REBELS BASKETBALL:

UNLV hoops notebook: Shoes a step toward team unity

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 – Black shoes diary.

Maybe that will be the theme of the UNLV basketball season.

It might have been insignificant to some and mere coincidence to others, but it wasn’t to the Rebels –- specifically, to seniors and captains Wink Adams and René Rougeau.

Wednesday night, in their 76-70 victory over BYU at the Marriott Center, they all wore black Nikes for the first time in a Mountain West Conference road game.

Those first two, remember, were forgettable defeats at TCU and Colorado State.

In those games, UNLV’s forwards and centers –- the “bigs” -– wore black shoes. The “smalls” -– the guards –- wore red.

At Texas-El Paso, Rebels coach Lon Kruger didn’t even notice that all of his players wore black. Not a big deal, he said, as long as they all looked the same.

How it happened that the guards started wearing red is between them and equipment manager Rocky Rutledge. The smalls seemed to like the red Nikes.

No more. Kruger spoke with Adams and Rougeau before Wednesday’s game.

“It’s a big deal,” Adams said. “It means a lot to the team. It’s all about the team. Can’t go out and all look different. Everyone has to be on the same page. We have to look alike and have to do things alike.

“Black on the road. Red at home. We definitely have to start doing things as a team. Tonight was a good starting point.”

Rougeau agreed that it wasn’t just about cosmetics.

“We made sure everyone was in the same color shoes,” he said. “It shows unity, more than anything. It shows we’re together. Black shoes, definitely, had to come back on the road.”

The guards, Rougeau confirmed, seemed to take to a couple of red models.

“It shows we’re unified when we all look the same,” Rougeau said. “Coach is big on that. I respect that. I want everyone wearing the same color, too.”

Not exactly free

After a narrow home victory -– in which UNLV shot poorly at the line late -– over New Mexico on Jan. 3, Kruger started a new drill at practice.

His players had to make eight of 10 attempts, rotating one-by-one in groups at opposite ends of the court, at the end of practice.

When they fail, they run a lap or two. Kruger has had his players do four or five rounds of the drills.

Junior center Darris Santee has missed most frequently at the end of practices over the past few weeks. Wednesday night, he went one-for-three from the line.

The Rebels made 17 of 23 in the second half against the Cougars.

It was the most free throws UNLV has made in the second 20 minutes this season and tied, with the opener against San Diego, for the most it has attempted.

The hustle board

BYU beat UNLV in fastbreak points (6-0), second-chance points (5-0), points off turnovers (9-2) and points in the paint (24-8) in the first half.

In the second, the Cougars had only a 2-0 edge in fastbreaks as the Rebels clamped down on their running.

UNLV led in second-chance points (9-4), points off turnovers (7-4) and points in the paint (12-4).

Moreover, BYU’s 21-12 rebounding edge was erased in the second half, when UNLV had a 25-12 advantage.

Free throws

Sophomore guard Kendall Wallace made two 3-pointers against BYU, including one when the Rebels faced their biggest deficit, at 32-17, of the game. Wallace has 26 points over his past four games. Early this season, he had 27 over a four-game stretch … senior power forward Joe Darger went to the free-throw line for the first time in six games Wednesday night, and he made a freebie for the first time in nine games. He went six-for-seven at the stripe against the Cougars … UNLV’s 15 turnovers were the second-most it’s committed in its past 14 games. It turned it over 17 times in that two-point defeat at Colorado State last week … freshman center Brice Massamba had two field goals in a game for the first time in his past seven appearances … Rougeau also had only two baskets, the fewest he’s had in UNLV’s past 13 games … Adams tied a career mark with four offensive rebounds. He grabbed that many as a sophomore against Santa Barbara.

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