Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009 | 2:14 a.m.
Ryan Greene, Rob Miech and Ron Kantowski reflect on their experiences on Saturday night at The Pit, where UNLV fell to New Mexico in overtime, 73-69. The guys talk about the infamous 'ramp,' break down the effect of René Rougeau's technical foul and whether the Rebels' season now again comes down to three games in March.
Beyond the Sun
- Mercury News: Lobos beat Rebels in overtime
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Pit was an appropriate place for a second consecutive overtime defeat for UNLV on Saturday night.
After senior swingman René Rougeau’s late technical foul, the Rebels still had leads in regulation and in the extra session but frittered them away in a 73-69 defeat to New Mexico.
That was of no consolation to Rougeau.
“Put the blame on me, for sure,” he said. “I have to play a lot smarter than that. We probably could have won that game if I don’t get that technical foul.”
As it turned out, UNLV senior power forward Mo Rutledge’s 12-foot jumper missed, short and to the right, at the end of regulation.
And the Rebels surrendered the final six points of the game after senior power forward Joe Darger drilled a 3-point shot for a 69-67 lead with 66 seconds remaining in overtime.
For the first time in the 51 seasons of UNLV basketball, the Rebels dropped consecutive overtime games.
It’s looking like a third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament for UNLV (17-6 and 5-4 in the Mountain West Conference) will have to arrive via three league tournament victories.
The Rebels lost, 68-66, to San Diego State in overtime Tuesday in Las Vegas.
“We just have to figure out a way to make some plays at critical times,” said UNLV coach Lon Kruger, “to get us on the right side of the scoreboard.”
New Mexico (15-9, 6-3) jumped ahead of the Rebels in the conference standings largely because second-year coach Steve Alford woke up Tony Danridge at halftime.
The 6-foot-5 senior swingman from San Bernardino, Calif., is the Lobos’ leading scorer, at a bit more than 13 points a game, but he took only one shot (he made it) in the first half.
Danridge finished with a career-high 26 points on an array of strong drives and spins, bankers and jumpers.
“You can’t be sitting around, getting only one shot in the half,” Alford told Danridge.
“He really lit into us a little bit,” Danridge said. “I just had to be more aggressive.”
Did Alford light into you, specifically?
“Yeah, a little bit,” Danridge said. “Well, not a little bit … we just had to come back, defend, knock down some shots and be tough.”
With 4 1/ 2 minutes remaining, Rougeau was called for his fourth foul while contesting for an offensive rebound. When he protested to an official, he was slapped with a technical – his fifth foul.
UNLV had a 53-52 lead. Chad Toppert sank the two free throws from the technical, and Danridge converted two free throws from the rebounding foul on Rougeau.
“It was a big momentum changer,” Danridge said. “Toppert hit his free throws, and we actually got a little momentum from it.”
A crowd of 17,407, the largest at The Pit since UNLV visited last season, exploded about the Lobos’ 56-53 advantage.
But it became deflated 18 seconds later when Rebels freshman guard Oscar Bellfield dropped a 3-pointer from the right corner.
Both teams stumbled, then UNLV sophomore guard Tre’Von Willis put in his own close miss to give the Rebels a 59-57 edge with 1:49 left.
That was the Rebels’ final field goal in regulation.
Willis missed a 3-pointer with two ticks left on the shot clock, Danridge tied it on a smooth jumper over Wink Adams with 37 seconds left and UNLV was left with Rutledge’s game-winning attempt.
With 3.6 seconds left, Bellfield inbounded the ball to Darger, who zipped it to Rutledge on the right side.
“Everyone’s a little disappointed,” Rutledge said. “It’s just a little frustrating, losing two in a row in overtime. I mean, there’s nothing more to say, really.”
Rutledge deflated the exuberant audience once again with a 3-pointer from the right corner that gave UNLV a 64-62 lead 90 seconds into overtime.
New Mexico center Daniel Faris, who scored a season-best 19 points against UNLV at the Thomas & Mack Center last month, answered with a turnaround flip-in on Darger at the other end.
Adams hit a baseline jumper off an inbounds pass, Toppert answered with a 3-pointer and Darger drilled a 3-pointer to give the Rebels a 69-67 advantage.
That’s when New Mexico continued answering UNLV, as Faris sank a hook shot on Darger to tie it, 69-69, with 47 seconds left.
Toppert’s bomb and Faris’s close-range shot were created by Roman Martinez, a junior forward from El Paso, Texas, who found his team
Faris had only connected on one shot during regulation. On the second, Darger said he got screened for a moment, which allowed Matinez to get the ball to Faris.
“Anytime he catches the ball low like that … he has a pretty good hook shot,” Darger said. “We have to get tougher and not let them get the ball that low.”
Adams missed a long 3-point shot with about 25 seconds left, and Danridge went to work, driving strong on the left side and sinking a bank shot over Rutledge with 5.4 seconds left.
Willis stepped on the left sideline, Toppert sank two ensuing free throws and Rougeau was left with a big burden on his shoulders.
“It was probably the hardest thing ever, to be honest with you,” he said of watching the rest of regulation and the overtime from the bench. “You can’t even help … I definitely let the team down.
“That’s how it goes sometimes. Everyone’s playing real hard. When you give it your all it’s tough like that, losing in overtime.”
It’s twice as tough when it happens again in the same week.