unlv basketball:

Rams use Rebels to halt MWC slump

Second loss in league play is Kruger’s first to Colorado State

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AP Photo/Fort Collins Coloraodoan, Travis A. Heuser

Colorado State’s Harvey Perry and UNLV’s Rob Ketchum fight for position in the first half during their game at Moby Arena in Fort Collins, Colo., on Jan. 14. CSU defeated UNLV 71-69.

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The Rebel Room

CSU POSTGAME: Where to start ...

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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech start from the beginning in dissecting UNLV's surprising 71-69 setback at Colorado State, including some interesting body language from the Rebels during pregame warmups. The guys talk about areas still needing improvement, plus look ahead to what is now a very intriguing home date with Wyoming on Saturday night.

Box score

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - Oscar Bellfield and Wink Adams missed late shots, and a couple tip attempts by other Rebels were errant, but the foundation of another ugly defeat was established early at Moby Arena.

UNLV coach Lon Kruger could not hide his frustration about a 71-69 loss to Colorado State on Wednesday night.

Most upsetting to Kruger was a first half in which his players directly fed at least four easy CSU baskets with sloppy passes on their own perimeter.

He has coached in the college game for 23 seasons, but there’s always a first time for some things.

“I’ve never seen that before,” Kruger said. “I’ve just never seen that before. We’re throwing them layups on three or four occasions. We hadn’t done that before.

“We have to take better care of the ball. We have to add that to our list of concerns … we have many.”

That helped Colorado State win a regular-season game in the Mountain West Conference for the first time in 20 tries, spanning three seasons.

It was UNLV’s fourth consecutive game decided in the final minute. It won the first two, at Louisville and at home against New Mexico.

However, it has dropped its past two, at TCU on Saturday and to the Rams, who were smacked by BYU by 26 points Saturday in the same arena.

Had UNLV chalked up a victory by a similar margin, maybe it could consider itself on equal terms with the perennially tough Cougars.

Don’t think Rebels coaches and players weren’t thinking along the same line.

Now, the Rebels (13-4, 1-2 in the Mountain West) look like a mediocre conference team, at best.

A renewed emphasis on defense was supposed to have been instilled last week, then the Rebels played flat in Fort Worth, Texas, against the Horned Frogs.

Once again, Kruger ingrained defensive techniques to his players Monday and Tuesday in the Cox Pavilion practice gym. He and his assistants beamed about those sessions.

Before the Rebels knew what hit them, though, they trailed Colorado State 22-10.

“We have to teach it differently, somehow,” Kruger said. “It’s our responsibility to help them get the results.”

A few plays later, Kruger had seen enough. Searching for any combination of players to generate some activity, he put walk-on forward Rob Ketchum in with two other Rebels.

All 12 players who traveled had now spent time on the court. Kruger said he would have had 15 players get in the game, by that point, if he had taken that many on the trip.

“We needed to find someone who wouldn’t throw it in the other direction,” he said.

Or would actually battle for a defensive rebound.

Freshman center Brice Massamba did not play at TCU because UNLV coaches weren’t thrilled with the nine defensive boards he had collected in 15 games.

Six minutes into Wednesday’s game, CSU forward Andy Ogide missed a shot on the right side but squirmed his way inside to snatch the rebound.

In front of Massamba, and with UNLV seniors Joe Darger and René Rougeau trying to close in on him, Ogide emphatically dunked the ball.

That gave the Rams a 17-7 edge and provided a dose of hope to a sparse crowd of 2,757.

If Massamba or starter Darris Santee would execute such a power move in traffic, Kruger and his lieutenants might do backflips on the bench.

Darger, who went six-for-eight from 3-point range, led everyone with 20 points. Santee and Massamba combined for three rebounds, only one on defense.

Ogide led five Rams double-digit scorers with 18 points.

CSU (5-12, 1-2) forged a pair of 12-point leads, but UNLV showed some mettle in cutting its deficit to 24-23.

Adams sank a jumper, Bellfield drove in strong for a layup and then Ketchum scored the first points of his career.

Rams reserve guard and Las Vegas native Harvey Perry missed a 3-pointer that Adams snagged, and on a sprint he fed Ketchum on the left side for one of only two UNLV fastbreak points.

Darger hit a close shot off an inbounds pass and then drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner to get the Rebels to within a point.

Then they looked like a rag-tag rec-league bunch, again, in misfiring on seven consecutive possessions.

Tre’von Willis missed a layin and a 3-pointer, Adams missed an inside fling and Bellfield air-balled a 3-point attempt. Adams, Darger and Rougeau committed turnovers on the last three possessions.

Santee missed a 1-foot banker off Bellfield’s inbounds pass with 1.5 seconds left, keeping UNLV’s deficit at 32-28.

The Rebels scored the first six points of the second half to take their first lead, at 34-32, on Santee’s strong layup on the left side of Ogide.

But CSU stormed back and took the lead for good, at 39-38, on Perry’s jump shot on Rougeau five minutes into the last half.

“Well, I heard the clock was running down,” Perry said. “Five, four, three … I had to let one go. It was a rhythm shot. It felt good to me. I let it go and it went through the net.

“Momentum changed.”

Adams cut the deficit to 70-69 by sinking two free throws with 45.8 seconds left and had a chance to give the Rebels the lead, but his fling with about 20 seconds left was off.

Kruger agreed that it looked like Adams might have stumbled a bit as he drove through the right side.

“He didn’t get off a strong finish,” Kruger said.

What concerns Kruger most is his team’s general malaise. Santee chased one ball out of bounds Wednesday and stopped at the line, not about to sail into the stands for it.

“Not very much,” said Kruger, when asked how frequently he sees players going all out to make such saves. “Those types of things have to happen for us.”

Kruger repeatedly said CSU “outfought” his players. For a coach who always preaches about rebounding, diving for loose balls and hustle, that’s the most embarrassing aspect of his team’s performances.

There’s a whole lot of teams in the league, Kruger said, playing better than UNLV.

“We have to realize we have to out-work people,” he said. “In several games, we felt like we’d get results without out-fighting the opponent. We’re now realizing, hopefully, that we can’t do that.”

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  1. Feel bad for Wink, Joe, Rene and Mo.

    What could have been triumphant culmination to the strides taken the last couple of years will now most likely end in dissapointment in their senior year.

    UNLV can still make the ncaa tournament by winning 3 days in a row in March. But tonight is more than just one loss even at 13-4. This is goodbye to hopes of a regular season championship. This is goodbye to parlaying our marquee OOC wins into a decent seed in the ncaa tournament. This is goodbye to even coming close to living up to expectations.

    I wonder what Kruger can say to these guys that he hasn't already said.

    I'll still be there with the other 10,000 or so non-fair weather fans on Saturday for "pack the mack" night.

  2. Our guys have turned completely flat. With the exception of 2 games they just haven't looked good. The weird thing is it doesn't seem they even remember how to compete, and look nothing like last year. Hope they figure things out soon but someone should tell them the season is more than half over.

  3. True sentiments, folks. Glad I don't coach, I'd be the worst. Ultimately, it appeared they warmed-up yesterday as if they were the top team in a YMCA league knowing they were just about to play the 50-and-over squad from the local Elks Lodge. Colorado State lost its previous 19 league games? Huh. No worries. Well, from the start there was plenty to worry about. Very weird. We'll get to more of it.

  4. Not much I can say, we blew it! Saturday night and for the rest of the season we need to come out with a chip on our shoulder and leave everything we have out on the floor. Play with same freaking intensity, blow some teams out, and play as a team. I know this may sound far fetched but, win the rest of our conference games go into BYU and hand them another loss at home. No more laughing during the game, warmups, and practices. Go out there with some heart and emotion.

  5. i just cant understand what is so much different about this squad then last year. Was curtis terry THAT good. Guess there is no stats for leadership and hustle. Something he provided and apparently something lacking in the 08-09 team. I do not get this team. Stunned.

  6. Exactly right runrebs. Curtis Terry provided a great intangible to this team, getting in anyone's face at ANY time. He also backed it up on the court. Like Kevin Kruger this previous season. THAT is not on this team. During layup drills in warmups last night, someone on that squad should have yanked everyone else into a room, shut the door and read them the riot act. THAT would have been a defining moment. Moment -- and game -- lost.

  7. The truth is, what's up with this team is its lack of identity and a senior floor general to go along with it. (See Curtis Terry last season and Kevin Kruger the one before that. Those missing pieces create a team that's inconsistent and plays down to its competition. Curtis had that edge and always played with desire no matter who was in fron of him. He got in faces and was an extenchion of Lon on the coart. Same for Kevin!

    Wink isn't being that leader this year, he is hesitant, defers too much and not vocal at all like he should be as a senior. (He needs to get on his fellow teammates A$$ when they mess up out their, or simply be that spark to rile them up)

    Rene could and should be that guy, but it seems he doesn't truly know how to be since he never really was

    Mo could be but his leash is too tight and he stays in his comfortable role too much. You have to put a gun to his head to get him to shoot.

    Jo is only good for shooting 3's and guarding big men, or getting opposing big men to guard him.

    Trevon hasn't earned enough stripes, and simply hasn't done nearly enough this season to be any type of vocal leader and floor general. In other words he needs to shut up and put up!

    and our PG Bellfield is gonna be legit real soon, but it isn't his team right now......

    "..and I can go on and on. In other words this team has too many Robins and not a single Batman. Hell they may only have like 2 Robins at that.

  8. Don't call me doom and gloomer though. I'm not saying the sky is falling. Our early conference loses makes for some interesting basketball for the whole league. Remember we lost away games last season to Air Force, NM, Utah and BYU and we almost lost to CSU as well. This all just makes the Utah, BYU and SDSU series more interesting. This it a test for fans as well as the team and coaches.

  9. Boo Hoo. It's two losses. It's not the players that everyone should be concerned about.

    I have a ton of respect for Coach Kruger, so I suppose we should trust him. But, what seems to be happening is that he is making game-losing changes to make a point to the players. Really, all 12 players in a game that became that important? No center in the TCU game? It seems that Kruger- not Miech- is going "all in" halfway through the season in an attempt to light a fire under his players. Who knows, we are Vegas.

  10. ha ha, good on maryland. I think it's been challenging to find a unit that clicks. I think Kruger has been scratching his head a lot this season. I think this team has a two-month window to figure out some things before the conference tournament. Good thing for LV hoops fans that the tourney is at the Mack.

  11. good stuff smb

  12. Man we all just have to remember that Rene wasn't even a starter in High School, let alone a leader, and the fact that he came to UNLV as a walk on thinking he would be known as a role player and only that. I think the guy is really trying to adjust to Kruger and Co molding him and his role as THE LEADER of this team. Vocally, physically and mentally. Rene should have decked that Bujion kid when he shoved him in the back at TCU. Well maybe not but that action could have gave his fellow teammates a desire to get tough and nasty! I think Rene needs to take what Kruger is telling him and run with it. Rene you are the leader of this team, not Wink, not Joe but you! You need to get in guy's faces and tell them to listen to what you tell them, tell Trevon to shut up and let you have the last word, hell every word out their. You are the QB on this team, the extension of the coach on the floor! ....man I hope he reads this, lol!

  13. SMB, indeed, good stuff. Perspective, reality, etc ... bravo. It's a test. It SHOULD be a test. It's such a new team, so many new faces who have no idea what this squad was like with Kevin Kruger or Curtis Terry. THAT needs to develop. It is.
    THAT is why that loss at Colorado State probably was a good thing. I know it's tough to look at the big picture. It's easy to say how bleak it looks. It doesn't. THAT is how leaders are developed.
    Check out my story that will be up early in the a.m. It directly pertains to this.