Rougeau shows all-around skill on national stage

Senior swingman fills in physically and emotionally for injured Adams


Ed Reinke / Associated Press

UNLV’s Rene Rougeau slams a dunk through the basket during the first half against Louisville.

Back on the Map (12-31-08)

Despite playing without leading-scorer Wink Adams, the Rebels won their seventh straight, beating eighteenth-ranked Louisville 56-55 at Freedom Hall on Dec. 31, 2008. UNLV's defense held the Cardinals to 29.6 percent shooting from the floor.

UNLV's 2008 upset of Louisville

UNLV's Oscar Bellfield looks for help as he is trapped between Louisville defenders Edgar Sosa, left, and Earl Clark during the first half. Launch slideshow »
The Rebel Room


Ryan Greene and Rob Miech dissect UNLV's 56-55 upset win at No. 18 Louisville on Dec. 31, 2008, which the Rebels completed with leading scorer Wink Adams out of the lineup. René Rougeau and Tre'Von Willis both rose to the occasion in terms of production and leadership, while Oscar Bellfield provided the late-game heroics. The guys also give some New Year's resolutions for both the Rebels and themselves.

LOUISVILLE -- To those who follow UNLV hoops, seeing a stat line from senior swingman René Rougeau that includes a game-high 17 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots isn't all that surprising.

To the national ESPN2 audience that watched the Rebels upset No. 18 Louisville on Wednesday, it may have been a bit surprising.

If you would have told Rougeau four years ago that he'd be doing that on this day, he'd have been flat-out shocked.

"I've definitely come a long way -- I never thought I'd be in this position I'm in today," the former walk-on said. "It says a lot. I'm trying to let my game do the talking for me more than anything else, just being a senior, that's what it's all about.

"Whenever the guys need someone to look to, I just want to be that guy."

On Wednesday, he had no choice but to be that guy. Senior guard Wink Adams -- UNLV's leading scorer and main focal point -- went through warmups in uniform and suited up for the game, but ultimately didn’t play as a result of a strained lower abdominal muscle suffered in last Tuesday's 73-60 victory over Southern Utah.

The Rebels needed a leader, and Rougeau fit the bill. He made several plays along the way that showed why.

To start the game, he was key in breaking down Louisville's zone defense, scoring 10 of the Rebels' first 27 points.

Early in the second half, he weaved in and out against a defender in a one-on-one, open court setting, finishing with an acrobatic layup.

Then, with Louisville surging later in the second half, he had an emphatic swat from behind on a Terrence Williams layup drive to help the Rebels maintain their edge.

"I call him 'Mr. Everything,'" sophomore guard Tre'Von Willis said. "He'll give you everything -- blocks, rebounds, points, assists. He's all over the place.

"And he'll play hard and battle for us -- he's a basketball warrior. You love a guy like that on your team, and I'm just proud of him and the rest of our guys."

Not only did his well-rounded stat package come together against arguably the most talented group the Rebels will see during the regular season, but it came against Terrence Williams -- regarded as one of the nation's top do-it-all guys.

Williams, a 6-foot-6 senior, entered the game averaging 11.9 points, 8.9 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.

Rougeau spearheaded an effort to hound him the entire game. And Williams' struggles hardly began with the potential game-winning layup he missed badly with just seconds remaining.

He went two-of-15 from the floor, which dragged down an otherwise-healthy stat line that included eight rebounds, five assists and five steals.

"I'm still speechless, to be honest with you," Rougeau said. "That's a tough team, and that just shows that we're capable of doing anything, and I've got to be able to step up for Wink whenever he's down or he's out. Everyone did a good job of that, and I'm just really taking pride in trying to make things happen."

For those national viewers basketball-savvy enough to take note of what Rougeau did on Wednesday after likely seeing him play for the first time, his name probably stuck.

But it was nothing different from what he's done all season.

Through 14 games, he's shooting 56.2 percent from the floor and carries averages of 11.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals per game.

"I'm wanting people to think that 'NeNe' Rougeau is very underrated," Willis said. "He's very valuable to our team. He does everything for our team, and we're still hoping for him to progress his game the rest of the season."

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  1. I love Rougeau. No-one, and I mean no-one in the country plays with more heart than him.

    Mark my words, he may or may not get drafted but NeNe will play in the NBA.
    Someone will fall in love with his all-round skill set and tremendous heart, in camp. Of course, if he keeps going the way he's going, his name will be called out on draft day anyway.

  2. Tough to see him drafted as good as he is. I sure hope the best for him though. There are so many good players for only two rounds of the NBA draft. That doesn't allow much room. He is this year's MVP I think. There shouldn't be any doubt about it. Nene has been the most consistent, unselfish Rebel player all year. If he continues to play like this he may lead all categories by year's end. Actually, He is 2nd in scoring, 1st in rebounding, 2nd steals and 1st in blocked shots. He has a FG% of .562 that is pretty good!

  3. The NBA is all about having a specialty. If your not a superstar like the D'Wades, Kobe's, Lebrons, etc... then you better specialize in one area to make a roster. At 6'6" Ne Ne would be a strait 2 guard in the NBA and he is lacking a little in the ball handling area right now to thrive in the at that spot. BUT his defense is his specialty and I could see him being a Shane Batier type guy in the NBA. Good defense, shot blocking and team oriented type guy. IF he works on his ball handling and 3 point shooting before the draft the sky is the limit on his NBA potential.

    Buy the way Rene's new nickname should be Spiderman

  4. NeNe, aka "Spiderman", is an absolute animal. I love the way this guy plays. Not sure he has the shooting touch to get drafted, but he sure has the motor to play at the next level. He does everything at full speed, and is a great leader for this team.

    This is a team that is getting better by the game, and starting to play that "lock down" defense. I like what I have seen since those back-to-back losses at home. If Wink can find his groove, this is a team that will make some serious noise come March.

  5. He may end up getting MWC player of the year honors if he keeps it up.

    I see your point SMB, kind of sounds like Wendell White's situation but I think Rougeau is more versatile.
    I do think his NBA stock is rising -- he could take the free agent route like Anthony & Amundson.