Ed Reinke / Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 1, 2009 | 12:07 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech dissect UNLV's 56-55 upset win at No. 18 Louisville on Dec. 31, 2008, which the Rebels completed with leading scorer Wink Adams out of the lineup. René Rougeau and Tre'Von Willis both rose to the occasion in terms of production and leadership, while Oscar Bellfield provided the late-game heroics. The guys also give some New Year's resolutions for both the Rebels and themselves.
LOUISVILLE -- To those who follow UNLV hoops, seeing a stat line from senior swingman René Rougeau that includes a game-high 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots isn't all that surprising.
To the national ESPN2 audience that watched the Rebels upset No. 18 Louisville on Wednesday, it may have been a bit surprising.
If you would have told Rougeau four years ago that he'd be doing that on this day, he'd have been flat-out shocked.
"I've definitely come a long way -- I never thought I'd be in this position I'm in today," the former walk-on said. "It says a lot. I'm trying to let my game do the talking for me more than anything else, just being a senior, that's what it's all about.
"Whenever the guys need someone to look to, I just want to be that guy."
On Wednesday, he had no choice but to be that guy. Senior guard Wink Adams -- UNLV's leading scorer and main focal point -- went through warmups in uniform and suited up for the game, but ultimately didn’t play as a result of a strained lower abdominal muscle suffered in last Tuesday's 73-60 victory over Southern Utah.
The Rebels needed a leader, and Rougeau fit the bill. He made several plays along the way that showed why.
To start the game, he was key in breaking down Louisville's zone defense, scoring 10 of the Rebels' first 27 points.
Early in the second half, he weaved in and out against a defender in a one-on-one, open court setting, finishing with an acrobatic layup.
Then, with Louisville surging later in the second half, he had an emphatic swat from behind on a Terrence Williams layup drive to help the Rebels maintain their edge.
"I call him 'Mr. Everything,'" sophomore guard Tre'Von Willis said. "He'll give you everything -- blocks, rebounds, points, assists. He's all over the place.
"And he'll play hard and battle for us -- he's a basketball warrior. You love a guy like that on your team, and I'm just proud of him and the rest of our guys."
Not only did his well-rounded stat package come together against arguably the most talented group the Rebels will see during the regular season, but it came against Terrence Williams -- regarded as one of the nation's top do-it-all guys.
Williams, a 6-foot-6 senior, entered the game averaging 11.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Rougeau spearheaded an effort to hound him the entire game. And Williams' struggles hardly began with the potential game-winning layup he missed badly with just seconds remaining.
He went two-of-15 from the floor, which dragged down an otherwise-healthy stat line that included eight rebounds, five assists and five steals.
"I'm still speechless, to be honest with you," Rougeau said. "That's a tough team, and that just shows that we're capable of doing anything, and I've got to be able to step up for Wink whenever he's down or he's out. Everyone did a good job of that, and I'm just really taking pride in trying to make things happen."
For those national viewers basketball-savvy enough to take note of what Rougeau did on Wednesday after likely seeing him play for the first time, his name probably stuck.
But it was nothing different from what he's done all season.
Through 14 games, he's shooting 56.2 percent from the floor and carries averages of 11.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.
"I'm wanting people to think that 'NeNe' Rougeau is very underrated," Willis said. "He's very valuable to our team. He does everything for our team, and we're still hoping for him to progress his game the rest of the season."