UNLV BASKETBALL:

Kantowski: Rebels continue to shock and amaze in hostile environs

Gone in a Wink

Powered by a Wink Adams 22-point performance, the Rebels snapped BYU's 25-game home conference win streak Wednesday with their 76-70 victory at the Marriott Center.

UNLV vs. BYU

Rene Rougeau looks for the open man as the BYU defense swarms him on Wednesday as UNLV took on BYU at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. The Rebels defeated the Cougars 76-70. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

BYU POSTGAME: It's gotta be the shoes

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Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ron Kantowski come to you from Provo to discuss UNLV's 76-70 come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night at BYU. The fellas talk about Wink Adams' emergence as the Rebels' senior spokesperson through both his play and his words, take a look at the ever-evolving early season MWC race, plus, what is it with those shoes? It's not as minor as you might think ... if you've noticed at all. Plus, postgame comments from Lon Kruger, Wink Adams and René Rougeau.

Box score

PROVO, Utah -- Let's see, there's the tropical rain forest during water moccasin season ... the Meadowlands after Springsteen leaves the stage ... the rose garden of the crotchety old man who lives next door ... and hell.

When it comes to tough places to play, these are venues that immediately come to mind.

Oh, I almost forgot: There's also the Marriott Center on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo.

The Marriott Center is where BYU plays basketball, and for some reason, the Cougars play it much better here than in other places. These would include Albuquerque, where they lost by 19 Saturday.

But Wednesday night, the water moccasin lost its fangs, Bruce left the building without playing an encore, the crotchety old man didn't call the cops and a place heretofore known as hell became a sweet and glorious heaven for the UNLV basketball team.

The Rebels rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat the Cougars on their vaunted home court, ending their 25-game home winning streak against Mountain West opponents. Amazing. Simply amazing.

Remember when I said UNLV's 56-55 win at Louisville on New Year's Eve was as good as it gets? Well, I was wrong. This was better. This was Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt stuff.

As the final seconds ticked down on the Rebels' remarkable 76-70 victory, a fan in the UNLV cheering section, which consisted of about 50 of Joe Darger's relatives who made the short trip from Riverton and a couple of kids sporting mohawks and old Jason Thomas football jerseys, held up a banner as BYU fans streamed toward the exits with these perplexed looks on their faces.

" ... And behold, Daniel and the Rebels went into the Cougars den and came out a winner," the sign said.

I'm not sure what Daniel had to do with it, as I didn't see his name in the boxscore. But there were 22 points alongside Wink Adams' name and 13 alongside Tre'Von Willis', and a lot of other Rebels played well too, because without other Rebels playing well, there's no way they beat a team like BYU at home.

As all games at the Marriott Center do, this one began with a prayer, and that looked like the only one the Rebels (15-4, 3-2 Mountain West) would have after falling behind 43-30 at halftime. But in keeping with the spirit of the evening, Adams said this was one time a 13-point deficit might have been a blessing.

''I can't ever remember ever coming in here and being down only 13 at halftime," said the Rebels' gritty leader, who scored 14 points in the second half and went after every loose ball as if his name were stamped on it. "Usually we're behind a lot more than that. So I knew we were still in the game."

He wasn't alone in thinking that. But he was almost alone.

Even their coach had his doubts after the Rebels fell behind and did not look very good in doing it.

"We've been pretty inconsistent in a lot of areas virtually all year-round," said a victorious Lon Kruger after emerging from the locker room as if he had just stolen something. "Tonight it was pretty glaring from the first half to the second half. That was about as inconsistent as you can get there."

Maybe that's why the second-half comeback shouldn't have come as such a big surprise. But if you know the back story, it was still hard to see it coming.

Maybe you can turn around a 13-point deficit at some place like Wyoming or San Diego State, which is notorious for snatching defeats from the jaws of victory. But up here? Against these guys? Forget about it.

Last year, the Rebels lost here 74-48. The year before that, they lost 90-63, when they were ranked No. 25 in the nation. The year before that they lost a close game and the year before that, Kruger's first as their coach, the Rebels won here, 76-66. That was the last time a conference opponent had beaten BYU on its hallowed home ground until Wednesday.

But that BYU team wasn't very good. This one is. Or at least it was supposed to be. Now, after the blowout loss at New Mexico and their cloak of invincibility at home lying in rags at their feet after failing to put the Rebels away, it is the Cougars (14-4, 2-2) who must look at themselves in the mirror the way the Rebels did after losing to TCU and Colorado State on the road.

It was just 18 days ago that BYU saw its 53-game home winning streak snapped but it took a great team like Wake Forest, ranked No. 1 in the land (for a few more days, anyway), to do it. On Wednesday, it took a great effort from a ... well, darned if I know how to classify these Rebels based on the roller-coaster ride they've been on since New Year's Eve.

Win at Louisville.

Barely beat New Mexico at home.

Lose at TCU.

Lose at Colorado State.

Handily beat Wyoming at home.

Win at BYU.

Ups, downs, peaks, valleys. Horrible first halves, fabulous second halves. Wins at places where they are hard to come by, losses at places you'd least expect.

I don't know if watching these Rebels has been fun. But it sure has been interesting.

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  1. Nah, this one will look good on the resume Reb. They just have to follow it up with more wins, that's all.

  2. This win will be looked at. BYU receives votes for the Top 25 in both polls.

  3. Agreed Jerry and Gray, this win is big time. Just as Wake Forest will receive high marks for their win in Provo. It is nationally known that it is hard to win their, just as Wake Forest players who remarked after their game.

  4. Couldn't agree with you more BrandonRebelFan. This conference is tight, and I love it! UNLV, BYU, UTAH, SDSU and even TCU are all in a dog fight for spots 1 thru 3. I'm actually loving the parody and only wish that teams in this league schedule even more tuff non-conference games to boost the conference RPI. Hopefully then we could see 3 or 4 teams in the tourney.

    Contrarily to JahReb, at this point in the season EVERY GAME IS BIG and the committee will look at UNLV's record in the MWC probably harder than just the lone win at Louisville.

  5. Ron: Nice article, but I think you are selling short the UNLV supporters that were there. I saw at least four areas of red shirts, one of them actually in the BYU student section. There were lots of Las Vegan's who drove up or flew up for the game. I had the chance to visit with at least 15 current BYU students that I know from here in Las Vegas that were at the game wearing UNLV red and you could hear the groups singing Rebel cheers before the game, during the game, and after the game. In fact the Provo Herald story describing the game pointed out that the BYU post game radio broadcast included the Rebel fan's cheers drowning out Lee Cummard's comments.

  6. Rebels:

    Yeah, I probably did come in a little under. Been watching too much Price Is Right, I guess. In retrospect, it was probably closer to 200 altogether. I was referring to the section of UNLV fans seated near the auxiliary press table as the Rebels' cheering section, because they seemed to represent the biggest concentration of UNLV fans.

    Regardless of whether it was 50 or 200, it was kinda cool to see anybody wearing red at a Rebels road game. I'm sure that everybody who made the trip felt they were duly rewarded for making the effort.

    Thanks for writing.