Tuesday, Nov. 25, 2008 | 2:10 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's passing of its first road test of the season Monday night at UTEP. The Rebels were powered by the backcourt trio of Wink Adams, Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield. Plus, the guys look inside at Lon Kruger's ever-solidifying rotation now that audition time appears to be done.
- Opponent: California
- Where: Thomas & Mack
- When: Friday, Nov. 28, 5 p.m.
Some thoughts ... from El Paso
Rob Miech: “A difficult, sluggish game to watch, live or on television. UNLV coach Lon Kruger said that was to be expected, since both teams are highlighted by players who like to force the issue, drive into the lane and collect fouls, getting other big men into foul trouble. Mission accomplished.
“That said, fouls were close; 25 on UNLV, 26 on UTEP. The Miners shot 27 free throws, the Rebels 26. So all that’s a push. Early-season games can be ugly, but Kruger won’t file it away out back in the doghouse. His squad repelled UTEP’s run in the first half, took the lead from the start of the second and didn’t give it up.
“New point guards Tre’Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield have learned invaluable lessons over their first five collegiate games for UNLV. And they’re 5-0. That’s impressive.”
Ryan Greene: "The guard play was for the most part excellent. If Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield play anywhere close to how they did as a tandem Monday night for the rest of the season, UNLV is in pretty good shape. Plus, Wink Adams showed his killer instinct, which UTEP at times looked to have not accounted for.
“An underrated storyline from Monday was how useful having multiple big men will be against teams with as much size as the Miners brought to the table. Darris Santee and Brice Massamba combined for eight fouls, but were able to stagger them so that they could successfully spell each other when one guy was in danger. Also, Beas Hamga ate up two valuable minutes just before the half.
“It was a game without a ton of flow, but on the road, you'll win any way you can. A solid night for Kruger's club, overall."
Inside the numbers
59.3: UTEP hit just 16 of its 27 free throw tries Monday night ... or 59.3 percent. After blowing their 13-point lead, the Miners staged a couple of nice comeback attempts in the second half, but missed free throws continued to be momentum killers. Stefon Jackson, UTEP's top scorer, hit two and-one buckets, but both times missed the subsequent charity tries.
27.8: The Miners' top two scorers coming in -- Jackson and Randy Culpepper -- combined to hit just 10 of their 36 field goal attempts. Jackson helped UTEP build that lead with a game-high 14 first-half points. But he was 0-for-6 from the floor after the half and Culpepper was only 1-of-9. That's a combined 1-of-15 between the two after the break.
6: UNLV's assist-to-turnover ratio vastly improved between the first and second halves. Despite giving up possession 10 times in the first half and only registering assists six assists, an improvement in that ratio was one of the little things that helped push the Rebels ahead for good early in the second half. After the break, they committed just six turnovers and had eight dishes.
20: The team-high 20 points Wink Adams scored were nice, but his stat line ran much deeper. The senior finished with six rebounds, six assists and five steals.
Just in case you missed it
It looks as though Lon Kruger's regular rotation is starting to take some form. Beas Hamga played just two minutes off the bench, with both big men in foul trouble late in the first half, while freshman high-flyer DeShawn Mitchell kept his warmups on. Brice Massamba was the first off the bench, but Mo Rutledge and Oscar Bellfield look like the sixth and seventh men in terms of minutes played. Bellfield and Tre'Von Willis pretty much split 50 minutes at point guard down the middle (26 for Willis, 24 for Bellfield).
Hopefully you didn't miss it
UNLV proved yet again that it doesn't matter who starts at the point, because both Tre'Von Willis and Oscar Bellfield keyed runs that helped the Rebels decide the outcome. Willis scored five straight points in the middle of a 12-2 run UNLV strung together after trailing by 13 points in the first half, while Bellfield scored five straight of his own after taking a huge charge against UTEP's Gabriel McCulley in the second half. The two also worked hand-in-hand on the floor together late as Wink Adams helped close things out. Two starting point guards are better than one, indeed.
Fun fact of the night
How's this for playing off of your school's Disney-fied fame? The Don Haskins Center has a street running behind it named Glory Road. The 1966 Texas Western NCAA title banner in the rafters has a spotlight that shines on it at all times. It's a neat place for a history buff.
They said it
UTEP coach Tony Barbee on his team's free throw shooting and rebounding: "There's a couple of areas I want this team to be selfish in. I want them to be selfish when they go to that foul line. Be selfish when you go there. Make them all. Rebounding the ball, be selfish rebounding the ball. Go get every rebound. There's a few areas I want them to be selfish in, and tonight we got to the foul line, we did not take advantage of the foul shots and knock them down."
Tre'Von Willis on his shoulder: "It feels good. That's what I want to do, I want to be aggressive. At that time, we were down a little bit and needed a little spark. But my teammates picked up the slack and we came together as a unit and we got it done."
Tre'Von Willis on starting for the second consecutive game: "It doesn't matter because I'm about the team, but I do want to start. I feel more comfortable starting just to get a little sweat and stay in rhythm, but at the same time, O is a good player, me and him have got each other's back, whatever coach decides, we just want to get this team to a win."
Lon Kruger on his team's progression throughout the game: "I thought the first half we were a little tentative, kind of waiting to see what it was going to be like. The second half, they really came out and played like they needed to. Much more aggressive on our defensive boards. First half, though we did force tough shots, they were getting second shots. I thought the second half we rebounded better and competed with bodies on them more. That's a big thing."
Wink Adams on busting out in the second half: "Every time at halftime, my teammates always tell me 'It's your time in the second half,' and I just have to be more aggressive than I was in the first half but still make plays. Second half, I was able to make some plays and fortunately hit some shots."
Wink Adams on Willis and Bellfield: "I think they came up big for us tonight. That's the role they play on this team. They bring the ball up, they play off each other and they hit shots when we need them. Those guys can really get to the bucket and knock down free throws. They were getting to the line a lot tonight, and it really helped our team."