AP Photo/Fort Collins Coloraodoan, Travis A. Heuser
Wednesday, Jan. 14, 2009 | 8:06 p.m.
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Just two weeks ago, 2008 ended with a huge victory at then-No. 18 Louisville for the upstart UNLV men's basketball team.
Now, they're still trying to figure out how to carry over that magic, as the Rebels fell for the second consecutive outing in MWC play, dropping a 71-69 shocker at Colorado State on Wednesday night.
UNLV got a shot at the tying bucket in the closing seconds following an Adam Nigon free throw, but Oscar Bellfield's look from the right block went off the rim, and the Rebels are now 1-2 in league play.
It marked the first MWC win for CSU second-year coach Tim Miles.
Joe Darger led UNLV with 20 points, and his 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range helped the Rebels stay within range for much of the first half. The Rebels trailed by four at the break, and grabbed the lead a couple of times early in the second stanza But Marcus Walker and Andy Ogide spurred a big CSU run that provided enough padding to stave off UNLV's late charge.
Ogide hit two huge turnaround jumpers late for the Rams, and led the team with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Five Rams scored in double figures, as they were 27-of-58 from the floor and scored 4 points in the paint.
UNLV was plagued by turnovers early in the game and finished with 17 of them. The Rebels were 26-of-53 from the floor, as Wink Adams added 14 and Darris Santee chipped in 10. Santee and Brice Massamba, UNLV's two primary big men, combined for just 3 rebounds. The Rebels barely outrebounded the Rams, 32-31.
UNLV is back in action on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center against Wyoming, who knocked off San Diego State on Wednesday night.
For full coverage, including stories, stats and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
1:47, second half, CSU leads 68-67
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Well, CSU appears to be making a mortal mistake in going away from what's worked. Having lived off of quick scores all night, now the Rams are milking the clock, and the first possession in which they tried it blew up in their face. On the other end, Joe Darger hit his sixth three of the night, and UNLV is back within a point.
3:14, second half, CSU leads 68-62
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Tre'Von Willis just hit a tough runner off of the left block to pull UNLV back to within six points, and then the entire defense hurried back to swat a Marcus Walker shot from behind. It's that kind of frantic nature that UNLV will have to display the rest of the way, because CSU continues to score down low.
Andy Ogide leads the Rams with 16 points, including a pair of turnaround jumpers on the baseline in the past two minutes.
UNLV looks like its going with its best five players for the final 3:14, which is the same lineup that started the game at TCU. At this point, winning the rebounding battle doesn't matter. The Rebels need scorers on the floor, and they've got them.
Look for Joe Darger to get a couple of looks here late. He's 5-of-7 from 3-point range tonight and has 17 points, but has disappeared offensively in the last several minutes.
7:24, second half, CSU leads 61-57
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- UNLV is hitting threes still. But Colorado State is hitting from everywhere.
Behind 3-pointers from Adam Nigon and Marcus Walker, CSU took the lead back, and they're now making UNLV play catch-up yet again.
Mo Rutledge and Tre'Von Willis hit back-to-back treys before the last full break, but Colorado State is pushing the tempo and continues to score inside. The Rebels have allowed 32 points in the paint.
That's completely negated the fact that the Rebels are 23-of-39 from the floor tonight.
At this point, even if UNLV escapes, that's gonna be a comfy-yet-quiet chartered flight back to Vegas in a couple of hours.
During that last full break, two CSU students competed to see who could change out of their shirt fastest and put on a 'frozen' shirt. Rob Miech made the poignant comment that this game is a frozen shirt. He's not far off.
15:48, second half, UNLV leads 38-37
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- When Darris Santee provides an offensive presence like this, it opens things up completely for UNLV on offense. The first four minutes of tonight's second half are a prime example.
The junior big man has gone hard to the rack repeatedly to start the second stanza, and has scored six of UNLV's 10 points. After his last bucket, Oscar Bellfield swiped the inbounds pass and scored to give UNLV its second lead of the second half.
He's going after boards, too. Something got into that kid at the half. No question about it.
Meanwhile, a Harvey Perry bucket for CSU was the first bucket for the Rams in nearly 10 minutes of gameplay. Again, the Rebels have a great chance to atone for that awful start, and defensively, they're certainly taking advantage of it.
Halftime, CSU leads 32-28
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Both teams fell victim to an offensive drought late in the half, but CSU carries a four-point lead in the half at Moby Arena, 32-28.
UNLV's still trying to find a way to recover from the slew of turnovers it committed in the opening minutes. The Rebels finished the half with 11 of them, and Colorado State converted them into 11 points. UNLV's also being outscored in the paint yet again, 20-10 so far.
Wink Adams has shown more guts offensively than any of his teammates so far. He has eight points off of four tough jumpers in traffic, and his power drive game appears to be back after it only showed up a couple of times against TCU. Joe Darger leads all scorers with 11 on 4-of-4 shooting, but he had a couple of tough turnovers to swallow. Still, his aim is on. He's 3-of-3 from deep after going 5-of-14 on Saturday.
But the big men continue to leave plenty to be desired. Darris Santee and Brice Massamba, who combined to play just six minutes on Saturday, have a combined one rebound tonight. Santee failed to go out of bounds in chasing a loose ball towards the sideline late in the half, and still isn't showing the fire that the coaching staff is trying to pull out of him. Massamba was aggressive, you can't argue that. But it didn't result in boards, which is what Kruger's staff ultimately wants out of him.
Still, it's not a panic situation. UNLV's down by just four to a team that doesn't show a ton of offensive organization, and is getting by right now on hustle and aggressiveness. If I were a UNLV fan at home, I'd feel pretty good about the Rebels improving to 2-1 in MWC play, but those same lingering questions are still there. Most of them, at least. The turnover bug appears to have just been a minor, early thing for the night, and no one is in foul trouble (only Kendall Wallace, with two, has more than one).
Some other numbers from the first half...
-While UNLV's big men have combined for one rebound, freshman point guard Jesse Carr has five for the Rams, as he's been one of the most active players on the floor through 20 minutes.
-UNLV is 11-of-23 from the floor, while CSU is 14-of-30. UNLV has hit 3 of 8 3-point attempts, while CSU is 1-of-9.
-UNLV has zero fast break points and 5 second-chance points.
-Congrats to Rob Ketchum on his first UNLV bucket. Don't be surprised if you see him back in the game again tonight (or should I say 'hear him back in the game', since this one isn't televised? Probably a good thing.)
7:27, first half, CSU leads 24-20
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- It took a little longer than expected -- and a few more bodies than expected -- but UNLV appears to have found some rhythm.
Rob Ketchum's first UNLV bucket was part of an 8-0 run which has the Rebels back within four points of a pesky Colorado State squad. Wink Adams started it off by hitting his third tough, guarded jumper of the game, and Darries Santee and Joe Darger each added inside buckets.
UNLV has also surged back in terms of aggressiveness under the glass, now outrebounding CSU, 10-9.
Give a good amount of credit to UNLV's walk-ons -- Ketchum and Scotty Hoffman -- for providing a bit of a spark while this one looked to be spinning out of control in rapid fashion in the opening minutes.
11:07, first half, CSU leads 22-12
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- We're not even nine minutes in here at Moby Arena, and senior walk-on Rob Ketchum just checked in at the scorer's table for his first UNLV appearance. That means all 12 Rebels who made the trip to Fort Collins have now seen action in this one.
Lon Kruger might just be trying to find something that could possibly work here. So far, CSU is 10-of-16 from the floor, has 14 points in the paint, 11 points off of 7 turnovers and the Rams have a boatload of confidence.
So far, the only ones on the UNLV side showing any aggressiveness on the offensive end are Wink Adams and Brice Massamba. But everyone's contributed to the turnover bug in some way.
As for the rebounds, CSU holds a 7-4 edge.
15:24, first half, CSU leads 11-5
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Three ugly turnovers in the opening minutes have UNLV trailing 11-5 at Colorado State just over four minutes into the contest.
Joe Darger snapped a quick CSU run with a three from the left wing, but Colorado State is working its way into the paint against UNLV's interior defense, which again isn't flexing much muscle. That said, Brice Massamba just checked in for Darris Santee out of the first full break.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that Colorado State is 5-of-7 from the floor so far. The Rams, however, are having a tough time getting loose on the perimeter. If UNLV can tighten up down low, they'll be in far better shape.
Pregame, Part Deux
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Darris Santee is back in the starting lineup, and Tre'Von Willis is staying there. Not starting is Oscar Bellfield, who is still expected to play tonight after suffering a minor hamstring injury in Saturday's loss at TCU.
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- You walk into Colorado State's Moby Arena, and the immediate thought is that this could be a pretty intimidating gym if CSU really had things going.
Off the court, it's a bit dark. There's plenty going on in the rafters as far as beams and banners. A big neon Ram's head in one end zone.
But instead, we're 45 minutes from tip-off, there aren't many fans in the house yet, and the Rebels are awfully loose.
They're truly enjoying warming up on what looks to be a very bouncy, new floor and a soft, soft rim. They're chatting it up during warmups a bit more than normal. After all, this game probably will feel like a bit of a vacation after two days of very tough practices.
Tre'Von Willis is throwing home fancy dunks with his left hand behind his head, everyone's dropping in mid-range jumpers, and the Rebels look like a team primed to bounce back from an 80-73 loss at TCU which was more like two steps back rather than just one.
Colorado State is a ripe target, to boot. The Rams are looking for their first conference victory in two seasons. They're averaging just over 10 assists per game this season and haven't seemed to find much of a rhythm. If UNLV doesn't snap out of it, I'd be shocked.
Anyways, on to the three big predictions ...
1) Picks to click ... Miech is going with Wink Adams, who's looked very strong in practice the past two days. I'm sticking with the hot, steady hand, going with Tre'Von Willis ... UNLV's second-leading scorer since his breakout performance against Arizona ... true story.
2) Brice Massamba, if he gets the chance ... will have at least three defensive boards. I know that doesn't sound like much, but the kid only has nine all season. I have a feeling that watching the entire game in his warmups on Saturday delivered a message of some sorts.
3) UNLV 77, CSU 50
Talk to you after tip. And hello, Ruth.