Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 | midnight
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss all of the little things that went into UNLV solving its recent issues and coming away with conference victory No. 2 on Saturday night against Wyoming at the Mack. Plus, the guys discuss Dave Hall's presence and the upcoming showdown at BYU.
Beyond the Sun
Back in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when boxing was good, there was a fighter named Jerry Quarry, who also was good. But not great.
He'd stand there in front of you and trade hooks and make you fight. Sometimes, he would even get the best of it. Other times, he didn't. In either case, he'd usually bleed a lot.
Quarry was good enough to beat you, if you didn't show up to fight. But he wasn't good enough to beat Ali. Or Joe Frazier. He was 0-4 against those two.
The Wyoming Cowboys remind me of Jerry Quarry. They're pretty good, but not great. They'll stand in front of you and trade long jump shots, work the body with slashing drives to the basket. But at some point, they usually start bleeding turnovers. Or they don't block out for rebounds. One way or another, you know they're going down.
They are the perfect opponent when knockouts in your corner have been few and far between, as they've been for the Rebels recently. They're good enough to come into your place and give you a game. But not good enough to beat you. Like Quarry vs. Ali or Smokin' Joe.
And so the Rebels won a game they had to win, at least in the eyes of their suddenly skeptical fan base. The final was 83-66. If you were there, you know it was closer than that, for a while anyway. If you were there, you also know the Rebels were never in danger of losing, even when they fell behind 24-20 with just over eight minutes to play in the first half after Sean Ogirri hit his 19th 3-pointer. (Actually, Ogirri hit only seven 3s. It just seemed like 19.)
You knew the Rebels (14-4, 2-2 MWC) were never really in trouble because you knew Ogirri couldn't keep hitting from out there (he finished 7 of 15 from beyond the arc.) Plus, the things Wyoming does well -- shooting from long distance, pushing the ball up the floor, slashing to the basket -- the Rebels do better. Plus, UNLV plays better defense. And it doesn't throw the basketball into the stands nearly as often as Wyoming does.
Whereas the Cowboys committed 18 turnovers (it seemed like more), the Rebels made only eight. The Rebels scored 24 points off Wyoming miscues, winning the points-off-turnovers battle 24-15. Even more important were second-chance points, as UNLV had 24 to Wyoming's nine. That was pretty much the game in a nutshell, unless you want to toss in Rene Rougeau's (and others') defensive effort on Wyoming's Brandon Ewing and Wink Adams' demonstrative 20-point effort on the other end of the court. Then you'd need a little bigger nutshell.
Ewing usually beats the Rebels like a rented mule, as they say in hockey, but the Rebels put the checking line on him Saturday. It was led by Rougeau, at 6-foot-6, 4 inches taller than Ewing, who came in averaging 19.4 points. He managed only seven this time. He took only five shots. Ewing spent most of the evening shaking his head in frustration and checking his shooting arm, the one the Rebels apparently kept fouling, although the officials didn't see it that way.
Adams hit eight of 20 shots, which you'll take from him every night. Plus, you could tell he was really into the game. I thought the defining moment in this one occurred during a little spurt toward the end of the first half when Wink outscored Wyoming 9-0 to give the Rebels a 31-26 lead. He and Oscar Bellfield stole two of the passes the Cowboys didn't throw into the stands during that little run and Adams nearly turned the last one into an old school 3-point play -- the ball rolled off the rim after he was fouled.
Wink clenched his fists and flexed his muscles at the free-throw line in the sort of spontaneous display of exuberance that has been lacking since the Rebels upset Louisville -- which knocked off top-rated Pitt on Saturday -- on New Year's Eve. Since then, UNLV has barely beaten New Mexico at home and barely showed up while losing to perennial MWC bottom feeders TCU and Colorado State on the road.
The only spontaneous displays of exuberance recently were in the lay-up line before the game at CSU Wednesday, and that's not when you prefer to see them.
The Rebels didn't mess around in the lay-up line before tonight's game and they didn't mess around after it began, either. The result was what you'd expect from them at home against one of the Mountain West's Jerry Quarrys. But afterward, Rougeau corrected a reporter who used that word.
"This is the result we needed," he said, emphasizing the last word. "Coming off two losses, we definitely needed a big-time win like this."
It won't be as easy as Wednesday night when the Rebels visit BYU and the daunting Marriott Center, where the Cougars never lose (except to Wake Forest) and hardly ever throw the ball into the stands.