Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob 'The Wise Owl' Miech discuss UNLV's slim 75-74 victory over BYU on Saturday night at the Mack, fueled by the super-sub efforts of Kendall Wallace and Mo Rutledge, plus the Rebels' largest home crowd since 1993. Also, an unfriendly welcome for Mrs. Cummard and where the up-and-down Rebels go from here.
Beyond the Sun
- Salt Lake Tribune: Cougars come up short in Vegas
For about 19 seconds on Saturday night, BYU didn't give UNLV guard Kendall Wallace time to think.
In hindsight, it was just what the Rebels' sophomore sniper needed to snap a five-game shooting slump that had plagued him since going 5-of-9 from 3-point range in a win at Air Force back on Jan. 31.
In a 75-74 victory over the Cougars, Wallace snapped the nets on back-to-back 3-pointers with right around 12 minutes to play, springing UNLV ahead of BYU, 43-37.
It was the first time all night that a sellout crowd of 18,523 sounded like a sellout crowd of 18,523.
"It felt good to get a couple to go down," Wallace said. "I was starting to get a little frustrated, but I can't do that. Shooters just keep shooting. After you miss that first one, you've got to think you're going to make the next one."
Recently, that mentality had been tougher to hold on to. He was 1-of-12 from 3-point land over the five games since his big day in Colorado Springs. All he really had, personally, to show for that stretch was a bruise underneath his left eye, suffered while trying to draw a charge on Wyoming's Brandon Ewing on Wednesday night.
The toughest miss to swallow during his swoon, Wallace said, was the second of his two misfires in Laramie earlier this week, a first-half attempt that went more than half-way down the hatch before popping out.
Early on against BYU, it looked like more of the same, as he missed both of his 3-point attempts in 11 first-half minutes.
After the second miss, his shoulders dropped and his head lowered as he headed back up the court to defend.
That, however, came off of a wide-open look.
The same could not be said for the two he drilled to create the scoreboard separation.
On the first, a hit from the right wing, he was knocked to the floor after the ball left his hands. On the second, from the left corner, he was pushed backwards into the section formerly known as "Gucci Row."
UNLV never trailed again.
"I think him coming off the bench doing that, it's what really got the crowd into it, got everybody pumped up, and when Kendall hits one, we always try to go back to him and see if he can hit another one," said senior guard Wink Adams. "When he hit the second one, the crowd got into it, everyone got fired up and that's what kind of got it started."
With bodies flying towards him on both of those looks, he had no window of time to outthink himself.
"Then you get the lift on your shot a little bitter, because you've got to get over the defender," he said. "So I think it helps a little bit. You just shoot it, instead of thinking about it too much, and the results seem to be better most of the time."
Those threes under duress may have looked like incredible feats to many in attendance, but to the teammates Wallace practices with everyday, they say those situations are when Wallace thrives.
"Kendall's one of those players who, at practice, he's always getting beat up, hitting the floor and everything," Adams said. "That's something he's very used to — shooting the ball and getting knocked down. I think it just felt like practice and he knocked them down."
The threes didn't just jump-start the crowd, either. The rest of Wallace's game thrived as a result.
First, he followed the 3-pointers with a drive around a ball screen atop the key and down the right side of the lane, ultimately putting in a guarded layup off the glass. It was only his eighth 2-point bucket of the season.
Next was a tipped offensive rebound off of a Joe Darger 3-point miss from the corner. Wallace skyed to tap the ball over to René Rougeau, who laid it in easily to give the Rebels a 67-55 advantage.
His final contribution of the night came when BYU's Lee Cummard drove the baseline with 1:32 to play and his team trailing, 68-62, during a frantic push as a result of several UNLV free throw misses.
Cummard had the ball poked loose from behind by Wallace, and struggled to regain control as he missed an inside look off the front of the rim. Wallace then secured the defensive board.
At night's end, he had 5 rebounds and 2 assists to go with his 8 points in 26 minutes played. It was the most he'd played all season outside of the game at Air Force.
And the pressure he felt coming on as he stroked those two outside shots, oddly enough, may have helped rid him for good of the pressure his recent slump was putting him under.
"I think once you get a bucket to go, you get a little more confidence and the rest of the game just comes to you and becomes a lot easier," Wallace said. "It kind of lifts the pressure off that you're feeling. It definitely helps, for sure."