Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009 | 1:55 a.m.
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Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ron Kantowski come to you from Provo to discuss UNLV's 76-70 come-from-behind victory on Wednesday night at BYU. The fellas talk about Wink Adams' emergence as the Rebels' senior spokesperson through both his play and his words, take a look at the ever-evolving early season MWC race, plus, what is it with those shoes? It's not as minor as you might think ... if you've noticed at all. Plus, postgame comments from Lon Kruger, Wink Adams and René Rougeau.
Beyond the Sun
PROVO, Utah -- Let's see, there's the tropical rain forest during water moccasin season ... the Meadowlands after Springsteen leaves the stage ... the rose garden of the crotchety old man who lives next door ... and hell.
When it comes to tough places to play, these are venues that immediately come to mind.
Oh, I almost forgot: There's also the Marriott Center on the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo.
The Marriott Center is where BYU plays basketball, and for some reason, the Cougars play it much better here than in other places. These would include Albuquerque, where they lost by 19 Saturday.
But Wednesday night, the water moccasin lost its fangs, Bruce left the building without playing an encore, the crotchety old man didn't call the cops and a place heretofore known as hell became a sweet and glorious heaven for the UNLV basketball team.
The Rebels rallied from a 13-point halftime deficit to beat the Cougars on their vaunted home court, ending their 25-game home winning streak against Mountain West opponents. Amazing. Simply amazing.
Remember when I said UNLV's 56-55 win at Louisville on New Year's Eve was as good as it gets? Well, I was wrong. This was better. This was Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt stuff.
As the final seconds ticked down on the Rebels' remarkable 76-70 victory, a fan in the UNLV cheering section, which consisted of about 50 of Joe Darger's relatives who made the short trip from Riverton and a couple of kids sporting mohawks and old Jason Thomas football jerseys, held up a banner as BYU fans streamed toward the exits with these perplexed looks on their faces.
" ... And behold, Daniel and the Rebels went into the Cougars den and came out a winner," the sign said.
I'm not sure what Daniel had to do with it, as I didn't see his name in the boxscore. But there were 22 points alongside Wink Adams' name and 13 alongside Tre'Von Willis', and a lot of other Rebels played well too, because without other Rebels playing well, there's no way they beat a team like BYU at home.
As all games at the Marriott Center do, this one began with a prayer, and that looked like the only one the Rebels (15-4, 3-2 Mountain West) would have after falling behind 43-30 at halftime. But in keeping with the spirit of the evening, Adams said this was one time a 13-point deficit might have been a blessing.
''I can't ever remember ever coming in here and being down only 13 at halftime," said the Rebels' gritty leader, who scored 14 points in the second half and went after every loose ball as if his name were stamped on it. "Usually we're behind a lot more than that. So I knew we were still in the game."
He wasn't alone in thinking that. But he was almost alone.
Even their coach had his doubts after the Rebels fell behind and did not look very good in doing it.
"We've been pretty inconsistent in a lot of areas virtually all year-round," said a victorious Lon Kruger after emerging from the locker room as if he had just stolen something. "Tonight it was pretty glaring from the first half to the second half. That was about as inconsistent as you can get there."
Maybe that's why the second-half comeback shouldn't have come as such a big surprise. But if you know the back story, it was still hard to see it coming.
Maybe you can turn around a 13-point deficit at some place like Wyoming or San Diego State, which is notorious for snatching defeats from the jaws of victory. But up here? Against these guys? Forget about it.
Last year, the Rebels lost here 74-48. The year before that, they lost 90-63, when they were ranked No. 25 in the nation. The year before that they lost a close game and the year before that, Kruger's first as their coach, the Rebels won here, 76-66. That was the last time a conference opponent had beaten BYU on its hallowed home ground until Wednesday.
But that BYU team wasn't very good. This one is. Or at least it was supposed to be. Now, after the blowout loss at New Mexico and their cloak of invincibility at home lying in rags at their feet after failing to put the Rebels away, it is the Cougars (14-4, 2-2) who must look at themselves in the mirror the way the Rebels did after losing to TCU and Colorado State on the road.
It was just 18 days ago that BYU saw its 53-game home winning streak snapped but it took a great team like Wake Forest, ranked No. 1 in the land (for a few more days, anyway), to do it. On Wednesday, it took a great effort from a ... well, darned if I know how to classify these Rebels based on the roller-coaster ride they've been on since New Year's Eve.
Win at Louisville.
Barely beat New Mexico at home.
Lose at TCU.
Lose at Colorado State.
Handily beat Wyoming at home.
Win at BYU.
Ups, downs, peaks, valleys. Horrible first halves, fabulous second halves. Wins at places where they are hard to come by, losses at places you'd least expect.
I don't know if watching these Rebels has been fun. But it sure has been interesting.