Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008 | 9:32 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 64-57
RENO -- Behind 19 points from René Rougeau and a career-high 17 from freshman guard Oscar Bellfield, UNLV blew past UNR Saturday night in Reno thanks to a big second half surge, 64-57. The victory improves the Rebels to 7-2 on the season as they head into finals week, and makes Lon Kruger's club 3-0 this season on the road.
Rougeau's biggest points of the night came with UNLV leading 50-42 in the second half. At that point, the senior swingman drove from the right wing and slammed home a one-handed jam while he was fouled from the front. He then hit the free throw, and that all but closed the book on UNR's night.
For good measure, Bellfield, who started in place of Tre'Von Willis, hit his final 3-pointer of the second half to keep the Rebels ahead for good. Bellfield scored 14 of his 17 after the half, and UNLV outscored UNR overall in the final 20 minutes, 44-35.
Willis, who came off the bench after oversleeping Friday morning's practice back in Las Vegas, scored 11 points, and Wink Adams added 11 of his own for the Rebels. Adams played just five minutes in the first half after picking up two early fouls, and had to listen to the UNR student section yell at him all the way up until halftime.
Armon Johnson led UNR with 21 points, while freshman sensation Luke Babbitt scored 15, though they were pretty pedestrian points. Joe Darger was beyond sticky defensively on the heralded frosh for much of the night.
UNLV is on a hiatus until next Sunday, when the Rebels take on Western Michigan at the Orleans Arena. The Rebels return to the Thomas & Mack Center on Dec. 17 against Santa Clara.
3:19, second half, UNLV leads, 56-46
RENO -- Oscar Bellfield has hit three 3-pointers in the second half, and René Rougeau's old-fashioned three-point play a moment ago may have begun to close the book on Reno for the night.
The senior swingman swooped in from the left wing and was fouled as he threw home a one-handed slam. He was greeted with a vicious chest-bump from Joe Darger, then cashed the free throw, giving him a game-high 19 points.
Oscar Bellfield then hit his third 3-pointer from the right wing and held a trio of fingers in the air, as he now has 17 points on the night.
It looks as though the Rebels will improve to 7-2, and this win is huge in helping make up for a pair of home losses last weekend.
7:35, second half, UNLV leads, 45-38
RENO -- After Armon Johnson gutted out four points to pull UNR to within four, Oscar Bellfield canned his second 3-pointer of the game from straight on leading into a full timeout with 7:35 to play. The deep ball helped UNLV maintain a seven-point lead in the second half in Reno.
UNLV's pretty much taken Luke Babbitt out of this game tonight. The freshman sensation had five quick points in the second half, but hasn't really been all that involved since. He's only 3-of-10 from the floor and has attempted just one shot since a 3-pointer went in after the break.
Joe Darger's defended him for much of the night, and he's playing with three fouls. It's a safe bet he'll be assigned to No. 5 the rest of the way.
10:08, second half, UNLV leads, 41-32
RENO -- Reno's youth is beginning to show a bit, as the Wolf Pack is forcing up shots against a growing UNLV lead. The Rebels hold a nine-point lead, and Wink Adams is playing some of his most inspired ball of the season. Going to have to ask him after the game if the UNR students got to him a bit during that first half stint on the bench.
Luke Babbitt hit a three and a pair of free throws, but continues to struggle in general against a slew of UNLV defenders.
15:33, second half, UNLV leads 31-24
RENO -- An 11-2 UNLV run to open the second half, and the UNR students are growing restless. One even just yelled at the media timeout 'Hey old people, stand up!'
Yes, the Rebels have sucked some life out of the place, and the energetic showings early on in the second half from Wink Adams, Oscar Bellfield and Joe Darger have led the way. Adams, who played just five minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, missed his first two shots out of the gate, but hustled for offensive boards, which led to a pair of free throws for the senior guard, then a baseline jumper for Rene Rougeau.
Bellfield hit the key bucket of the run, opting to just pull up for a 3-pointer bringing the ball up the floor instead of dishing it. He's played a great game so far, but is on the bench right now having some left leg cramps worked out.
Halftime, UNR leads 22-20
RENO -- The Rebels had a shot at tying things up before the half, but only came away with an awkward Tre'Von Willis baseline fadeaway jumper -- which missed.
An ugly half all around, but that's typically to be expected in defensively-strong rivalry games like this. UNLV's answered each UNR surge, and the Rebels have -- most importantly -- held Luke Babbitt, UNR's leading scorer and rebounder, in check. He has just four points on 2-of-7 shooting and two rebounds.
Here are some other notable numbers from the first half ...
-Wink Adams only got one shot off while playing a handful of early minutes. He picked up two fouls and spent the brunt of the first half on the bench. He should be plenty fresh in the second half. The question is whether he can find open looks. His one shot attempt came on a heavily-guarded 3-pointer.
-UNLV has just three assists to 10 turnovers, and is 8-of-25 from the floor.
-UNR isn't much better offensively, firing at a 7-of-24 clip.
-Both teams have left plenty of points on the board from the free throw line. UNR is 7-of-12, while UNLV is 2-of-5.
-René Rougeau leads all scorers with eight points on 3-of-6 shooting, including a key 6-0 personal scoring run which gave UNLV a momentary lead in the first half.
Wink Adams probably holds the key to the second half for UNLV. If he can play the second half he did in Fresno on Wednesday, getting to the free throw line and scoring tough inside buckets, UNLV will have a shot at the end. At the same time, Joe Darger, Brice Massamba & Co. must continue to hold Babbitt in check, because no one else in a white uniform has found much of a stride.
3:41, first half, UNLV leads 18-16
RENO -- Six straight points on a trio of impressive buckets by René Rougeau have put UNLV on top of UNR late in the first half in Reno, 18-16.
Still, it's Joe Darger who deserves tons of credit tonight. After a rough defensive showing Wednesday night in Fresno, he's stepped it up big-time against Luke Babbitt, as the Nevada frosh didn't score his first (and only) bucket until there was 6:35 left on the first half clock. Darger then skied to tip an offensive rebound off of an Oscar Bellfield three miss to Rougeau for a layup moments ago.
UNR coach Mark Fox drew some excitement from the crowd with the removal of his jacket. Wink Adams continues to take a verbal assault on the bench from the UNR students. UNR continues to miss free throws. Pretty consistent first half.
7:26, first half, UNR leads 12-9
RENO -- Neither offense has really woken up yet, but there's no question that UNR looks a bit more comfortable right now than UNLV does, hence the 12-9 lead. Tre'Von Willis just buried a corner three off of a nice drive and kick from Oscar Bellfield, but the Rebels are still just 3-of-14 from the floor.
Wink Adams remains on the bench with two fouls, and the student section just to the left of the UNLV bench has been relentless on him. You know, there's a theory that the upper level players use that kind of stuff as motivation to take over a game. It's a way for them to keep their edge. I guess we'll see what Wink's got when he returns. That probably won't be until the second half, though.
11:49, first half, UNR leads 8-6
RENO -- UNLV came out of the game's first media timeout with Tre'Von Willis drilling an up-and-under layin, followed by a pair of René Rougeau free throws. But Nevada's remaining patient on the offensive end, with solid ball movement each trip down the floor. A Dario Hunt inside deuce, then a Lyndale Burleson 3-pointer have the Wolf Pack out in front.
You've got to give the Rebels credit for not letting the crowd get into their heads so far. The fact that they're neck-and-neck nine minutes in in an environment like this one is something.
An interesting group for UNLV on the floor, with Willis, Rougeau, Mo Rutledge, Kendall Wallace and Darris Santee. You've got to wonder what they're trying to get going on the offensive end. Wink Adams and Joe Darger are getting extended breathers at the moment.
15:32, first half, UNR leads 3-2
RENO -- If UNLV's first bucket of the game is any indication, the Rebels will work hard for every point they get tonight. Darris Santee -- fresh off a 21-point showing Wednesday in Fresno - scored on a tough leaner inside, but that was as close as UNLV's come so far to a clean look. Wink Adams missed a three from up top under duress, and Joe Darger missed a pull-up two just before that.
Dario Hunt scored a point from the stripe, then added an easy bucket inside off a Luke Babbitt feed for UNR's first field goal. Santee's basket was the game's first field goal -- 3:55 into the game.
Joe Darger deserves some mention early on for his defensive job on Luke Babbitt. He's consistently kept a hand in the super freshman's face, and hasn't given an inch so far.
Tre'Von Willis, who didn't get the start after oversleeping the start of Friday's practice, came in after the first full timeout.
RENO -- Well, welcome to a true rivalry game. UNLV is 2-0 so far this season on the road, but what the Rebels face tonight in Reno promises to be a whole new experience.
For a team that's still trying to find some stable chemistry, tonight's 7:30 tip against UNR should show what Lon Kruger's club is truly made of as the guys get ready for finals week.
This is the first time UNLV's gone on the road in which hostile fans have actually been in the arena sooner than just 20 minutes before the game. The friendly chants from the student section directly behind us have already commenced. Again, a true test of mental strength tonight early on in the season.
Luke Babbitt, a McDonald's All-American a year ago, is of course the guy to watch in blue and white. He looks smooth in warmups and certainly passes the airport test. As for the rest of the Wolf Pack, plenty of high-flyers in layup lines.
Of course, that and some coordination gets you a flashy dunk here and there throughout the course of a ballgame. Hard to get a read on Mark Fox's team just from warmups, but they'll have quite a crowd behind them.
On to tonight's three big predictions ...
1) Picks to click for tonight ... Miech is taking Darris Santee, yours truly is going with René Rougeau. Our third man tonight - Steve Silver - has selected Wink Adams (for the record, that's the only one he knows of the top of his head).
2) UNLV will be playing from behind tonight. While this is the biggest test yet for UNLV on the road, it's also the biggest home game of the season (so far, at least) for UNR. It's pretty much an unwritten rule that teams in the position the Wolf Pack is in tonight get off to hot starts. And, yes, it's only unwritten in my mind, probably.
3) UNLV 65, UNR 64. When you're picking a game by one point, it means it's a toss-up, which this one really is. UNLV actually needs this one more, as those two losses last weekend could potentially hurt the Rebels' tourney resumé without something early in the season to offset them. A victory tonight helps that, as depth and experience win out, just as those factors did Wednesday night in Fresno.
Talk to you after tip.