UNLV BASKETBALL:

Rebels respond on the road to topple Cougars, 76-70

UNLV syncs in the second half, ends BYU’s streak of home league wins

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Justin M. Bowen

Rene Rougeau goes in for the layup on Jan. 21 as UNLV takes on BYU at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah. The Rebels defeated the Cougars 76-70.

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 –- At halftime Wednesday night inside the Marriott Center, Rebels players talked among themselves before their coaches entered their locker room.

Assistant coach Lew Hill heard the chatter.

“They felt like we’d win,” Hill said. “They never had any doubt about it. They were composed. They had a look in their eyes, like we’re going to come back out here and do it.”

That resolve powered the Rebels, who trailed BYU by 15 points in the first half, to a 76-70 victory before a crowd of 12,853.

Winning at Louisville on New Year’s Eve was impressive. Handily defeating Arizona at the Thomas & Mack Center was stunning.

Wednesday night was the Rebels’ most scintillating effort so far, since they had flopped so shockingly in their first two Mountain West Conference road games at TCU and Colorado State.

“We knew we could get back into the game,” said UNLV senior swingman René Rougeau. “If we really wanted this, we said at halftime, this could really change our season around. We had to take it serious.

“Everyone came out and did that.”

Three weeks ago, Wake Forest snapped the Cougars’ 53-game home winning streak.

Wednesday night, UNLV stopped a stretch in which BYU had won 25 Mountain West games in a row at the Marriott Center.

The last league team to defeat the Cougars on their own court was UNLV, at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Rebels coach Lon Kruger talked about the “fight” his team displayed in zapping the Cougars, 46-27, in the second half.

“Anytime you can come into Provo and win, it’s huge,” Kruger said. “Not many people do that. Obviously, if you can do that you pick one up on the field.”

UNLV (15-4, 3-2 in the Mountain West) jumped ahead of the Cougars (14-4, 2-2) in the conference standings.

The Rebels sealed it by sinking 12 of 14 free throws over the final two minutes. UNLV entered the game as the worst free-throw shooting team in the league, at 66.9 percent.

“Everyone has been big on that,” Rougeau said. “We have to keep working on free throws in practice, every day. Everyone, thank goodness, was able to hit them tonight.

“In the second half, we came out with more intensity. Guys really wanted it. Everyone played hard on every possession.”

Rebels senior guard Wink Adams led everyone with 22 points. He sank eight of 10 free throws, and half of his team-high eight rebounds came under UNLV’s glass.

He said it was his best effort all season driving to the basket, attacking the rim, drawing fouls and getting to the line.

In the first half, it looked like UNLV was headed for another 25- or 26-point defeat, like the past two seasons, in the building when BYU belted the Rebels in the first 11 minutes.

Adams feared the Cougars’ running game in practice Monday and Tuesday. That was prophetic as BYU’s defensive rebounding and transition game powered it to a 32-17 lead.

But sophomore guard Kendall Wallace drilled a 3-point shot, junior center Darris Santee scored on back-to-back possessions and Adams hit a jumper on Jackson Emery to cut UNLV’s deficit to 32-26.

That provided a spark of hope. Still, BYU counter-punched and took a 43-30 lead into the half when Jimmer Fredette’s 3-pointer from the top of the key swished through the net in the final second.

By all accounts, Kruger didn’t fume at his players. He was ticked, although one Rebel used another word.

“He believed in us,” Rougeau said of Kruger. “He believed we could come back and win this. Every possession had to matter. He emphasized fastbreak points. We did a great job in the second half.”

BYU beat UNLV, 24-8, in interior points in the first half. In the second, the Rebels had a 12-8 advantage.

“Two different halves altogether,” Kruger said.

The Cougars only made one of their first 16 shots in the second half. Some of that was sticky defense, Kruger said, some of that was errant attempts on open looks.

By the time BYU scored, on Emery’s 3-pointer, UNLV had snuck back into the game on Santee’s put-back and free throw, senior power forward Joe Darger’s 3-pointer and Adams’s two free throws.

The Cougars led, 46-38, but the Rebels kept coming, getting a mid-range jumper by Rougeau, a sterling reverse layup by Adams and then a long jumper by Adams.

That got UNLV to within a basket, and Fredette sank a pair of free throws to give BYU a 48-44 lead.

But UNLV kept coming and kept putting the clamp on what BYU wanted to do on offense.

Adams sliced in for another slick reverse layup, then Rougeau hit a jumper over Jonathan Tavernari, who had just turned it over, to tie it 48-48.

BYU star forward Lee Cummard missed a jump shot, and UNLV sophomore guard Tre’Von Willis wound up feeding freshman center Brice Massamba for an easy layin to give the Rebels a 50-48 edge.

It was their first lead in about 24 minutes, and they never yielded it back to the Cougars.

“It was all ‘Tre,’” Massamba said. “He saw the alley. I set a screen. Nobody was guarding me. ‘Tre’ missed the layup and I grabbed it. It was wide open.

“I just bumped another dude, took it and finished it. Yeah, it was pretty big for me. It was too easy for them in the first half. We had to start guarding like Rebels.”

UNLV’s advantage swelled to nine points, on Willis’s 3-pointer from the right corner, when BYU tried coming back.

But Adams took over, once again, with a jumper from the right side as the 35-second shot clock was about to expire with a bit more than two minutes left.

Adams, who had his right eye poked early in the second half, said he saw the shot clock at :05 and knew he had to do something.

“I kind of did one dribble to the right and shot it,” he said. “I didn’t think it would go in, but I’m glad it did.”

Adams set himself up for that shot by diving for a loose ball, and calling timeout with 2:37 left, on defense.

“That’s what he’s supposed to do,” Hill said. “That’s what seniors do. It pumps up everybody. That’s winning basketball right there! That’s Rebels basketball!”

A small contingent of red-clad UNLV fans that sat behind the Rebels’ bench howled at them moments after the game ended. Kruger walked by them, pointed up at them with a wide smile, and winked.

“This might be bigger than Louisville,” Rougeau said. “It was such a great team win. It was a great atmosphere tonight, and BYU came with it. The crowd really got into it.

“But every one of us really kept our composure tonight.”

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  1. Great win, but lets not get too high off this one. TONS of work to do still, one game at a time.

    Focus shifts to a dangerous Utah squad who downed Gonzaga last month...

    The Fever's rising.

  2. Nice win, excellent second half - you guys actually looked like Rebels. Keep it up ... And peak in March!

  3. Am sitting at Gate B13 at Salt Lake Int'l Airport at this moment, and the UNLV crew is looking quite professional. Wink has his red letterman's jacket on and looking proud, but nobody is beaming too much. I think that got the message. Work to do. They already know what they have to improve on at practice today. Coaches have watched a tape of the gmae last night, and they'll do it again as soon as they hit Las Vegas. Then, back to the drawing board.

  4. Too many BYU players driving to lane for easy layups. It made me sick to watch that first half. How about you?

    God, I still wonder about our offense that we run. It seems like to many players standing still.

  5. whats up with ron kantowski jumping on the bandwagon. i think you(rob),ryan and friends have been doing an amazing job covering the scarlet and grey. this site has been taking off, cant imagine the traffic it must be getting. ed graney going to start chiming in here next week?

  6. We can't get too high after this amazing win and here is why. WE play Utah and big cool hand Luke Saturday, then we go to Clune arena to play an Air Force team that is down, but hungry. We have not won there in 5 or 6 years. Then we play the San Diego State Aztecs, who actually lost no one to graduation, remember both of our wins vs SDSU were by small margins, 10 here and 3 there. After that we go to the Pit and New Mexico almost stunned us here in the league opener, luckily we won that game 60-58. Even though we have won 26 straight at the Mac vs MWC teams we have had a few scares along the way. TCU looks really good too. If we play like we did at BYU (2nd half) we will be fine. If we play like we did at TCU or Colorado State we will be screwed. Good Luck and Go Rebels.

  7. Does anybody else think that Oscar vs. Freddete matchup will be crucial in the MWC tournament if we play. Oscar looked like a professional pickpocket against that kid during the second half. We'll need that later in the season.

    unlvrunrebs - I pray we don't see Graney articles here.

  8. ryph, I think it's important to realize how much they woke up to stun a crowd very, very accustomed to seeing their team win. Started out poorly, no doubt. But the results were emphatic. I'm no homer, but that's what I'd be looking at. I don't think anyone wants to see his or her team performing at 100 percent, all gears, full on, in January.
    Obviously, recent showings revealed how much this team has to learn about Kruger's schemes and, most important, each other. You saw a big step forward taken last night.
    Graney? He works for the other side, runrebs. You won't see him here.
    51sman, bravo. You said it. Plenty of miles to go ...
    Jerry, Oscar is an awesome thief. When the big guys in the middle get used to looking for his swipes up in the air, from way out on a wing, then those swipes will head the other way fast.

  9. Wow, we will have a great year. I still think Lon gets teams to play beyond their potential. We still do not have a great team. We are good but i think next year will be great. I am tired of saying next year but i think this time will be the real deal. Until then lets ride the boys for as much as they can get away with. GO REBS!

  10. Hey Rob,

    Great stuff. Please keep it coming. One comment though: can we chip in to buy you a new microphone for the podcasts? It sounds like you guys are in a dungeon.

    Keep up the good work. Go Rebs!

  11. Thx salty ... and thanks for the microphone offer! Good stuff. :-) We will try to upgrade that system. Often, it's at the end of a loooong night and Marriott hotels might not have the best acoustics. We will keep it coming, even better, and we'll got to that technical stuff pronto. Promise

  12. Big win in Provo that's for sure.

    Now can they beat Utah at the Thomas and Mack

    Has anyone heard any more rumors about Lon taking the job at Arizona

  13. Good stuff Lenny. Those folks behind the UNLV bench just happened to be closest to coach Kruger immediately after the game, just after he shook Dave Rose's hand and walked back down his bench. I am sure Kruger was grateful for every single UNLV fan that was in the building.
    william ... Kruger to Arizona? If you believe any ounce of any kind of rumor like that, well, I gotta bridge ...

  14. The rumor is that people at Arizona think he would be a good fit.

    Too bad Lon's a Rebel!