Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009 | midnight
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss all of the little things that went into UNLV solving its recent issues and coming away with conference victory No. 2 on Saturday night against Wyoming at the Mack. Plus, the guys discuss Dave Hall's presence and the upcoming showdown at BYU.
Beyond the Sun
UNLV senior guard Wink Adams, like he used to do, took over a game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday night with steals, power drives and 3-point shots.
Adams scored 11 consecutive points in the first half, turning a four-point deficit into a five-point lead that the Rebels never yielded in an 83-66 victory over the Cowboys.
Adams finished with a team-best 20 points
When Wyoming visited Las Vegas last season, Adams torched it with a career-high 33 points.
Saturday night, he went eight-for-20 from the field. The last time he put up at least 20 shots was in that game last season against the Cowboys, when he was nine-for-21 from the field at the Mack on Jan. 23, 2008.
Adams’s timing is impeccable. After consecutive road defeats to usual Mountain West Conference bottom feeders, the Rebels were reeling the past two days.
However, Thursday’s practice in the Cox Pavilion practice gym was the most grueling Adams has endured as a Rebel. He lost an ocean of sweat. It was all about defense.
What’s more, senior swingman René Rougeau vowed to gather his teammates for some players-only chats about how they’ve been screwing up and what they want to accomplish.
Those meetings took place.
“Definitely, we talked,” Adams said. “This is our starting point. We have to establish our identity. This is how we want to play and keep it going throughout the season.
“We don’t want to go into March saying, ‘We could have done this,’ at home, watching the March Madness. We definitely want to be in the March Madness.”
UNLV coach Lon Kruger also laid the groundwork by orchestrating Thursday’s session. In the middle of it, just above a whisper, he got his players' attention.
“Be strong with the ball,” Kruger said. “Be there for each other. Stay strong. We’ve worked too hard for this.”
The Rebels, who committed only eight turnovers for the fourth time this season, listened.
Seniors Joe Darger and Rougeau battled on the boards, each of them grabbing six of their game-high nine rebounds on the offensive end. Half of UNLV’s 44 rebounds came under their offensive rim.
The last time the Rebels grabbed more of their own misses was when they had 24 in a victory over Georgia Tech in the first round of the NCAAs on March 16, 2007.
Their talks among themselves over the past two days were effective.
“It was an ugly feeling to lose twice in a row,” Darger said. “It’s the second time it’s happened to us this season, losing two in a row. We talked at the training table today, and yesterday …
“Watching film the last couple of days, we saw how sloppy we were, how lazy and lackadaisical we were. Today, we did all the little things.”
Adams did a big thing.
UNLV trailed, 24-20, when he took a fastbreak all the way in for a layup on the left side. He was just getting started.
Freshman point guard Oscar Bellfield found him on a textbook backdoor cut with a perfect bounce pass on the left side, and Adams converted the layup and hit the free throw on Djibril Thiam’s foul.
Adams, a 6-foot shooter, drilled a 3-point shot on 6-9 Thiam at the top of the key for a 28-26 edge that gave UNLV the lead for good.
Then he swiped a loose ball at halfcourt and sailed in through the left side for an easy layup to make it 30-26.
On the Rebels’ next possession, Adams took it in strong on Thiam and earned the foul. Adams gyrated, flexed and shook a bit.
After straining a lower abdominal muscle on Dec. 23, he and a crowd of 17,190 knew he was back to his old self.
“It was just enthusiasm,” Adams said. “Just getting all the frustration out from the past two games. It just felt good to get it out at home, scoring those points and helping my team.
“I was playing off momentum. I got that first ‘three’ to fall and I was able to get to the basket and get some steals. Once the crowd got the blood pumping, I couldn’t stop.”
Wyoming senior guard Sean Ogirri, who had a game-best 21 points, said Adams provided the spark UNLV needed.
“He got a couple steals and converted them,” Ogirri said. “When you get turnovers and it’s 2- or 3-on-1, it’s hard to defend that. We didn’t know they’d double that much.
“They came from the weak side and we didn’t know what to do with that. On the press, they’d bring two up and it was hard to see over them. They played great tonight.”
Turning defense into offense is what Adams had been preaching about with his teammates for the previous two days.
UNLV (14-4, 2-2 in the conference) beat Wyoming (12-5, 1-2) in points off turnovers (24-15) and second-chance points (24-9).
“It’s good to have Wink back,” said Darger. “He’s a huge part of what we have going on here. When he gets going, gets fired up, it gets everyone else pumped up.”
Moreover, Adams has learned, maybe the hard way, to pipe up and talk to his teammates, spur them on or give them a double dose of tough love when the situation calls for it.
He talked more in practice Thursday and Friday, and he talked more during Saturday night’s game.
“Like coach said, it looked like we were having fun tonight,” Adams said. “Everybody was creating shots for each other and they were falling. Whenever we can force turnovers, it gives us a chance to win.”
Rougeau ran suicides solo after Tuesday’s practice, barked at Kruger at Colorado State on Wednesday and nearly got his left eye poked out at Thursday’s practice.
But he had some fun Saturday, too.
Eighty seconds into the second half, he saw an opening as he drifted left to right at the free-throw lane, then he sliced in for a hard dunk over Wyoming center Adam Waddell for a 41-32 lead.
Yes, Rougeau said, he took out some built-up anger and frustration on that rim.
“That was a great dunk,” Darger said. “He drove down there, (Waddell) rolls, and Rene still rolls off him and dunks it. It got the fans and the teams hyped up.”
Just when both needed it.