AP Photo/The Gazette, Kevin Kreck
Saturday, Jan. 31, 2009 | 2:53 p.m.
Final, UNLV wins 59-38
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Tre'Von Willis busted the Air Force zone, while Joe Darger and Kendall Wallace cleaned up the remains.
Willis recorded a career-high 11 assists with no turnovers, while Darger and Wallace combined to hit 9 of UNLV's 12 3-pointers in a 59-38 win at Air Force on Saturday afternoon.
Darger scored 18 points, while Wallace was 5-of-9 from the floor en route to tallying 15.
Willis became the first Rebel this season to tally double-digit assists in a game. He also had 5 rebounds to go with his 2 points.
UNLV led 29-19 following a sluggish first half, but Wallace and Darger each hit deep balls during an 17-7 spurt to open up the second half. UNLV had its first chance in awhile to empty its bench, as Scotty Hoffman capped the day with a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Rebels bench.
Wink Adams chipped in with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting. He'd scored just 13 total points in three previous career games at Air Force on 6-of-31 shooting.
The win was Lon Kruger's first at Clune Arena as the Rebels' coach.
UNLV improves to 17-4 overall and 5-2 in league play, while Air Force drops to 9-11 and 0-7, respectively.
The Rebels are back in action on Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, as they host San Diego State in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off.
For full postgame coverage, including stories, photos, stats and The Rebel Room: Postgame Edition, stay tuned to www.lasvegassun.com/rebels.
3:19, second half, UNLV leads 56-35
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Joe Darger and Kendall Wallace continue to bury 3-pointers next to one another, as they've combined for 9 of UNLV's 12 trifectas today. Those long balls have helped the Rebels to a 56-35 lead late in the second half at Air Force.
In the process, the two of them have padded Tre'Von Willis' assist numbers. The UNLV sophomore has 11 assists, which are a career-high and make him the first Rebel to have double-digit assists in a game this season. We'll check to see who the last one to do so was. Even more impressive is the fact that those dimes have come across from no turnovers.
Scott Hoffman just checked in and promptly buried a 3-pointer. Good for him, with his parents having made the trip to Colorado Springs from Hays, Kan.
Also, Wink Adams hit a three, giving him 13 points, which matches his career total at Air Force in three combined games entering today's action.
The Rebels are rolling towards their fifth MWC win.
10:20, second half, UNLV leads 46-26
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Falcons are now relying on their scantily-clad students to disrupt UNLV on the offensive end. During a pair of Tre'Von Willis free throw tries, one student shed an Air Force basketball jersey and his shorts, revealing a black speedo. He shook his stuff directly behind the glass to try and distract the Rebels sophomore. Willis hit one of two.
That so far has been UNLV's lone offensive slip-up to start the second half, as the Rebels now lead the Falcons, 46-26.
Joe Darger hit his third 3-pointer of the night, as did Kendall Wallace, and Wink Adams buried two jumpers, making him 4-of-6 from the floor.
Kendall Wallace then hit his fourth deep shot, and Mo Rutledge added his first of the game. In the middle of most of it is Tre'Von Willis, who has 8 assists to zero turnovers.
UNLV appears to be in full control of this one with 10:20 to play.
Halftime, UNLV leads 29-19
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Behind 12 points from Joe Darger and solid point play from Tre'Von Willis, the Rebels hold a 29-19 lead at the break over Air Force.
Matt Holland hit back-to-back threes to spark Air Force to a momentary 13-12 lead mid-way through the first half, but Darger and Kendall Wallace responded with long balls of their own, then Wink Adams scored the first two of his six first half points.
UNLV started sluggish on the offensive end, but is 10-of-23 from the floor at the half.
Willis, the Rebels' third-leading scorer on the season, has just one point, but provided four assists and three rebounds in the first half, while Wallace added six points off the bench on 2-of-4 shooting.
Air Force has yet to find any rhythm offensively, and UNLV's stingy defense deserves plenty of credit in that area. The Falcons are just 6-of-19 from the floor and have committed seven turnovers.
UNLV should have no problem maintaining the course in the second half should the defensive effort hold up.
Some other notable numbers from the first 20 minutes ...
-Adams, who entered today as a 6-of-31 career shooter at Air Force, is 2-of-4.
-Joe Darger has three buckets from inside the 3-point arc. Entering today's action, he had just 10 so far this season.
-The Rebels are winning the rebound battle, 19-10.
-DeShawn Mitchell played five minutes during the meat of the half, and recorded two blocks during that span.
The atmosphere today has been pretty bland. The fans have yet to get very loud, but, like every other sector of home fans in the nation, sure enjoys whining about 'missed calls.' UNLV has yet to look intimidated, and probably won't the rest of the afternoon.
Be back once the second half gets going.
3:38, first half, UNLV leads 20-15
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Kendall Wallace and Joe Darger hit back-to-back 3-pointers out of the last media timeout to push UNLV back ahead, while Wink Adams hit a fadeaway jumper from the right elbow to cap a quick 8-0 Rebels run.
It was UNLV's first 2-point bucket since a Darris Santee baseline jumper in the opening minutes.
UNLV has rebounded from a slow offensive start and is now 7-of-19 from the floor. The Rebels have outrebounded the Falcons so far, 16-8, and continue to keep Air Force from getting good looks at the bucket.
Also, it's worth noting that I was just tossed a Chick-Fil-A mini mascot during the last media timeout. It is a good day, afterall.
7:13, first half, Air Force leads 13-12
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Without Wink Adams in the lineup, the Rebels' offense has stalled -- literally. Adams has yet to score tonight, but he has been the only Rebel to drive into the Falcons' defense. Now, guys are standing around and sort of watching things develop.
Kendall Wallace hit a 3-pointer fresh off the bench to push the Rebesl ahead, 12-7, but Matt Holland has answered with two long balls of his own for the Falcons, giving his team the one-point edge. Adams is coming back out following the current media break. He's taking place of DeShawn Mitchell, who deserves some mention for the two blocks he had on the defensive end during the previous stretch.
11:10, first half, UNLV leads 9-7
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The Rebels are starting to get more outside looks that they obviously want, but they still haven't begun to fall with regularity. Joe Darger made up for a foul away from the ball moments earlier by burying a 3-pointer in the corner, but that has been UNLV's lone bucket since the opening couple of minutes.
UNLV's practice against Air Force's motion sets during the week off are clearly paying off, as the Falcons have really only had two or three clean looks in nearly nine minutes of play.
Just before the last media timeout, Lon Kruger put Kendall Wallace in the game, and he could be a prime suspect to bust this thing open with a couple of open looks.
15:58, first half, UNLV leads 4-2
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- UNLV is just 2-of-5 from the floor after four minutes in Colorado Springs, but the Rebels have matched Air Force's defensive pressure, forcing the Falcons into an 0-for-4 showing from the floor to start the afternoon.
The Rebels already have 6 rebounds, with Tre'Von Willis coming up with 2 on the defensive end, while Joe Darger and Darris Santee each have one offensive carom. Darger's followd a René Rougeau near-air ball, which resulted in Darger's 11th two-point basket of the year. 49 of his previous 59 came from long range.
Wink Adams hasn't been allowed to drive all the way to the rack just yet, as Air Force defenders are cutting him off at every chance possible.
A decent crowd on-hand today. My uneducated guess would say 3,000 or so.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Welcome to the thin air, folks. UNLV is about 45 minutes away from doing battle with the Air Force Academy. Believe it or not, Rebels coach Lon Kruger has yet to win in this building in his time at UNLV. Today presents a prime opportunity to bust the slump.
The Falcons are the league's lone winless team in conference play, and they're just 9-10 overall. They're a tricky team to figure out, though. They rank last in the league in scoring offense (61.3 ppg), but second in points allowed (60.3 ppg). They run a Princeton-like offense with plenty of backdoor cuts and 3-point attempts. That's another category where Air Force leads the Mountain West, firing from deep at a 38.9 percent clip.
Still, there's no reason to believe the Rebels won't come out victorious today. A loss in Colorado Springs on the heels of wins at BYU and at home over Utah would make just about anyone throw their arms up and give up trying to figure this group out.
This is UNLV's third game this season following a layoff of at least a week. In those contests, the Rebels are 2-1, with the most recent example coming in the form of an 80-73 loss at TCU on Jan. 10. Oddly enough, today's atmosphere should be pretty similar to the one the Rebels faced in Fort Worth, playing in another small arena. This one holds 5,858.
As far as individual Rebels go, one guy to watch today will be Wink Adams. Before you blurt out a big 'duh' in my direction, Adams has struggled nowhere in the MWC like he has in Clune Arena. He's just 6-of-31 from the floor in 3 career games with 13 total points. He's found his old form as of late, so we'll se what kind of effect -- if any -- history has.
One last note would be, again, shoes. We've documented up and down how the fact that UNLV at BYU went back to wearing one color of shoe as a team to show some unity. Today, it's back to all black for almost everyone. Kendall Wallace is rockin' some white and grey Nikes. He's 9-of-15 from 3-point range in his last 5 games, so maybe he's not worth messing with. Might have to ask him about that afterwards.
Also, Tre'Von Willis is sporting a pair of lo-tops. Wonder if that has anything to do with his comfort in his shins after slipping under the bus in Provo last week.
Finally, the coaches on both sides will be wearing sneakers today in support of the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer.
Now, our three big predictions.
1) Picks to click I'm taking Darris Santee. Miech wants Willis.
2) Lon Kruger snaps his skid at Air Force Otherwise, this season makes absolutely no sense.
3) Score picks Greene: UNLV 66, Air Force 52; Miech: UNLV 51, Air Force 48.
Talk to you after tip-off.