Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2009 | 8:57 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 71-57
It looked a bit murky early on Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, as UNLV looked flat and TCU raced to a 17-7 lead.
Then came a 23-2 Rebels run, and just like that, Lon Kruger's ball club got back on track following a pair of overtime losses by knocking off the Horned Frogs, 71-57.
In one of his steadier offensive performances of the season, Wink Adams led the Rebels with 21 points. It marked the fifth time this season that UNLV's leading scorer has eclipsed 20 points in a game. The points came on 6-of-13 shooting. He scored seven consecutive points during the game's biggest run during the middle portion of the first half.
Joe Darger scored all 14 of his points in the first half for the Rebels, who improved to 18-6 overall and 6-4 in Mountain West play. For TCU, now 13-11 and 4-6, respectively, it was the team's fifth consecutive letdown.
Tre'Von Willis scored 11 points, René Rougeau added 10 and UNLV was a perfect 24-of-48 from the floor.
UNLV is back in action on Saturday night at home against Colorado State for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
6:36, second half, UNLV leads 60-47
Give the Rebels plenty of credit for diving after loose balls and scrapping for offensive boards still even with this one in pretty firm control. UNLV leads TCU 60-47 with 6:36 to play at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Ronnie Moss is TCU's lone offensive threat at this point, leading the way with 15 points. Other than that, it's just been pure fun to watch Zvonko Buljan spiral out of control every time the ball's touched his hands. The junior who scored 10 points and had 13 rebounds against UNLV last month is carrying and traveling every time he tries to put it on the floor, and is having trouble finding teammates willing to set him up for shots.
Meanwhile, Wink Adams' solid all-around night continues, as he leads all scorers with 17 points. He's 3-of-6 from deep, and UNLV as a team is 21-of-40. This is going to be a nice win for the Rebels to look back on, barring a miracle from the visitors.
15:09, second half, UNLV leads 48-40
Ronnie Moss has hit a pair of 3-pointers for TCU to start the second half, but he's pretty much on his own of late on the offensive end for the Horned Frogs.
Wink Adams and Oscar Bellfield have each hit deep balls in response, and the Rebels lead by eight points early in the second half.
TCU just looks pretty disorganized on the offensive end, and it's a lot of one-on-one ball for Jim Christian's club. Everyone's showing the want to get into the action for the Rebels, so expect a pretty full stat sheet to finish up the night. Adams now has 14 points in what has been one of his steadier offensive performances of the season. He leads all scorers so far with 15.
Halftime, UNLV leads 40-31
It's almost hard to remember that not too long ago, UNLV trailed TCU 17-7 and was hearing a few boos in the home gym.
A few 3-pointers from Wink Adams and Joe Darger later, and the Rebels are in pretty solid control of the Horned Frogs at the half, leading 40-31. They used a 23-2 run to key the comeback, and now UNLV can seemingly do no wrong. Guys are no longer standing around watching, they're crashing the glass and the hangover from New Mexico is assumed to be no more.
Here are some numbers of note to this point ...
-Darger has 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including a 4-of-7 showing from long range.
-The Rebels are an efficient 6-of-10 from 3-point range.
-UNLV, coming off of two very poor shooting performances back-to-back, is 16-of-27 from the floor tonight.
-TCU has 17 turnovers in 20 minutes. That certainly doesn't hurt Lon Kruger's club. UNLV has 10.
-Wink Adams, who has faltered offensively down the stretch over the past week, is 4-of-7 from the floor with 10 points. He's 2-of-3 from deep.
Well, we're seeing some of that poor body language from the Horned Frogs now that we didn't see down in Fort Worth last month. Zvonko Buljan obviously lets poor play get to his head, and the Horned Frogs really just don't have a guy to rally around emotionally. I'm guessing this second half could get kinda ugly for the visitors.
UNLV courld use another offensively efficient second half to go into Saturday on.
3:31, first half, UNLV leads 27-19
The boo birds were definitely premature, as the Rebels are in the midst of a 20-2 run, which has vaulted UNLV to an eight-point lead on TCU at the Thomas & Mack Center.
TCU quit attacking the hoop and is now settling for outside shots which are no longer falling. Meanwhile, Wink Adams and Joe Darger hit back-to-back 3-pointers before the media timeout to keep the Horned Frogs reeling. Before that, it was a Mo Rutledge hoop-and-harm.
Since Kevin Langford's awkward layup inside with 11 minutes to play, TCU has netted just one field goal.
7:33, first half, TCU leads 19-18
TCU's Ronnie Moss dropped in a spicy and-one layup to send the game into a media timeout, but for the four minutes before that, the Rebels were nothing shy of alive on the offensive end.
Wink Adams hit a straight-away two, a baseline jumper and a 3-pointer from the right wing to spark an 11-0 run. Darris Santee scored two inside, while Tre'Von Willis went coast-to-coast off of a defensive board to score two in between a pair of defenders.
Still, it's a bit sterile tonight at the Mack. I mean, it's kind of to be expected, given the opponent and the fact that UNLV's coming off of back-to-back losses for the third time this season. The Rebels are having to provide their own energy, and they're now starting to do so.
10:57, first half, TCU leads 17-7
Mark it down -- with 12:09 to play in the first half on Feb. 10, the first boo birds of the season came out in support of the home Rebels.
It came on the heels of a Wink Adams turnover off of a jump-pass out of traffic in the lane.
The Rebels continue to struggle offensively, as there's a good deal of standing around going on. Meanwhile, the Horned Frogs' foreign duo of Buljan and Ruzkas is hurting UNLV yet again. After Edvinas Ruzgas scored the game's first eight points, Buljan put away five for TCU. Ronnie Moss and Kevin Langford each scored buckets before the game's second media timeout.
15:40, first half, TCU leads 8-2
Edvinas Ruzkas. Learn to pronounce it, because it looks like it'll be a popular call for much of the night against TCU. The junior forward from Lithuania has scored all eight of the Horned Frogs' points so far, and they lead UNLV 8-2 early on at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Kendall Wallace got his first career start in place of Tre'Von Willis, who did not come out for warmups until the layup lines just minutes before tip-off. He checked in at the first TV timeout.
The Rebels, however, stayed small, with Oscar Bellfield starting again in place of Darris Santee. UNLV's relying on the outside shot early on, but nothing's worked so far.
Welcome to the Thomas & Mack Center, where UNLV tonight looks to begin a week of revenge.
Of course, what happened on the road to the Rebels between Jan. 10 and 14 was no one's fault but their own. Against TCU, UNLV allowed a season-high 80 points, as the Horned Frogs scored repeatedly on back-door cuts and hard drives to the rack against a smaller lineup. At Colorado State, well, that's been well-enough documented by now.
But the Rebels, thanks to a play-everyone-twice conference set-up, have a chance to atone for both.
First up is TCU, who is on a nice little slide at the moment after starting 4-1 in the Mountain West.
When we saw the Horned Frogs play in Fort Worth back in early January, Rob Miech and I both agreed that was the kind of team that had a slide in it ... sort of how we feel right now about San Diego State.
Nothing against coach Jim Christian, because he's going to have that program rolling in a couple of years. That looks like a safe bet. But TCU played a bit above its head that day, and it's just not the kind of team that has a ton of staying power.
Hence four straight defeats, including a 71-65 loss at Colorado State on Saturday.
It's a team ripe for a blowout, playing with much less momentum than it was a month ago. Anyways, onto tonight's 3 big predictions ...
1) Picks to click Rob is going with Joe Darger. I'm taking Kendall Wallace, as I did last time these two teams met. Don't be surprised if Wallace gets his first start tonight. Tre'Von Willis was not on the floor with the guards warming up. He may be getting some shoulder treatment.
2) TCU's hopes hinge on Zvonko Buljan The junior swingman averages 11.7 points and 7.2 boards for the Frogs. In the first meeting he scored 20 and grabbed 13 rebounds and simply couldn't miss. Gonna be interesting to see how the Rebels attack him.
3) Scores I'm going 72-58, UNLV. Miech wants the Rebels at 75-51.
Talk to you after tip-off.