Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009 | 2:10 a.m.
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Ryan Greene and Rob 'The Ostrich' Miech discuss UNLV's neat and tidy 89-70 revenge-fueled victory on Saturday night over Colorado State. The guys talk about the Rebels again successfully carrying out the '40 minutes of heck' plan of attack, Tre'Von Willis playing the hero again and take a look ahead to Wednesday's challenge at Wyoming.
Marcus Walker tried catching his breath, held the back of his head with both hands and shook an inhaler before taking a few deep hits.
UNLV had officially knocked the wind out of Colorado State when Rams coach Tim Miles removed Walker from the floor with about seven minutes remaining Saturday night.
Coupled with Rebels coach Lon Kruger putting most of his starters back in to restore order, and UNLV had the finishing kick to polish off the Rams, 89-70.
Rebels sophomore guard Tre'Von Willis led everyone with 21 points, and for the first time all season UNLV had all five of its starters score in double figures.
Senior guard Wink Adams was the low man on that board with 10.
“Even if I have a bad shooting night,” said Adams, who went 4-for-10 from the field, “I know there are guys to keep it going.”
UNLV (19-6, 7-4 in the Mountain West Conference) never trailed before a Thomas & Mack Center crowd of 13,529, but the audience started becoming uneasy when Walker took over in the second half.
The Rebels led, 69-48, when Walker scored 12 points in a row for the Rams (8-17, 3-8) to get them within a dozen, at 72-60, with 7:54 left.
Seventeen seconds later, UNLV senior power forward Mo Rutledge drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key, a timeout followed 30 seconds later and Walker huffed and puffed to the bench.
“Seeing how we practice in Colorado, in the altitude, I’ve only been winded like that a couple times in my career,” Walker said. “I had to go to the inhaler. It was a hard game. I didn’t want to give up.
“Anytime I play, I think about what fans and family think if they’re watching. I don’t give up no matter how difficult the situation.”
When Adam Nigon converted a three-point play, UNLV’s lead was whittled to 75-63 and Walker, from the end of the bench, implored his teammates to cut it to 10.
Walker, who had a team-high 18 points, returned to the game but missed his only attempt, shooting too long on a 3-pointer, and was removed for good with 1:31 left.
UNLV’s hounding, full-court trapping defense had taken its toll on Walker and the Rams.
“We want to get players tired,” Adams said. “Marcus Walker, he’s the type of guy who fights through it and hits shots. He’s an all-conference type player.
“He does a lot for their team. He scores and plays great defense. He’s their star. He can definitely take over a game. When we can get someone tired, it carries us.”
UNLV got the blistering start that senior swingman René Rougeau had been hoping for as the Rebels shot a first-half season-best 64.5 percent from the field.
They led, 51-34, after being powered by Willis’s 14 points and three assists, and freshman guard Oscar Bellfield’s nine points and five assists.
Neither player had committed a turnover. In fact, UNLV had 15 assists at the intermission and only two turnovers.
UNLV maintained a double-digit lead after Bellfield’s short jumper put the Rebels up 40-30 with 4:34 left until halftime.
“It was good to keep playing each possession and building on the lead,” said UNLV senior power forward Joe Darger. “There were games this season where we got that lead and let the other team back in.
“We had a lapse in the second half, let them go on a run. But we picked it back up and finished strong. It felt good to get that win.”
When Willis missed a layup and Rougeau put it back in, UNLV had that comfortable 69-48 advantage with about 13 1/2 minutes left.
Kruger soon took out Darger, Rougeau, Bellfield and Adams, to give them some rest.
He hit a jumper from the left side, and a media timeout was called with 11:58 left after Willis fired a bullet pass down the gut of the defense that missed Wallace and smacked the pad on the basket standard.
Walker missed a jumper, but Mitchell lost his handle on the ball as he rose for a short shot. Walker raced back to put in a reverse layup that made it 69-52.
That unease -– a few groans, a few moans and a sigh or two -– fell over the crowd when Walker sailed in for another layup that made it 70-56.
Kruger put his starters back in 10 seconds later, but order wasn’t restored until about 2 1/2 minutes later when Willis rebounded Bellfield’s errant 3-pointer.
Darger wound up canning his own 3-pointer out of that possession to boost UNLV’s edge to 78-63.
“We had a big lead, coach took us out for a breather and they were slowly coming back,” Darger said. “Before we went back in coach said, ‘It’s a game now. It can either go down to five or we can take it up. Set the tone.’ ”
Rougeau followed with a baseline jumper. CSU scored, but the Rebels rattled off seven points in a row to seal it.
“We got a little loose there on three or four possessions,” Kruger said of his attempt to let the reserves settle it. “We have to try to avoid doing that. The starters stepped back in there and did a good job.”
Walker, whose tank had hit empty with that 12-point flurry, wasn’t surprised by UNLV’s late kick.
“That killed us,” he said. “Their players were on the bench, getting rest. We made a little run then, bam!”
Walker snapped his fingers for emphasis.
“They were back on fresh legs,” he said. “On top of us being in the game, it’s hard to keep pushing when they have fresh legs in. That kind of wore us down a little bit. No excuses. We lost to a good team tonight.”
It was a much different story than last month, when the Rams upended the Rebels, 71-69, at Colorado State.
“We came out too soft,” Walker said. “We didn’t have the pressure-release points, as far as people coming up to take the stress off the point guards. The Rebels are just fast and quick.
“Tonight, we just didn’t do it. Our intensity was low, obviously. It’s difficult playing in a hard environment like this and trying to come back against a team like UNLV.”