, I think.
    Roth, it's only November.

  3. Losses and wins in November still matter Rob, and a bad loss in November will still hurt your seeding come March.

    This team will definitely get better but home losses against average to poor teams are going to dig you a RPI hole you can't get out of easily.

    Here's hoping that Kruger can get the ship righted before we take on too much water, if you'll forgive the shipwreck allegory.

    Go Rebels!

  4. WE HAVE WON A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!! THAT SHOULD BE OUR FOCUS AND OUR GOAL.

    Las Vegas is a town built on losers. We see people losing all day. We see the football team losing all fall. ALL WE WANT TO SEE IS WINNING AT A VERY HIGH LEVEL. Nothing else will suffice, especially not losing two in a row at HOME to middle of the road teams.

    We just flat out do not have the players to compete at the level that we expect to play at or that we were hyped to play at. Luckily, next years recruiting class is stacked and we appear to be getting the type of players it is going to take to get us back to the top. Not just a solid top 75 team like we are now, I mean a FEARSOME top 10 team.

    Making a FINAL FOUR is the ONLY outcome that any Rebel fan should accept. Anything else is short of what we have ALREADY accomplished 4 other times.

    This year is not the year. Thankfully, this will probably be Kruger's worst team in the next 4 years (if he doesn't move on to another job).

  5. Dropping back to back games at home matters come selection and seeding time, that is not hyperbole.

    I am a native Las Vegan, and my family has been in town since the '50s. I am an alumnus and have two others in my family that graduated from UNLV. Needless to say I am a die hard fan, and the only thing I hate more than the band wagon fans that post comments on the RJ articles saying, "Man we should move down to Div II, and 'our teams sucks, I thought we were supposed to be good?" Are the guys that drop cliches on me like, the sky is falling isn't it? Every time I make a very level headed opinion about how I see this teams future, and it just so happens to be contrary to their belief.

    These losses give the season a very new sense of urgency; piled on the the already high expectations of this squad makes for a daunting streatch through fresno and that other school up north -hopefully capped off with a win back at home against Boise.

    Saying that dropping back to back games at home hurts our post season chances is not lament, it is merely a speculation based on past observation on the (manner) in which the selection commitee makes its picks.

    My opinion: Joe found his shot and that looked great, and once Tre and Bellfield get more comfortable in Kruger's offense things will click. Wink is such a great player becuase he moves so well without the ball. He is getting used to a new PG. Once they click he will find his shot.

    GO Rebels!

  6. native and couev, don't misconstrue my point. If this team wins 15 in a row to go into the MWC tournament, everyone is going to forget about those long-ago losses in November.
    November.
    Kind of early, right? Yeah, I know about the significance. I wrote it, remember? First time in 28 seasons. Pretty tough.
    But it's a long season. A lot can happen, and you both know that. You also know it's very, very early. There is a lot to be played out.
    Your opinions are all very valid.
    I think this team is going to play well on the road, as we saw in El Paso. Will be a different season, and it will take a while for them to get warm to the home arena. Just the way it is. Rodeos do that to a schedule. No chance to get familiar.
    Anyway, have fun watching it all play out.