Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Ryan Greene and Rob 'The Wise Owl' Miech discuss UNLV's slim 75-74 victory over BYU on Saturday night at the Mack, fueled by the super-sub efforts of Kendall Wallace and Mo Rutledge, plus the Rebels' largest home crowd since 1993. Also, an unfriendly welcome for Mrs. Cummard and where the up-and-down Rebels go from here.
Beyond the Sun
- Salt Lake Tribune: Cougars come up short in Vegas
The best victories are the ones that ring in your ears on the way home.
As sweet as beating BYU and sweeping the season series against the vaunted Cougars was, doing it in front of the first sellout crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center since 1993 made it downright memorable.
With the raucous throng of 18,523 giving players from both sides a bad case of tinnitus, the Rebels beat the Mountain West's second-best team 75-74 Saturday night. The only reason it was that close is because the guys in the white shirts continued shooting free throws like Shaquille O'Neal on Valium during the final two minutes.
The last time the Rebels played a basketball game with a backside in every seat at the T&M was on Jan. 23, 1993. The opponent was Georgetown. I was at that game, but for some reason I don't remember the details. Maybe it was because Rollie Massimino was the Rebels' coach. (UNLV won 96-80, which means The Hoyatollah -- Georgetown coach John Thompson -- probably glowered at somebody after the game.)
I think I will probably remember this one long after I remove the cotton from my ears.
For starters, although it was a well-played game, it also was a weird game.
At halftime, the Rebels led 23-21. Then the 1958-59 Nevada Southern basketball team came onto the floor where it took a bow during a special ceremony and showed both teams how to throw the basketball in the peach basket.
Actually, tight defense probably was more responsible than errant shooting for the satin shorts era halftime score. The Rebels made eight field goals in 27 tries during the first 20 minutes (29 percent) while the Cougars hit only 10 of 31 (32 percent).
In the second half, it was just the opposite. The Rebels stashed 16 of 27 for 59 percent while the Cougars knocked down 20 of 33 for 61 percent.
"To see it flip almost totally in the second half ... it's kind of rare to see two different extremes, style-wise," Rebels coach Lon Kruger said.
It also was kind of rare to see two Rebels virtually take the game over for minutes at a time in the second half. Well, it wasn't that rare to see Wink Adams do it. The UNLV shooting guard sank a free throw, a basket and two 3-pointers in a personal 9-0 run late in the second half that put the Rebels into try-to-hit-a-one-and-one-and-put-the-other-team-away mode.
Before that, reserve guard Kendall Wallace went on a similar scoring run. He hit a long 3 while falling down, another one from way out there and then even penetrated and scored a rare two-point bucket, and anybody who said they saw that coming -- with the possible exception of Uncle Riley, the former Hawaii coach -- has better vision than I do.
Unlike Wink's binge, which should have been frosting on the cake, Wallace's began when the score was tied at 37. He outscored BYU 8-2 during that stretch as UNLV eased to a 45-39 lead it never relinquished -- although that didn't keep the Rebels from trying to give it all back.
During the last 1:26, the Rebels, who led by as much as 12 points, went to the free-throw line seven times. Oscar Bellfield missed a one-and-one, Adams hit 1 of 2, Adams hit 2 of 2, Adams hit 1 of 2, Adams hit 1 of 2, Rene Rougeau hit 1 of 2 and Bellfield hit 1 of 2.
That's seven hits and six misses. One of these days, the inability to sink an uncontested 15-foot shot is going to bite the Rebels where it hurts. But because Bellfield hit one with nine seconds to go, it rendered Lee Cummard's 3-pointer with three seconds to go irrelevant, unless you think one-point road losses should count for something.
Maybe the bracketologists are impressed by one-point losses but Kruger didn't think the Rebels' inability to shoot free throws down the stretch was as big a problem as the rest of us.
"We made just enough free throws to pull it out down the stretch," he said.
But somebody asked about the misses anyway.
"I want to talk about the makes," he said with a big smile. "It would have looked like we had made a lot more free throws if they hadn't thrown in a 3 at the last."
Other than the sellout and the contrast in halves and Wallace's scoring binge and Mo Rutledge's 13 points off the bench -- and that was probably the smallest of the surprises, considering how well he has been playing -- there was one more unexpected development.
David "Whistle While You Ref" Hall was part of the three three-man officiating crew -- and yet neither side got into the bonus during the first half. In fact, the Rebels didn't step to the line for a one-and-one until there was 1:26 to play. Well done, Mr. Hall. Let 'em play.
So here we go again. The Rebels play awful and lose by nine at Wyoming on Wednesday and bounce back three nights later to beat one of the Mountain West's marquee teams for their 20th win of the season. They're 8-5 in the MWC, which is still disappointing at this late date, but Joe Lunardi -- who is to bracketology what Joaquin Phoenix is to bizarre late night talk show appearances -- still has them among his last four teams in. And they showed they are still pretty feisty at home, which, in case you missed it, is where they are going to play the postseason tournament in a couple of weeks.
Better hang onto those earplugs.