Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009 | midnight
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's first Mountain West loss of the season, as the Rebels fell to TCU on Saturday afternoon in Fort Worth, 80-73. The guys talk about just what went wrong after Lon Kruger went with a smaller lineup to start the game, then stuck with it for much of the afternoon. Plus, a look a bit down the road at just how UNLV can make up for their first league stumble. Also, is TCU for real in the MWC race?
FORT WORTH, Texas -- If there's one guy on Lon Kruger's roster who shows his home state pride more than anyone else, it's senior guard Wink Adams.
Heck, he had it tattooed on his right shoulder late this past summer.
But for the first time in his UNLV career, a Texas school got the best of him, as TCU bumped UNLV on Saturday afternoon, 80-73.
"It's always disappointing when you get a loss," said Adams, previously 6-0 in the Lone Star State. "But to get a loss back in the home state is tougher."
Afterward, Adams mustered up enough of a happy face to go greet his mother, Reandre Adams, and some other friends who made the trip up from Houston to see him in action.
They caught him on the day where he returned to the starting lineup, following a two-game absence thanks to an abdominal strain suffered back on Dec. 23 against Southern Utah.
He missed the New Year's Eve upset of Louisville altogether, then came off the bench to play 18 minutes last Saturday against New Mexico.
Against the Horned Frogs, he handled a full workload, going for 36 minutes.
Lon Kruger said afterward that Adams was back to 100 percent the previous few days at practice.
The only difference Adams said he felt between Saturday and before his injury was the tape job around his waist.
"You don't think about it," Adams said of the injury. "You can kind of feel the tape and the wrap when it's around your waist. It's kind of a protective shield, so you play along."
Adams showed flashes of getting back to his former self.
By saying "former self," that's referring to the Adams who drives hard to the hole at will and either gets up a shot, draws a foul and a trip to the free throw line or hits the floor in trying.
His first pair of free throw attempts came as a result of one of those signature drives, but he spent most of the day kicking the ball out to the perimeter after he penetrated.
In the first half, that worked well, as UNLV connected on 10 3-pointers. In fact, 19 of its 23 first-half field goal attempts came from long range. He went into the break with seven assists to his credit, and finished the game with a career high of nine.
But Adams couldn't find a groove in terms of producing points. He was just three-of-11 from the floor, two-of-eight from 3-point range and one-of-four at the charity stripe.
"Tonight, I was just making plays, getting shots for Joe (Darger) and Kendall (Wallace)," Adams said. "First half, they hit a lot of shots. Second half, guys kind of struggled to hit shots and we missed a lot of free throws."
The slew of outside shots were a byproduct of UNLV going small not just to start the game, but for nearly all of it.
Sophomore guard Tre'Von Willis, who started in Adams' place in the last two games, stayed in the starting five. He replaced junior center Darris Santee, who is mired in a slump of late.
"Tre's been playing pretty well," Kruger said. "Wink comes back, you've got to take someone out, and I thought Tre earned the opportunity to stay in there."
Santee wound up playing six minutes, while his primary backup -- freshman Brice Massamba -- never removed his warmup top. With those two predominately out of the rotation, four UNLV starters played at least 32 minutes, with Oscar Bellfield and Kendall Wallace spliting 45 minutes practically right down the middle.
The smaller Rebels had a tough time grabbing rebounds, as TCU won that battle, 32-23, and dominated offensively in the paint, outscoring UNLV 32-14.
Adams wouldn't use it as any kind of excuse, no matter what state the game was played in.
"I wouldn't say it hurt us, we just really didn't come out and play defense how we wanted to," Adams said. "They got a lot of things that they wanted down low. We've just got to get better as a team. Tonight, we didn't execute our game plan. We did in spurts, but not for 40 minutes."