Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 | 7:02 p.m.
Final, Cincinnati wins 67-65
Just when UNLV looked like it was turning the offensive corner Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, Cincinnati showed up one final time, with a key 8-0 run late which propelled the Bearcats to a 67-65 victory over the host Rebels in the Global Sports Classic.
UNLV went 0-2 on the weekend, is now 5-2 on the season and travels for road games twice this week - Wednesday night at Fresno State, then Saturday at UNR.
Joe Darger hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night with 4:36 to play to help UNLV overcome a six-point second half deficit, but out of a timeout, two Alvin Mitchell treys paced the Bearcat run. UNLV fought into the final minute, with a Tre'Von Willis three with just over a minute to play pulling the Rebels back to within two points.
Darris Santee missed two free throws in the final minute which could have tied the game, and then Wink Adams split a pair after two UNLV offensive rebounds, leaving the Rebels just shy. Cincy forward
Willis scored 18 points for the Rebels, playing much of the second half with four fouls to his credit, while Darger added 18 of his own. Adams scored just four points on 2-of-11 shooting, making him 5-of-25 from the floor for the weekend.
Deonta Vaughn led the Bearcats in scoring for the second straight night, pouring in 19.
For complete postgame coverage, including stories, photos, video, stats and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:37, second half, UNLV leads 59-57
It took the Rebels getting their backs up against a wall to put together their most impressive offensive stretch of the game here against Cincinnati, as Joe Darger's sixth 3-pointer of the night just put UNLV ahead, 59-57, as we enter the home stretch at the Mack.
First, Tre'Von Willis went to the line in the bonus and sunk two charities to get UNLV back to within a point, then after a Cincinnati miss, he flung a pass to his left across the court to Darger, who is now 6-of-8 from deep. Cincy has looked offensively flustered since that point, and the crowd is as loud as it's been all night.
Willis has 13 points, five assists and three rebounds to this point.
7:59, second half, Cincinnati leads 49-46
Cincinnati is beginning to put a much stronger emphasis on getting the ball inside, and it's paying off. Yancy Gates hit a free-throw line jumper, then just scored a bucket inside while drawing a foul on Tre'Von Willis just before the latest media timeout.
Mike Williams, Cincy's top post option, is still scoreless, but Gates has picked up the slack, with 13 points and six rebounds. On the other end, UNLV's big men have had a tough time getting involved underneath. Joe Darger, Brice Massamba and Darris Santee have combined for three rebounds.
10:55, second half, UNLV leads 43-42
Brice Massamba made a hustle play that may have woken up the Rebels for good ... we'll see if that holds up. With UNLV down two, he chased a loose ball on the defensive end into the corner, flipped it back into play and wound up three rows up in the stands. He then charged down the floor, but by the time he'd gotten there, Rene Rougeau had already slipped in the go-ahead layup.
In a game which has been this slowed down and physical, those could end up being the plays that make all the difference.
15:23, second half, UNLV leads 39-38
Joe Darger continues to heat up from deep, as he added a pair of corner 3-pointers early in the second half for UNLV. But the Rebels are also having trouble defending the longball, as Deonta Vaughn hit two of Cincinnati's three treys just out of the half, and the Bearcats continue to keep pace.
Vaughn has a game-high 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting.
Tre'Von Willis, who played 17 of the 20 minutes at point guard for UNLV in the first half, just hit the bench with his third foul, called at the offensive end as he tried for a layup in transition.
Wink Adams continues to struggle from the floor, he's just 2-of-10, making him 5-of-24 for the weekend.
Halftime, UNLV leads 31-27
Joe Darger hit the Rebels' first 3-pointer in eight tries, and Rene Rougeau hustled for an offensive board and slipped in a layup just before the half to give UNLV a 31-27 edge at the intermission.
Far from a pretty first half, but UNLV found at least something that resembles rhythm on the offensive end before the break.
Some numbers from the first 20 minutes ...
-Cincy's size advantage only netted a slight edge in the rebounding battle, as the Bearcats are up 19-17. Mike Williams, the Bearcats' top post player, was limited to just six minutes with two fouls. He didn't score and didn't get a board. He had 11 and 11 last night while playing around foul trouble in 25 minutes against Florida State.
-Tre'Von Willis had seven points and three assists with three turnovers for the Rebels, running 17 minutes at the point. Oscar Bellfield only played three minutes off the bench. That might be the most lopsided those minutes have been in the first half of a game this season. No research, just a guess.
-Wink Adams shot 3-of-14 in last night's loss, and tonight is struggling a bit again at 2-of-8. He's being aggressive, so it obviously hasn't gotten into his head. He has seven defensive rebounds.
-Cincinnati's freestyle offense has led to 10 Bearcat turnovers. They were unable to really capitalize on UNLV's offensive lull in the middle portion of the first half. We'll see how that hurts them in the long run.
UNLV obviously isn't intimidated by Cincinnati's size and is playing with plenty of confidence. Right now, it looks like a game the Rebels should win, but they can ill afford an offensively stale second half. They need something positive to hang the hats on before heading on the road for a pair of games this week.
4:05, first half, UNLV leads 26-25
All of the slop from the start of a game can be erased with one good stretch, and UNLV just proved that with a quick 10-3 run, sparked by Darris Santee, Tre'Von Willis and Wink Adams.
The Rebels sort of went back to basics, banging around inside with Darris Santee, who after hitting two free throws - seemingly a rarity this weekend for UNLV - dropped in two inside buckets.
After that, the Rebels picked up the defensive intensity, with Wink Adams grabbing a board after a Dion Dixon 3-point attempt was rushed along. Adams went coast-to-coast for an underhanded layin. Another Cincy turnover resulted in Tre'Von Willis firing off downcourt on a fastbreak, where he lobbed a pass up to Rene Rougeau, who came down with it, then flipped a reverse layup right back in off the glass.
In a game which has been far from thrilling so far, the Rebels provided some spark, now we'll see how far that carries them, especially with halftime on the horizon.
7:28, first half, Cincinnati leads 20-16
The atmosphere tonight at the Mack is a bit sluggish, and the Rebels are carrying that over a bit on the offensive end, as they've appeared a bit tentative when it comes to shooting the ball. Cincinnati's freestyle offense has earned the Bearcats a four-point lead, while UNLV is just 6-of-19 from the floor and 0-for-3 from long range.
There have been flashes, such as Tre'Von Willis' handful of solid takes to the rack. He leads UNLV with nine points, but Cincy weathered the storm from the first few minutes, as they got their feet wet. Now, they're believing this is a game they can hang in, and the scoreboard indicates that.
A loss fro the Rebels tonight with a pair of road games on the horizon this week would be rough. Then again, it's early.
11:37, first half, game tied 13-13
Cincinnati's bout with chucking up ill-advised shots went away after the first media timeout, as Deonta Vaughn hit two 3-pointers to key a run which gave the Bearcats a 13-11 lead. Tre'Von Willis tied things back up just before the game's second full break, hitting a driving layup while drawing a blocking foul.
After hitting just one of their first 10 shots, the Bearcats have hit four of seven attempts. UNLV is 5-of-14 from the floor, and is making it clear that they want to take the ball right at Cincinnati's bigger bodies in the middle. Cincy has much more size than Cal brought last night. Steve Toyloy and Anthony McClain are just huge. But the Rebels are doing what they want, and that's getting Cincinnati in foul trouble. Through just over eight minutes, the 'Cats have six fouls, including two on standout forward Mike Williams.
15:17, first half, UNLV leads 7-2
So far tonight, it looks like the Rebels may be able to do whatever they want against Cincinnati. The Bearcats have forced up some bad shots, and it's tough to tell exactly what kind of offense they run.
UNLV right off the bat hit a pair of buckets in transition, first with Tre'Von Willis finishing off a feed from Wink Adams, then Adams dropped two in after a few missed Cincy shots.
The Bearcats' first points tonight came with 15:42 to go on a Yancy Gates dunk. But they were pretty tough to get, as the 6-foot-9 Gates was initially swatted by 6-foot-5 DeShawn Mitchell. He simply dunked the ball after Mitchell tumbled to the floor following the block. Cincinnati is just 1-of-10 from the floor so far.
If the Thomas & Mack Center atmosphere 30 minutes outside of tip-off has anything to say about tonight, the Rebels might not have quite the crowd they did just 24 hours ago in a 73-55 loss at the hands of California in the Global Sports Classic.
Most fans probably anticipated UNLV playing the nightcap, especially on the heels of Monday night's 80-67 victory at UTEP. But just about everything that could have gone wrong last night for Lon Kruger's ballclub pretty much did. In case you forgot - or have blocked it from memory by now - UNLV hit just 19 of its 64 shot attempts and couldn't capitalize on a couple of openings to get back into the game against the Bears in the second half.
Tonight presents an opportunity for the Rebels to lick some wounds, because for as bad as UNLV looked in stretches, Cincinnati was just that rough in a nine-point defeat at the hands of Florida State. Deonta Vaughn scored 16 for the Bearcats, but was really the only guy on Mick Cronin's club to do much of anything. Texas transfer Mike Williams had 11 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes, with his time being chopped up due to foul issues. Cincy didn't get much production from its five other big men, all of whom are underclassmen, and now have to figure out how to turn things around in 24 hours.
That's where UNLV might have a pretty decent edge tonight, given the youth and inexperience of this Cincy squad. Vaughn is one of the Big East's more established performers, but if Williams gets in foul trouble again, UNLV could capitalize in a number of ways. The Rebels don't have the size advantage they had a night ago, but in experience and cohesiveness, it looks to be a landslide on paper.
Now onto the three big predictions ...
1) Picks to click: Miech is taking Joe Darger, I'm going with Wink Adams. Basically, we both took the easy way out, figuring neither of the senior gunners could shoot as bad as they did last night. Between those two and Rene Rougeau, they were a combined 6-of-30 from the floor.
2) Mike Williams will repeat his double-double showing from Friday night. That's not a terrible stretch, considering the guy's accolades coming out of high school a few years back. After recovering from an ACL injury, he's looked solid so far this year. But those numbers go to waste if the likes of Yancy Gates, Steve Toyloy and others can't provide some help down low.
3) UNLV 70, Cincinnati 60.
Talk to you after tip-off.