Thursday, March 12, 2009 | 8:02 p.m.
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Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's 71-57 loss to San Diego State in the opening round of the Mountain West Tournament, which more than likely punched the Rebels' dance ticket ... for the NIT. The guys discuss the lingering problems which could not be cured heading into the MWC tourney, and just how long fans can expect to see the Rebels hang around in whichever tournament they go to.
- Adams consoles ‘Mama Wink’ after 26-point losing effort
- Healthy, patient Aztecs abuzz over NCAA hopes
- UNLV-SDSU notebook: Rebels gripping postseason reality
- Kantowski: Outclassed, UNLV likely NIT-bound
- Utah escapes with win over TCU
- Wife of BYU’s Cummard shows up for tourney without hesitation
- Ex-Gorman star back in ‘favorite city’ with BYU
Beyond the Sun
- San Diego Union-Tribune: Wade leads Aztecs past UNLV in MWC tourney
In what likely amounted to an NCAA tournament play-in game, UNLV didn’t change anything about the way it’s played over the past six weeks.
The Rebels shot poorly, got beat on the boards and were pummeled inside in a 71-57 defeat to San Diego State in a quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference tournament.
Worst of all, on its own Thomas & Mack Center court, UNLV was as disjointed as ever, collecting a season-low five assists.
“We didn’t play with any heart … no pride, basically,” said Rebels senior swingman René Rougeau. “We were just letting them do whatever they wanted to do.”
Rougeau was on the bench just 3 1/2 minutes into the game after getting called for his second foul, and he only played four more minutes in the opening half.
“It was definitely frustrating watching from the bench, that’s why I knew after that second foul that it was gonna be tough,” he said. “I was hoping we could prevail with me not having to be a factor.”
That was going to be a big challenge, since Rougeau –- at 56 percent -– is by far the best shooter among UNLV’s first five.
Another Mountain West coach summed it up best when he walked by the UNLV locker room 25 minutes after the game.
“They miss Curtis Terry,” the coach said.
Terry helped UNLV reach the Sweet 16 in the NCAAs two years ago and guided the Rebels to the second round of the marquee tournament last year, where they lost to eventual national-champion Kansas.
Especially down a stretch in which the Rebels lost six of their final 10 games, they lacked a dependable rudder, cohesion and chemistry.
Only sophomore point guard Tre'Von Willis (11 points, 10 rebounds) and senior guard Wink Adams (game-high 26 points) put up a fight for UNLV.
At Valley High during mostly sluggish practices this week, Willis said the Rebels would have to dictate from the start, be physical and “hit ’em in the mouth before they hit us.”
Adams hit a jumper 45 seconds into the game for its first points, but then the Aztecs (22-8) popped the Rebels (21-10) flush in their mouths with eight consecutive points and never trailed.
Ryan Amoroso scored inside on consecutive possessions, sank a free throw after getting fouled under the basket and Kyle Spain drilled a 3-pointer from the right side.
UNLV snuck back to within three points twice, but SDSU brought down the hammer midway through the first half.
Another inside basket by Amoroso, Richie Williams’s drive all the way in on the left side after nearly losing it at halfcourt and Lorrenzo Wade’s 3-pointer from the right corner gave SDSU a 24-11 advantage.
Wade led the Aztecs with 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Amoroso, Spain and Tim Shelton had 10 points apiece.
Three times, UNLV cut its deficit to single digits. And each time, SDSU scored on its next possession to keep a double-digit cushion.
The first time, Matt Thomas sank a 3-pointer. The second time, Shelton snatched Williams’s missed jumper and put it back in.
The third and final time, Shelton lost the handle inside, regained control of the ball and slipped in a close shot for a 65-54 edge with four minutes, 38 seconds remaining.
The rest was academic.
Fifth-year UNLV coach Lon Kruger admitted that it might be dreaming to gather Sunday for the team’s banquet and expect the NCAA tournament Selection Committee to give the Rebels an at-large berth.
“Realistically, you know, I’m not going to give any committee the reason to not select us,” he said. “But I don’t know that we’ve done things at this point that you’d sit there on Sunday expecting to be in.”
Both teams entered the game with Ratings Percentage Indexes in the 50s, usually a sign of fringe status, at best, for at-large consideration to the NCAAs.
The RPI, one of several factors the selection committee uses to round out its 65-team field, gauges a team’s strength by mixing in its record with its opponents’ record and its opponents’ opponents’ record.
SDSU, which plays BYU in a Mountain West semifinal on Friday night, can also boast of having won eight of its past 11 games.
And it can boast about three victories over UNLV, which has as many stellar wins (BYU twice, Utah, Arizona, at Louisville) as flat losses (at TCU, at Colorado State, at Wyoming, Cincinnati) on its resume.
The Rebels were 17-4 when they first played SDSU on Feb. 3, and that 68-66 overtime defeat sent UNLV on its season-ending tailspin.
The Aztecs won, 57-46, on Saturday night in their own Cox Arena. And they closed out the hat-trick season on the Rebels on Thursday night with a few wrinkles.
“We definitely put a couple of curves and twists in there,” said Aztecs senior forward Kyle Spain, who has stung the Rebels this season. “We put in a couple of new plays that worked.
“The best was probably one of our high-low plays. It worked well.”
Several Rebels said, yes, Kruger, who left the court at halftime with a stern look on his face, was ticked at the half. There were words. There was volume.
But some players got into the act, too, namely Willis.
The sophomore apparently had some choice words for his teammates.
“He was vocal,” said senior power forward Mo Rutledge. “You might as well think he’s a senior.”
Long after the game, however, Willis, as he does after every defeat, left the arena with his head down and wearing a black hooded sweatshirt.
He was halfway up the long, steep driveway that leads into a tunnel when a writer yelled at him, asking if he had a minute to talk about the sour end to the season.
He slowly turned his head to the right, shook it, slowly turned it back to the left and kept on walking.