Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2008 | 2:10 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech discuss UNLV's 73-60 defeat of Southern Utah on Tuesday night at the Thomas & Mack Center, plus Wink Adams' injury mid-way through the first half. His departure thrust Kendall Wallace into expanded action, and the sophomore gunner responded. Plus, why René Rougeau is the team's unquestioned MVP to this point in the season. And, what needs to change before the Rebels take on Louisville on New Year's Eve.
Three days after a breath-taking performance against rival Arizona, a Thomas & Mack Center crowd held its breath Tuesday night when UNLV star guard Wink Adams hit the deck.
That hush came nine minutes into a game against Southern Utah that the Rebels won, 73-60.
With his back to the basket, Adams slid into the lane from the left side with Thunderbirds guard Dave Marek shadowing him.
As soon as Adams tried to spin to his right, he went down in a painful heap. He grabbed his lower right abdominal area. He winced and grunted for a minute or two.
Equipment manager Rocky Rutledge and trainer Dave Tomcheck tried helping Adams to his feet, but he nearly fell over to his right when he attempted to stand.
They carried him to the UNLV locker room, where Tomchek diagnosed him with a strained lower abdominal muscle. Adams will undergo a Magnetic Resonance Imaging test today at an area hospital.
Adams, 23, said he has never experienced such pain.
“I just dribbled, tried to do a spin move and just kind of stepped wrong,” he said. “I heard something pop and just hit the floor. Man, I was just hoping it wasn’t anything serious to keep me out for the season.
“Hopefully, it wasn’t ... just a minor strain in the lower abdomen, something I can bounce back from.”
Marek, a senior guard from the Czech Republic, was as stunned as any of the 10,528 fans who watched Adams crumple and writhe in pain.
“I wasn’t sure what happened,” he said. “I barely touched him. It looked pretty serious, so I was wondering what happened. Did he pull his groin? I felt bad.
“But I talked to him after the game and he said he’d be OK. That was good to hear.”
Adams said he called his mother, Reandre –- better known as “Mama Wink” throughout the Houston area –- after the game. He has “Mama’s Boy” tattooed on one of his arms.
“She was very worried,” Adams said. “I had to call her first and let her know I’m all right. She wanted to hear my voice and make sure everything was all right. Now she can sleep and not worry about it.”
Adams averages a team-best 15.3 points but he went scoreless as a Rebel for the first time, missing a close shot on his lone attempt.
Southern Utah (3-9) also played without a major weapon as a Saturday ankle injury forced senior forward Tyler Quinney, averaging 15.1 points, to be a spectator.
“That was a challenge for us,” said Marek, who scored a game-best 19 points. “He’s our leader. We wanted to see if we could handle a game without him, and I thought we did pretty well.
“But we’ll be better with him in the lineup.”
That’s what the Rebels say about Adams.
“He was in pain in the locker room at halftime,” said Rebels sophomore guard Tre’Von Willis. “But he’s a player. He’ll bounce back and get treatment. The sooner we have him back out there with us the better.”
The play before Adams went down, Thunderbirds senior center John Clifford scored from the left baseline to give Southern Utah a 16-15 lead.
Adams turned it over as he dropped, and Southern Utah padded its edge to three points on a layup by Marek.
UNLV (11-2) regained its composure, and the lead, on a 3-pointer by freshman guard Oscar Bellfield and two Willis free throws.
Rebels senior swingman Rene Rougeau, who scored a team-high 16 points, went on a six-point flurry.
Sophomore guard Kendall Wallace, who spells Adams, began warming up to produce his best college game.
He threw an alley-oop that Rougeau converted on the right side for the middle of those three consecutive baskets, and Wallace drilled a 3-point shot for a 31-21 lead.
Wallace sank three 3-point shots in a game for the second time as a Rebel -- the first time came earlier this season against Northern Arizona -- and tallied a career-best 15 points.
That didn’t surprise the rest of the Rebels, because Wallace stayed after practice Monday and, during one stretch, canned 17 of 19 shots from beyond the 3-point arc.
“See, it pays off,” Bellfield said. “He’s getting extra shots up before practice and after practice, and he had a great game.”
Wallace also came up with a circus scoop shot that spun in the basket off the right side of the glass.
“He’s shooting and playing with as much confidence as he has at any point in his career,” said fifth-year UNLV coach Lon Kruger. “That’s great to see.”
Bellfield and senior power forward Joe Darger, who also sank a trio of 3-pointers, each scored 11 points.
With two seconds left in the first half, Darger nailed a 3-pointer off a pass from Rougeau –- a play Kruger designed during a timeout with 24.3 seconds remaining –- for a 39-25 lead at the intermission.
Southern Utah, however, battled to keep its deficit to single digits.
UNLV walk-on guard Scott Hoffman sank a 17-foot jumper from the right side with 37 seconds left for the game’s final points, and the Rebels walked away from another one with a deep sigh.
“Southern Utah did a good job taking its time on offense,” Darger said. “That’s a little different than what we’re used to. They played well tonight.”
In the second half, Adams, wearing blue jeans, a long-sleeve white T-shirt under a gold Polo and a San Diego Padres cap, returned to his bench.
The Rebels don’t like seeing him in anything but a basketball uniform during a game. Under the circumstances, though, they were happy he joined them.
With a week off until a New Year’s Eve game at ranked Louisville, the down time figures to benefit Adams more than anyone.
UNLV fans will like to hear that Adams lifted assistant coach Lew Hill’s little son, Lew Jr., after the game. He mostly held Junior in his left arm.
Adams thinks he’ll be able to play against the Cardinals in Freedom Hall.
“Hopefully, there are no torn ligaments,” he said. “They don’t think it’s anything like that. It should be fine. I have to rest up and ice down. Once the swelling goes down, everything will be OK.
“I think everything will be all right.”