UNLV BASKETBALL:

UNLV-SDSU notebook: Rebels gripping postseason reality

One and Done

For the 3rd time this season UNLV lost to San Diego State. This game, the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament saw the Rebels lose 71 to 57.

Did All He Could

In his third game of the year against San Diego State, senior Wink Adams scored a season-high 26 points, but it wasn't enough as UNLV fell to the Aztecs in the quarterfinal of the Mountain West Conference Tournament 71-57.

UNLV vs. San Diego State

UNLV guard Wink Adams reacts to picking up a foul in their game against San Diego State at the Mountain West Conference basketball championships Thursday.  San Diego State won the game 71-57. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room

SDSU POSTGAME: Nothing unexpected ...

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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.

Beyond the Sun

UNLV's season-ending banquet in the past two seasons has had an added buzz to it, as it's generally followed by the unveiling of the Rebels' seed for the NCAA Tournament.

Then again, everyone could rest easy at each of those get-togethers, with UNLV having secured automatic bids as Mountain West Conference tournament champions.

On Sunday, don't expect a similar added pulse.

"I like to always expect the best, but the situation we're in right now, it's kinda tough to know what's gonna happen," senior forward Joe Darger said in the corner of a somber locker room. "Depending on what happens with the tournament this weekend, we could have a chance if certain situations happen. But I think right now, I think it's not very good."

As San Diego State only solidified its tournament resumé, UNLV's simply took another hit, to add to the litany of shots it absorbed over the season's final few weeks.

The Rebels, now 21-10 overall, carry a 9-7 league record with the fact that they dropped six of their last 10 games.

More than likely, UNLV will be playing in the NIT for the first time since Lon Kruger's first season in 2005, when the Rebels defeated Arizona State at home, 89-78, then lost at South Carolina, 77-66.

"We just will watch regardless, and hopefully we can watch our name pop up," senior forward René Rougeau said.

But, did the loss Thursday remove a good amount of the excitement that comes with watching the field of 65 be revealed?

"Definitely," he responded.

A wrench in the schedule

The chances of the Rebels opening their quest in the 32-team NIT field -- if that's their postseason destination -- at home, may catch a slight snag.

The Thomas & Mack Center is already booked for Wednesday night, as rapper T.I. is set to perform along with several other hip-hop notables.

The first round of the NIT takes place on campus sites on Tuesday and Wednesday night. The preparation for the Mack to be turned into a concert venue may not allow enough time for a Tuesday home game. But the NIT schedule has been shuffled in the past, meaning the first-round game could also possibly be pushed to Thursday.

A case for or against the tournament site?

UNLV's Thursday loss marked its first in the current three-year run with the Mack playing host to the league's postseason tournament.

The tournament will take place in Las Vegas for at least one more year, with the site after that to be determined this summer.

Several league coaches have complained about the Rebels having somewhat of a homecourt advantage to go on top of the program's recent resurrection.

What will Thursday's Rebels defeat mean?

"I think it's a plus and a minus for our conference," said San Diego State senior forward Lorrenzo Wade, also a Las Vegas native. "It's a plus because people know UNLV can be beat on their home court in the tournament, but I think it's a minus because now that UNLV has been beat on their home court, there's a good possibility that the tournament might stay at the Thomas & Mack."

Another bench bust

UNLV's bench -- most notably guards Kendall Wallace and Mo Rutledge -- were key to UNLV keeping its NCAA tourney hopes alive late in the season, but then hit the skids at the worst possible time.

On Thursday, the Rebels bench accounted for four points -- a Rutledge first-half jumper and two Brice Massamba free throws. That means that in its past three games, UNLV's bench has accounted for 12 points.

The bench was needed early, too, as René Rutledge was whistled with his second foul at the 16:21 point in the first half, sending him to the bench for nearly 10 minutes of game time.

In his place, Rutledge hit that jumper early, but finished the game without another shot attempt and without a rebound, assist, block or steal in 16 minutes.

Wallace was 0-for-2 from the field, and also finished without a rebound, assist, block or steal in his 10 minutes.

Brice Massamba's eight minutes were his most played in 13 games, having played 10 on Jan. 24 at home against Utah. He had the aforementioned two points, one rebound and two fouls.

Staying put

UNLV freshmen DeShawn Mitchell and Brice Massamba have heard the rumors about them possibly moving on, but neither one said he's going anywhere during practice this week at Valley High.

"I'm a Rebel," said Mitchell, laughing. "I'm going nowhere."

Massamba took a step backward.

"I'm stayin'," he said.

Mitchell has played in 20 games, making 14 of 28 shots and grabbing 16 rebounds.

Massamba had played in 25 games, averaging almost 10 minutes and a bit more than two points.

Around the tournament ...

BYU will face San Diego State, after it opened the day with an 80-69 victory over pesky Air Force.

The Falcons led at halftime, 36-33, but BYU was too much for Air Force to handle in the final stretch. Jimmer Fredette scored 21 points for BYU, while Jonathan Tavernari tallied 19 and Lee Cummard finished with 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

In the night session, Utah advanced past TCU thanks to a Lawrence Borha 3-pointer with 0.8 seconds left, 61-58. The Utes were led by Shaun Green's 21 points off the bench, as the Horned Frogs were ousted in the quarterfinals by a last-second shot for the second consecutive year.

In the night cap, Wyoming pulled off the day's lone upset, coming from behind in the second half to take care of No. 3 New Mexico. Brandon Ewing scored 20 to lead all scorers, while Sean Ogirri hit three after three en route to 17. Tony Danridge scored 13 for New Mexico, which is now more than likely NIT-bound.

The semifinals begin at 6 p.m. with BYU and SDSU locking up, while Wyoming and Utah will tip off around 8:30 p.m.

Free throws

With his 26 points, Wink Adams passed Armon Gilliam on the school's all-time scoring list and moved into sixth place. Adams now has 1,861 career points, while Gilliam wrapped up his Rebels career in 1987 with 1,855. There's a good chance that would be where Adams finishes his UNLV career, as next up is Silas Stepp at 1,942 ... Tre'Von Willis's 10 rebounds marked a new career high ... The Rebels' five assists were a season low. The previous low was six, done twice this season -- against Air Force last Wednesday and at Wyoming on Feb. 18.

Sun reporter Rob Miech contributed to this story.

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  1. I think there is a good chance that Mitchell transfers closer to home. If he does, it would be an unbelievable shame. If Kruger had no intention of ever using him, why not redshirt him? Whay waste a year of the kid's eligibility? A lot of questionable decisions by Kruger this season. Sticking with the small ball was a terrible mistake.

  2. jeff, sticking with the conventional attack did not work at all. Santee wasn't comfortable or productive, save for that game at Fresno. Massamba is young and has a lot to learn, but his IQ and potential ability seem to be very high. So Kruger had no choice. The difficult thing was not getting as many early easy wins as coaches usually like, therefore paving the way for bench minutes for young players like Mitchell. That was rare because UNLV's older players often had to secure the victory. So the luxury of extra bench minutes often wasn't there. It was a spiral of factors.
    Mitchell laughed at my question earlier in the week. He knew about the rumors, but laughed at them. I thought he was pretty genuine. Massamba also said there's no truth in whatever anyone wants to say on the transfer subject.