Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008 | 9:05 p.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob "Python" Miech (explanation inside) discuss UNLV's 79-64 trouncing of Arizona on Saturday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center. They talk about Wink Adams' offensive eruption, plus what else was memorable and forgettable as the Rebels improved to 10-2 on the season.
UNLV basketball coach Lon Kruger got the “electric” crowd he had predicted Saturday afternoon at the Thomas & Mack Center for rival Arizona.
When his players started frittering away a big lead, though, it was Kruger who stopped everything to stick their high-energy cord back into a socket and refuel a raucous audience.
A 12-point advantage quickly became 19 after Kruger stopped the action with 8 1/2 minutes remaining, and the Rebels cruised to a 79-64 victory before 16,667.
“He told us to tighten this (bleep) up,” said sophomore reserve guard Tre’Von Willis, who hit a pair of 3-pointers out of that timeout and had a career-best 19 points. “You know he’s mad when he cusses.”
Arizona power forward Jordan Hill had just poked the ball from Willis’s hands, which led to Hill’s monster dunk at the other end and Kruger’s timeout.
Willis was the first to reach Kruger and feel his wrath.
“I was mad at myself,” Willis said. “I wasn’t being strong with the ball. I had to get down lower. We came back out and didn’t want to let up. We wanted to put the foot on the pedal even more.”
Kruger barked for the timeout with the Rebels, who improved to 10-2 with their fifth consecutive victory, ahead 58-46.
“We can’t make plays like that if we want to be the club we want to be,” Kruger said. “I thought we were really careless at that point … we kept their interest in the ball game.”
Plenty of time remained, said Kruger and UNLV senior swingman Rene Rougeau, for Arizona to rally.
“That’s the sign of a good coach,” Rougeau said. “He’s supposed to get into your team like that.“
The glaring eyes and jutting jaw tell any Rebel that Kruger means business. Isn’t it rare when he adds a key word – in this case, it started with “sh” – to accentuate his point?
“That’s in public,” Rougeau said. “In private, it’s a different story. He’s a gentleman, basically. He won’t humiliate people. Behind closed doors, business is business. Whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Twenty-eight seconds out of that timeout, UNLV senior guard Wink Adams – who went for a season-high 25 points – drilled a 3-pointer from the right side.
“He was very (mad),” Adams said of Kruger. “At the same time, he was positive – stay aggressive, run our offense, slow it down and get the ball across halfcourt. We did.
“They got those points using their press, using their length. That’s a very long team. You have to alter your passes. That’s something we have to work on, playing against the press.”
Chase Budinger put in a layup, Arizona’s fourth shot in a row, at the other end, and Willis answered with a 3-point shot from the left corner.
Budinger committed a turnover, and Willis hit another 3-pointer, from the right corner in front of his own bench, to give the Rebels a 67-48 lead.
Game over. Wildcats interim coach Russ Pennell had to call a timeout of his own.
Arizona had been climbing up a slippery slope since UNLV reeled off a 15-0 run over a five-minute stretch in the second half for a 55-36 edge.
Adams hit a pair of 3-pointers during that hot stretch, center Brice Massamba converted a close shot, Rougeau had a put-back, Willis nailed a 3-pointer and center Darris Santee sunk two free throws.
The Wildcats missed four shots and turned it over five times to allow the Rebels to run away from them.
“That just destroyed us,” said Budinger, who led the Wildcats with 22 points.
Arizona only committed 10 turnovers in its upset of fourth-ranked Gonzaga on Sunday, but it turned the ball over 19 times against UNLV.
Before the game, Budinger talked about how the Rebels confused the Wildcats last season with their constant switching and pressure defense.
Arizona won that water-torture affair, 52-49, in the Mack. Once again Saturday, the Wildcats were flustered by the Rebels’ defense.
This time, though, UNLV made 14 of its 31 3-point attempts. It was the most shots from beyond the arc for the Rebels since they made 15 in a victory over Colorado State on March 9, 2007.
“It was tough, same as last year,” Budinger said. “In the beginning, they did the same type of defense. It was tough for us to adjust. Once we did adjust, once we figured it out, they went on their offensive run.
“We allowed them to have around 80 points. If we wanted to win that game, we couldn’t have allowed that.”
Hill, a 6-foot-10, 235-pound junior from Atlanta, scored 16 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He benefited from Santee and Massamba being in foul trouble.
But the rest of the Wildcats, other than Budinger and Hill, shot 10-for-32 from the field.
“They came out ready to play, we didn’t,” Budinger said. “They got a lead and we slowly tried making a run back. But every time we tried, they countered with a bigger run. They really took us out of our game.”
The moment the game appeared to be slipping from the Rebels, Kruger did something about it with a critical timeout, a snarl and a choice word that snapped his players to attention.
“We responded,” Kruger said. “You always hope timeouts do that. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. On that occasion, it worked out fine.”