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UNLV-Utah Notebook: Rebels rally late but come up short

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Justin M. Bowen

Rene Rougeau shoots a jumper over Luke Nevill as UNLV takes on Utah on Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Utah defeated UNLV 70-60, making the series even on the season.

Too Little, Too Late

UNLV rallied from a 14-point halftime deficit against Utah, cut the lead to two late in the second half, but could not complete the comeback. The Rebels lost to the Utes 70-60 Wednesday night in Salt Lake City.

UNLV vs. Utah

Rene Rougeau goes up against the much taller Luke Nevill of Utah as UNLV takes on Utah Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.   Utah defeated UNLV 70-60, making the series even on the season. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

UTAH POSTGAME: Sloppy from the start

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Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ron Kantowski discuss UNLV's mess of a 70-60 loss at Utah on Wednesday night at the Huntsman Center. The guys talk about what Utah did right, what UNLV did pretty wrong, and expand on other topics such as the upcoming Mountain West Tournament and what both teams' NCAA hopes look like following the season's second meeting.

Utah Breakdown

Alex Adeyanju and Rob Miech discussed what when wrong for UNLV in their loss to Utah.

Box score

Beyond the Sun

SALT LAKE CITY – Trailing 48-33 in the second half, UNLV rallied Wednesday night to cut Utah’s lead to 57-55 with three minutes left at the Huntsman Center.

Utes junior forward Luke Drca answered that by drilling a 3-point shot and canning two free throws to give Utah some space the rest of the way.

The Rebels, who never led, didn’t have the finishing kick to sustain some late-season momentum.

“To fight all the way back and get so close … it’s frustrating to work so hard to get back into the game and not being able to finish,” said sophomore guard Kendall Wallace, who scored eight of UNLV’s 10 bench points.

“We really stepped it up on defense. We were able to force turnovers and get some easy buckets on the break, we got some open shots and knocked those down. Once we got our confidence going, we knew what we had to do.”

René Rougeau didn’t like the word “fortunate” to describe UNLV being only two points down after such lethargic and sloppy stretches.

“We were just hungry, trying to get the win,” he said. “Seeing that we came back like that, if we would have played like that the whole game, for sure we would have won.

“Like coach (Lon Kruger) said in the locker room, we can’t just have one good half of defense like that. We have to play like that the whole time, take on different challenges and not let guys just dribble anywhere.”

Off the mark

For the seventh consecutive game, UNLV senior guard Wink Adams failed to make at least half of his shot attempts.

He went 3-for-12 from the field to finish with nine points, the fourth time this season he failed to reach double digits in scoring. He had three of those last season.

“He had a tough night,” Kruger said. “We need Wink to have good games, no question about that.”

Adams shrugged.

“Yeah, it was tough,” he said. “That’s how it goes. We can’t miss shots on the offensive end and we didn’t get stops when we needed. That hurt.”

He believed the Rebels were fortunate to get to within two in the final minutes.

“Luke Nevill was getting the ball close to the basket,” Adams said. “It was hard to contain him at the beginning. The defense was there, they were just hitting shots.”

Tough stretch

Freshman guard Oscar Bellfield is in the midst of the worst scoring slump of his young career.

His two points Wednesday gave him seven in his past three games, his worst three-game stretch as a Rebel.

Worse, he went 0-for-4 from the field against Utah. It was the seventh time he failed to make a basket and second time he went 0-for in back-to-back games.

Bellfield missed all four shots he tried against BYU on Saturday at the Thomas & Mack Center.

“Inconsistency has hampered us in a lot of different areas, and a little bit of that has crept into Oscar’s game,” Kruger said. “He’s had a good freshman year. I don’t have any complaints with what Oscar is doing.

“I thought, during that stretch that we made a run, he played very well. He did a good job defensively and was making plays offensively.”

Bellfield had three assists and two turnovers, and he has 15 assists and 6 turnovers over his past four games.

Support for Joe

In the final game of his collegiate career in his home state, UNLV senior forward Joe Darger had more than 30 family members and friends in attendance at the Huntsman Center.

Darger, from Riverton, Utah, scored only six points on 1-of-6 shooting. He was limited to 26 minutes because of foul trouble after spending the brunt of his night manning up against Luke Nevill down low.

Darger is 15-5 against BYU and Utah, the two league powers in his home state, but he’s 3-5 in the Beehive State against the Cougars and Utes.

No pick-and-roll for you

Every Utah player who left the locker room at the Thomas & Mack Center last month frowned about UNLV taking advantage of the Utes’ defense via the pick-and-roll.

The plan took 7-foot-2 center Luke Nevill out of the paint repeatedly and allowed UNLV plenty of opportunities to dive to the hoop for easy buckets.

This time? Well, not so much.

"They did well playing the pick-and-roll, but we've got to adjust to that and make changes," Bellfield said. “We had plans to really use the screens different ways, but they adjusted to it."

Around the MWC

Only one other game took place in the Mountain West Conference on Wednesday night, and suddenly-hot Wyoming beat Colorado State, 82-79, in Fort Collins, Colo.

Wyoming was paced by 21 points from the league’s leading scorer, senior guard Brandon Ewing. Forward Afam Muojeke and Tyson Johnson combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds.

The win improved Heath Schroyer's club to 17-10 overall and 6-7 in the league, with a date at 0-13 Air Force on Saturday afternoon.

Following TCU's (5-9) loss at New Mexico on Tuesday night, Wyoming is in solid position to secure the No. 6 seed in the upcoming Mountain West tournament.

As for the league race, 11-2 Utah now leads BYU (9-4) by two games, and New Mexico (8-4) by 2.5. The Utes travel to Provo to face the Cougars on Saturday afternoon, followed by a trip to Albuquerque next week.

Free throws

With his 9 points Wednesday, Adams passed Larry Anderson (1979-83) for seventh on the UNLV all-time scoring list. Adams now has 1,821 points for his career, topping Anderson's 1,818. Next up is Armon Gilliam, who scored 1,855 in three seasons as a Rebel from 1984-87 ... former Rebels point guard Kevin Kruger, the coach’s son, attended the game. Last week he signed with Utah of the NBA Development League after Lukoil Academic in Bulgaria released him from his contract … Adams has had a tough shooting season, no doubt. He went 3-for-12 from the field Wednesday. Told about Adams’s struggles this season, Utah coach Jim Boylen, on the court after the game, said “Well, (Lawrence) Borha is a good defender now.” … Borha scord 11 points against the Rebels, his 12th consecutive double-digit scoring game. That’s even better than Nevill, who hit double figures in his past 10 games … Borha is 21-for-37 beyond the 3-point arc in his past seven games … Utah improved to 12-2 at home.

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