Saturday, Nov. 29, 2008 | 2:10 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob Miech talk about UNLV's 73-55 loss to Cal in the Global Sports Classic on Friday night, as the the Rebels dropped their first game of the season thanks to 19-of-64 shooting.
California brought the best 3-point shooting team in the country into the Thomas & Mack Center on Friday night and treated it like it was its own gym.
UNLV watched the Golden Bears sink five of their first six shots from beyond the arc, and Cal (5-0) cruised to a 73-55 victory in the Global Sports Classic before a crowd of 13,830.
The Rebels (5-1) play Cincinnati (4-1) today at 5 p.m. in the final round of the tournament, and they are fortunate to play so soon after getting tattooed in their own arena by the Bears.
“When you get popped like that,” said fifth-year UNLV coach Lon Kruger, “you realize you have a lot of work to do and a long way to go.”
The defeat ended the Rebels’ 19-game winning streak at the Mack and was one of the worst home beatings in the Kruger era.
The worst was a 20-point defeat to Louisville last season. The Rebels play the Cardinals in Freedom Hall on New Year’s Eve.
That might not be the best way to jump into 2009.
Was Friday night embarrassing? Yeah, said UNLV senior forward Rene Rougeau, without a doubt, and disappointing.
“We couldn’t hit any shots the whole game,” Rougeau said. “When you’re not hitting shots, it’s tough … especially when the other team is hitting.”
The chatter in the Rebels’ locker room, he said, was about the Bearcats.
“All we can do is try to take it out on our (next) opponent,” Rougeau said.
Cal came into Las Vegas hitting 58.8 percent of its 3-point attempts, and it blistered the Rebels by sinking seven of its 10 bombs.
“Well, we can shoot the ball,” said Mike Montgomery, the first-year Bears coach and former longtime Stanford boss whose stint running the Golden State Warriors didn’t go so well.
“This team can score. Their pressure bothered us, but we didn’t panic. We almost did, but not quite. We shot it well and I hope we can keep it up. It’s what we do best.”
If not for some action in the final two minutes, UNLV wouldn’t have had anyone score in double figures.
But senior guard Wink Adams (who finished with 10 points) sliced in for a layup and freshman guard Oscar Bellfield (who had 10) drilled a 3-point shot at the end.
“It’s a matter of getting stops on defense,” said UNLV senior forward Joe Darger. “A lot of times, they lead to easy buckets on our end. We didn’t get stops tonight and didn’t execute our offense well.
“They gave us a whooping.”
UNLV shot a season-low 29.7 percent from the field because the Golden Bears were the aggressors on defense all evening, and Darger was at the top of Montgomery’s priority list.
Darger was 1-for-5 from long range. He’s 2-for-10 in his past two games after hitting six of 11 3-point attempts in a 13-point victory over North Carolina A&T.
“They like to roll their shooters out on pick-and-rolls,” Montgomery said. “They try to get help with guys who can shoot, and they kick it to the shooter. It’s an NBA thing.
“We didn’t want Darger to get open looks (on those). We wanted to stay on him so help came from somewhere else, the weak side. I thought we did well.”
Still, Cal almost did panic when it had a 54-34 lead.
Darger missed an ugly 3-point attempt and Kendall Wallace air-balled a 3-point shot. In between those ugly possessions, the Rebels managed to score seven consecutive points with their crowd roaring.
Junior forward Jamal Boykin converted a strong layin for Cal and junior center Jordan Wilkes sank a free throw, then UNLV had another 7-0 run.
But it could have been so much more.
Adams missed a 3-pointer and a turnaround jumper, Darger got called for a charge and the crowd became livid when Rougeau was hit with a blocking foul.
Boykin then kick-started the Bears with a driving layup and hit the free throw when Rougeau was whistled for interfering with him, and Cal had a 60-48 lead.
“We can’t let the refs get the best of us,” Rougeau said. “(They) made some tough calls, but we still have to play through that and keep our composure.”
The frustration of the night was capped off by Cal’s physical play under the boards, where it had a 50-34 advantage on UNLV.
“We did a poor job of executing,” Darger said. “We had a poor shooting night against a good team that played well. It didn’t go our way tonight.”