Saturday, Jan. 17, 2009 | 8:56 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 83-66
At some point, UNLV had to snap out of it. And what better time than right before traveling to take on BYU in Provo this Wednesday.
They knocked off Wyoming on Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, 83-66.
The Rebels were led by Wink Adams and René Rougeau, who added plenty of hustle plays behind their 34 combined points. UNLV shot just 42.1 percent from 3-point range, but 22 offensive rebounds allowed the Rebels to build up a sizable lead early in the second half once Wyoming's outside shooting cooled down.
Adams scored 11 straight points on his own late in the first half, and the Rebels never trailed again.
Rougeau looked like his old self again, finishing with 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to go with his 14 points. Tre'Von Willis woke up following a rough offensive first half to finish with 13 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and no turnovers.
Sean Ogirri hit 7 3-pointers for Wyoming, leading the Cowboys with 21 points. But UW's leading scorer -- senior guard Brandon Ewing -- scored just 7 points on 2-of-5 shooting.
The Rebels improve to 14-4 overall and are again even in Mountain West play at 2-2. They'll take on BYU, who lost to New Mexico on Saturday, 81-62, on Wednesday night in Provo. That game will tip at 7 p.m.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, stats, photos, video and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:07, second half, UNLV leads 76-62
The Rebels are now cruising towards the finish line, and the themes from tonight are funny because UNLV succeeding in doing what it couldn't do on Wednesday at Colorado State -- get offensive rebounds and not turn the ball over.
UNLV has 21 offensive boards and 21 defensive boards. That's quite a split. Also, the Rebels have turned the ball over just 7 times. They had that many at Colorado state in the first 9 minutes of the game.
It's looking like a very solid win that UNLV needs to have.
10:19, second half, UNLV leads 58-53
UNLV's 24-of-62 shooting performance tonight has been offset by an impressive offensive rebound total of 19. The Rebels have more offensive boards than they do on the defensive glass (16).
I'm guessing that the regulars watched the black shirts grab a few too many offensive boards for their liking in practice the last couple of days.
Sean Ogirri hit his sixth 3-pointer of the night for Wyoming, nad he's the main reason they've stayed within reach, but UNLV is showing no signs of slowing.
15:52, second half, UNLV leads 49-43
In what's developed into a shootout, hustle plays from Wink Adams and René Rougeau have been the source of UNLV maintaining a lead over Wyoming early in the second half.
First, Rougeau made a poster out of Wyoming big man Adam Waddell on a driving dunk. After missing the free throw to go with it, Joe Darger appeared to have an offensive board. The ball was poked from his grip, and Rougeau dove out of bounds to save it to Wink Adams. The possession ended with a Tre'Von Willis fading jumper on the baseline.
On UNLV's next possession, Wink Adams tipped in his own miss on a hard drive, giving him 18 points for the night.
Wyoming's Afom Muojeke is scoring seemingly at will for the Cowboys, but no one in brown and gold seems to want to defend. Coach Heath Schroyer just scolded Sean Ogirri during a brief benching for not guarding hard enough.
Halftime, UNLV leads 39-32
Wink Adams and René Rougeau are a combined 11-of-21 from the floor so far tonight, and their 26 points have paced the Rebels to a seven-point lead over Wyoming following tonight's first half at the Thomas & Mack Center.
The rest of the Rebels? Well, they're 5-of-24 from the floor.
But the Rebels are defending just well enough so far that it hasn't been a major deal.
The lead alone is a positive especially considering how well Wyoming was shooting the 3-ball early on.
But the Rebels have forced 12 turnovers. And after giving away possessions like turkeys on Thanksgiving on Wednesday, the Rebels only have 3 turnovers to 9 assists tonight. That's been a big key so far for the Rebels, as have 13 offensive rebounds. Those have been collected with Darris Santee and Brice Massamba playing only 8 combined minutes. Between them, there's one rebound on the stat sheet.
Some other numbers of note from the first half ...
-Wink Adams leads all scorers with 16 points. That's already the most he's put away in a game since he scored 25 against Arizona on Dec. 20. He's done it in a variety of ways, and on his stat line also has two rebounds, two assists, two steals and zero turnovers.
-Sean Ogirri has helped Wyoming stay within range, as he's 4-of-9 from 3-point range. As for leading scorer Brandon Ewing, he has just two points on 1-of-2 shooting.
-The Rebels have held Wyoming to just four offensive rebounds so far.
I'm fully expecting the Rebels to end up winning this one by a margin close to what the scoreboard reads right now. Unless Sean Ogirri starts raining in more of his freakish threes, UNLV looks pretty hard-set on claiming this one. That said, I bet they'd like to see a few more guys figure things out offensively. Namely Tre'Von Willis and Joe Darger.
Willis had a rough offensive half, with 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting. He's missed a couple of close looks, but has 5 rebounds, 2 assists, no turnovers and a steal. Darger has missed all 4 of his 3-point attempts, but has 5 rebounds.
2:36, first half, UNLV leads 35-30
The pace of the game slowed down momentarily a couple of minutes ago, as UNLV's Tre'Von Willis and Wyoming's Afam Muojeke were called for off-setting technical fouls.
But before that, Wink Adams was running things all on his own.
The UNLV senior guard scored 11 straight points for his team, as Wyoming scored just two in that stretch. He did it with back-to-back steals, a 3-pointer, two and-one layups and plenty of screaming in the aftermath of each bucket. You almost forget how hurt he was just about two weeks ago.
UNLV has attempted 40 shots already, which is an incredible number at this point in a ball game. They've only connected on 14 of them, which is the problem right now. A 5-point lead could be much bigger, but Rebel fans have now grounds for complaints at the moment.
René Rougeau looks like he's back to form, with four offensive rebounds already and eight points. His last bucket came off an offensive carom, and the one before that was off a steal on the other end of the court, which he took the distance on his own.
7:36, first half, Wyoming leads 24-22
Five missed layups or tip-ins so far, but Wink Adams is hitting the tough ones inside. His second layup of the game in traffic gave him seven points and UNLV a two-point edge on the Cowboys.
This full time out was brought to you by Dave Hall, who made a call against the Wyoming bench for Heath Schroyer being too far on the floor. It actually upset Lon Kruger, as it stopped the game while his team was building some momentum.
The Rebels are 9-of-27 from the floor through 12-plus minutes, so they're obviously getting shots. So far, they're 4-of-13 from 3-point range. Wyoming is 5-of-10, with Sean Ogirri having attempted 8 of those.
11:22, first half, Wyoming leads 19-14
Beware of Sean Ogirri. For real.
The Wyoming senior guard just hit back-to-back threes -- giving him three connections from long range so far -- and Wyoming is on a 17-5 run, leading UNLV at 19-14.
Ogirri's 3-point attempts have all been pretty adventurous. Following his shot from Reno to start the game, he hit one from NBA range. Most recently, on a 3-on-2 fast break, he hit the vaunted pull-up three.
UNLV's having some struggles offensively after a quick start, and some bunnies inside aren't falling. Kruger's playing a lot of guys early just like he did on Wednesday, but tonight, intensity's not the issue. It's offensive production.
15:44, first half, UNLV leads 9-8
The intensity flowed right from go, and Tre'Von Willis and René Rougeau have provided much of it so far. Rougeau threw home a slam in a fast break off a feed from Wink Adams, and Willis has hit an early three for the Rebels.
UNLV led 9-2, but Afam Muojeke and Sean Ogirri hit back-to-back deep balls to pull back to within a point. Speaking of Ogirri, on Wyoming's first possession, he missed a three that he casually hoisted from about 29 feet out. Apparently, he has the green light from anywhere past mid-court. So far, he's 1-of-3 from long range.
Darris Santee picked up two early fouls and is on the bench. Brice Massamba promptly came in and grabbed a defensive board, giving him 10 on the season. Not much to brag about, but it's a start, as he's looked pretty steady so far.
Pregame, Part Deux
A few more pregame nuggets ...
-Dave Hall is part of tonight's officiating crew. That said, don't expect this one to be done before the Super Bowl kicks off.
-Wyoming came out of the tunnel with the last player in line carrying a sledgehammer. Allegedly, it's some kind of team secret that won't be unveiled until after the season.
-A pretty decent crowd on hand. I'm not about to make an estimate. Journalism majors are awful at math.
Hey there. How you doin'?
Yeah, it's just that kind of a night. The inspiration for that opening line -- perfected on Friends by Joey, played by Matt LeBlanc -- comes from the striking resemblance Wyoming head coach Heath Schroyer has to the former sitcom star.
Schroyer and the squad he brings to the Thomas & Mack Center tonight, however, should be taken much more seriously by the Rebels than anything LeBlanc's ever produced as an actor. Oh yes, kids, that includes Ed.
Other teams in the Mountain West continue to leave the door open for the Rebels to climb back into the title race after the horrendous week that was. The prime example there being BYU's 19-point loss today at New Mexico. Couple that with wins today by both Utah and TCU, and the Utes and Horned Frogs are currently atop the league standings at 3-1.
But, heck, the Rebels just need a win.
Not only do they need one to keep pace in the league race, but there's something about the thought of going into BYU on Wednesday night with three consecutive defeats which would make just about every Rebel fan alive cringe.
Wednesday's defeat at Colorado State started with the poor body language during warmups. Lots of hot-dogging, showboating and loose demeanors. Wink Adams and Lon Kruger both talked this week about how that affected the Rebels early in that game, turning it over seven times in the first nine minutes while falling behind by double digits.
Tonight, there's a more serious tone during the shootaround session. Not to say these guys are pretending it's the Final Four. They're still smiling, but business is at hand, that's pretty clear.
This is no gimme. Wyoming beating San Diego State on Wednesday night was far from a fluke. This is an explosive offensive team that has four starters averaging at least 14.7 points per game. But the Cowboys don't have a ton of depth, so disrupting the starters on the defensive end will be key. The UNLV regulars spent most of the last two practices doing nothing but defending. We'll see how much that pays off, if at all. But if the Rebels are as intense tonight as they were at Thursday's practice, a win should be the result. Maybe the most aggressive defensive practice of the year.
Now onto tonight's three big predictions.
1) Picks to click ... Miech keeps dodging it (UPDATE: He took Wink), so I'll have his up here at some point before tip-off. I'm going to switch gears and pick from the other side, taking Wyoming senior guard Sean Ogirri. He's an interesting story, having transferred to Wyoming to play his senior season after three solid runs at Wichita State. He's a gunner from the outside, who's averaging 14.7 points per game and shoots roughly 40 percent from deep. Oh yeah, and he at one time rocked the greatest afro in college hoops.
2) René Rougeau returns to form tonight. If I were picking someone to click in red and black, he'd be it. As René goes, so goes this team. That said, he needs to find his feet again more than anyone else. Defensively, he's struggled over the past week, and offensively, he was brutally quiet after the opening minutes in Fort Collins. He can do so many things to spread out an opposing defense, and he's got to do at least a few of them tonight. He was more vocal than anyone in practice the past two days, and didn't let his intensity rest during his stretches watching from the sideline.
3) UNLV 78, Wyoming 73. I just don't see this team dropping three straight. Walk-on Todd Hanni walked by the scorer's table earlier during warmups. I asked him if his guys were ready. He said he hopes so, otherwise, he has no clue what's wrong. Take that for what it's worth.
Talk to you after tip-off.